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Hayley Orth, 19, student/activist
The staggering statistic hit Hayley Orth immediately: 27 million people around the world are in modern slavery, including women and children in sex trafficking, according to the International Justice Mission.
Orth first heard of the issue when she attended January's Passion Conference, a Christian gathering in Atlanta.
"I didn't know what it was exactly," said Orth, a Towson University sophomore from Timonium. "Then we heard the personal stories, people being brought from such darkness and bondage to complete freedom, and my heart broke for the people still in that darkness.
"Coming home, I knew that going back to my daily life wasn't an option."
So she got to work. The International Justice Mission offered an idea for activism: a country-wide "Stand For Freedom" initiative, which included gathering people to stand for 27 hours, all while raising money and awareness of the issue. Orth became the mastermind behind bringing Stand For Freedom to campus, which took place last week.
She had a goal of getting 1,000 signatures from people to stand against modern slavery. She reached that goal within the first five hours.
"It blew away my expectations," said Orth. "So many people were not only willing to listen to us talk about the issue but stand with us."
The standing stint may be over, but Orth's Stand For Freedom keeps on going. She hopes to raise $2,700 by April 13 and so far has raised $750, mostly $10 and $20 donations at a time. Orth said all of the donations go directly to the work of the International Justice Mission. According to IJM's website, $240 covers the cost of six days of aftercare for a victim and $455 covers seven days of legal advocacy. IJM says more than 2,000 children, women and men have been freed from slavery with its total donations so far.
Her passion for combating modern-day slavery has also changed her life's path. Her major until last semester was occupational therapy, but she recently switched to health science to better prepare for a Master's in social work. She hopes to eventually work for a nonprofit or human rights agency like the International Justice Mission.
"It changed the direction of where I thought I was going to go to where God needed me to go," she said.
Orth, who is a leader in the Young Life ministry with Baltimore County high schools, is already hoping to do another Stand For Freedom next year -- or even as early as next semester. Other schools have expressed interest in working with her and joining forces with Towson to address the issue.
And for Orth, it seems her Stand will be a lifelong endeavor.
"What I learned at the Passion Conference is that if our generation doesn't speak up for it, it's just going to keep happening," she said. "And to me that's not OK."