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UNC students organize walk to ?ght child sex trafficking

Junior David Liauw didn’t realize child trafficking was a problem in the United States — until he heard that a neighbor of a friend in Cary had been arrested for it.

“It turned out to be a really big thing right at their doorsteps,” he said.

Liauw helped organize the Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk, a national three-kilometer walk that is in its fourth year at UNC.

This is the first year the event was entirely student-run.

About 100 students and community members turned out Sunday for the walk.

Liauw and sophomores Daniel Newton and Rachel Buckner organized the event.

“It’s one thing to hear the statistics,” Newton said. “But it’s another to see and meet a person, where if someone hadn’t reached out to them, they probably would have been trafficked.”

A total of 28 student volunteers joined with local organizations Carolina Against Slavery and Trafficking and the UNC International Justice Mission to publicize the event.

Participants paid $25 to hear speakers from the organizing groups, and performances by Psalm 100 and student singer Priscilla Townsend.

The event raised $6,000, but the fundraising period will continue until Nov. 3.

The money raised goes directly to the national Stop Child Trafficking Now organization and funds the training of special investigative teams, which gather information about child trafficking.

The national group is a nonprofit organization that funds efforts to target the demand side of child sex slavery.

Globally, nearly two million children each year are exploited in the sex trafficking trade.

“We’re not necessarily pulling victims out of sex trafficking, but we’re trying to help the people who are in the situation,” said Rachel Lee, a walk specialist at the group’s national headquarters.

“We’re in it for the long haul.”

Lee said the group anticipates raising between $400,000 and $500,000 during the fundraising period.

UNC graduates Erica Smith and Marty Hortelano participated in the walk while they were students and came back this year to participate.

“When you hear statistics about sex trafficking, you think globally, but there are statistics from Orange County,” Hortelano said. “It’s definitely in our backyard.”

Newton said he hopes for more community involvement in future walks.

“The issue is so close to us,” Newton said. “It’s our responsibility to deal with it.”

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