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When a bomb unzips the midnight sky in Kyiv, there is no denying its fiery rage and otherworldly sound. But when young Ukrainian refugees fleeing their savaged home arrive at borders deemed safe, and unwittingly walk into the underbelly of human trafficking never to resurface, there is only silence. Margaret Young ’24 wants to turn that silence into a deafening, constant hum.
“You can’t argue with destruction,” says Young. “It’s there, you can see it. But you can’t see human trafficking. Right now, over 7 million refugees have left Ukraine. They’re traveling on foot, with everything they own. Many are alone or are young children. They don’t know where their next meal will come from or where they’ll find shelter. They are left incredibly vulnerable.”
Traffickers prey on these vulnerabilities, Young says, and lure young refugees into trafficking. “They’ll say, ‘If you come with me, I have a meal’ or ‘I can give you a ride,’” Young says. “They’re so desperate that they believe these false promises. You can pull up any article on numbers and data for the war, but you have to really connect the dots and dig deep to try to find reporting on the trafficking that’s happening. It’s too hard to report on amidst all the other chaos, and because the victims just disappear.”
Young first got involved with advocating for victims of trafficking in eighth grade, in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was there that she worked with the Red Sand Project, an agency that builds awareness of the 40.3 million people thought to currently be trafficked across the globe. These victims have slipped through the cracks, and the Red Sand Project works to make sure the world knows it.
“One of the ways Red Sand makes their cause known is by literally sending [activists] red sand, and you pour that red sand into as many cracks in sidewalks that you can find,” Young says. “When you’re out walking through life, you don’t notice cracks in sidewalks. You ignore it. It’s overlooked. When you see the sand, you can’t ignore it, so you ask questions and you learn.”
When Young arrived at St. Andrew’s, she wanted to bring the Red Sand Project with her. She pitched the idea to Director of Student Life Kristin Honsel P’24. “Mrs. Honsel was so supportive and set up a conversation between St. Andrew’s and Red Sand,” Young says.
That conversation went well. So did the next few. So impressed with Young’s passion and commitment, Red Sand invited her to be its first-ever High School Ambassador. “The idea is I’ll continue to think of new ideas to bring awareness of human trafficking to the kids here at St. Andrew’s and beyond.”
On December 1, Young spoke about human trafficking at School Meeting, and encouraged her peers to pick up cups of red sand and help her fill in the cracks on campus. “Something really resonated with them, because I saw barely any cups left,” she says. “I’ve had so many fellow students support me in this, and even a freshman came up to me to say, ‘That was really cool. I’ve been reading about this, too, but from a different perspective than the war—can you look into it and amplify it?’”
Young is currently concepting a project for January, which is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. She hopes to collaborate with the LGBTQ+ affinity group on campus, as research shows that LGBTQ+ populations, and LGBTQ+ youth in particular, can be more susceptible to trafficking. She’s also staying up-to-date on news cycles, too, as the next crisis to unfold in the world could very well turn into the new epicenter of human trafficking.
“St. Andrew’s is a perfect place to do this kind of work because the kids here really care, and care beyond what they see,” Young says. “They are really motivated to make a difference. When we’re talking about over 40 million people in human slavery, it’s hard to argue with the importance of that.”
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