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Students aim to reduce human trafficking with the S.O.A.P project

SOAP Project
(From left to right) Kara Cody, a senior exercise and sport science and psychology major, and Jaycee Reilly, a senior exercise and sports science and romance languages double major, prepare a poster board on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 for the SOAP project event on Friday, February 8, 2019 in the Pit. The SOAP project raises awareness about human trafficking. The event will encourage students to place labels with a human trafficking hotline on bars of soap. The soaps are then placed in hotels to help victims get help.

The UNC Chapel Hill Newman Catholic Student Center Parish will be labeling bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on Feb. 8 in the Pit. After being labeled, the soap will be delivered to hotels, where they can provide a potential escape to human trafficking victims. 

This event is an extension of the S.O.A.P. Project, which stands for “Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.” Founded by a human trafficking survivor, the project aims to educate the public about the prevalence of human trafficking through outreach events.

S.O.A.P. also partners with local organizations, such as the UNC Newman Catholic Student Center Parish, to supply high-risk hotels and motels with the donated and labeled bars of soap. S.O.A.P. also provides training to motel employees about the warning signs of human trafficking.

From noon to 2 p.m. this Friday, students passing by the UNC Newman Catholic Student Center Parish’s table can learn more about human trafficking and take an active role in its prevention. 

“It also really brings you close to the person that you’re helping because a lot of the times, you know, whenever you’re doing service or volunteer work, you can’t really see the end of the tunnel with who you’re helping. But for this, you’re physically touching an instrument of help that will come back and assist someone and save their life,” said Kara Cody, a student minister in charge of the project.  

Over the summer, Cody and her fellow student minister, Jaycee Reilly, attended the Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassador Summit in Baltimore, where they first learned about the S.O.A.P. Project. This inspired them to bring the project back to campus, Reilly said. 

“It really surprised me how little attention it receives because it’s such a large issue,” Reilly said. 

According to S.O.A.P., human trafficking affects about 1.3 million people in the United States who go missing each year. The problem is close to home too — the National Human Trafficking Hotline data classifies North Carolina as the eighth most popular state for human trafficking in 2017, with 221 reported cases. 

“It’s a multibillion-dollar industry going on,” said Juan Carlos Pacheco, pastoral associate for service and justice at UNC Newman. “It affects people of all races, all ages, all genders, so it affects every single type of individual you can think of. We believe that every person is worthy of respect, and they all have intrinsic human dignity, so this is tragic toward that belief. Humans are not a commodity to be traded or to be used.” 

To reduce human trafficking, the community needs to educate itself, establish an action plan and then educate others, Pacheco said. Along with the event this week, Cody said the UNC Newman Catholic Center Parish will also be hosting a similar outreach event on April 3. 

“These individuals that are victims or survivors are in just such a vulnerable position being human-trafficked,” said Cody. “I mean, your human rights are being violated at that point. This is just the perfect way to provide assistance to the people who can’t do it themselves.”

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