It may sound impossible, folks, but it is amazing what a little passion, directing of energies, and connecting of the right people to the right cause can do. This was certainly a busy semester for Hyun Moraes, student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but that did not stop him from pairing with Jennifer Jean (mom, teacher, poet, and activist extraordinaire) to host the “Night of Freedom” benefit concert to raise funds and awareness for the recently opened Amirah House. According to it’s website, Amirah is a non-profit organization located in the Boston area dedicated to providing effective, whole person aftercare for survivors of modern day slavery.
Heungkook “HK” Stephens is uncommon in many ways.
He is married. He is a youth minister. He has a 4.0 GPA. He is the 2012 student commencement speaker. He once rode a bicycle from College Park to Ocean City. He loves modern dance. He has been receiving awards, like the Banneker/Key Scholarship, for as long as he can remember.
But one of the most unique things about the senior civil and environmental engineering major is his desire to use his degree for altruistic projects; his dream is to bring clean drinking water to impoverished countries like Bangladesh.
Beyond the achievements stands a regular guy—a laidback student who works hard and just wants to help others.
“I want to be an inspiration to people,” Stephens, 22, said, sitting barefoot in shorts and a white undershirt on the patio of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with slightly messy hair from having just practiced head spins. “I feel good when I can motivate through my works.”
Alan P. Santos, director of undergraduate student services in the civil and environmental engineering department, said that Stephens “makes you want to be kinder to people.”
According to Santos, Stephens is receiving a departmental award for his academic achievements as well as his excellent record of helping others. He has an outstanding reputation for helping his classmates understand the difficult coursework.
“It’s difficult enough to get [into the major], and then things get more difficult,” Santos said. “[Stephens] is like a civil engineering Tim Tebow,” Santos added.
Similar to the popular, religious NFL quarterback Tebow, Stephens is known for being deeply involved in his faith, the Unification Church. It was through his family and church that he met his wife, Jin Soon Stephens, a fellow youth minister and business administration student at Howard Community College.
“In our religion, marriages are arranged through our parents, although we make suggestions too,” Jin Soon said. “We got to know each other and married eight months later. I never regretted marrying young.”
According to Jin Soon, the couple had a mass wedding known as “The Blessing,” where different religious figures offer their blessings to bring God into the marriage.
“One thing that has helped with our marriage is that we have the same vision,” she said. “We both want to make a difference and want people to be happy. I appreciate that about [Stephens].”
Religion and upbringing has cultivated this sense of family and appreciation for diversity. Jin Soon is half-Brazilian and half-Malaysian-Chinese, while Stephens is half-Japanese and half-Caucasian.
“A big part of our religion is creating world peace through families,” Stephens said. “It’s nice to know I don’t have to sacrifice what I want to do in life just because I love [Jin Soon.] We have the same goals.”
Besides their faith, both Jin Soon and Stephens have a passion for dance. “I was a breakdancer in high school,” Stephens said. “I started doing hip hop choreography and modern dance [at Maryland]. I was always good at math and science, but I’ve had to learn dance. It’s exciting discovering something new.”
Cameron Bennett, a senior information systems major, is the director of the Dynamic Dance Team on campus that Stephens is a member of.
“I first met [Stephens] three years ago, when I joined Dynamic,” Bennett said. “He was very welcoming. Being new is intimidating. He wants to cultivate a sense of family.”
Bennett described Stephens as “one of the hardest-working dancers,” and that he always finished team-related tasks on time and thoroughly. But he says the thing he respects most about Stephens is the way he would speak up to voice his opinion if he felt that not everyone’s views were being represented.
“[Stephens] isn’t afraid to question my logic or thinking,” Bennett said. “He has a care for the greater good.”
Senior bioengineering major Daniel Shin said that he became roommates with Stephens after becoming friends after dancing together during their freshmen year.
“He’s also great with time management,” Shin said. “He always has this little notepad with him. Everything goes in there, even small things like lunch.”
Growing up as one of five children, Stephens was told that he should do well in high school because there was no money for college.
“He doesn’t take anything for granted,” Shin said. “He appreciates what he has, which is apparent with the amount of work he puts into school.”
“I don’t want people to see [my success] and think ‘I can’t do that, that’s HK,’” Stephens said. “I want them to think that if [they] work hard, [they] can be like me. I’m just a normal guy.”
She saw a possibly horrific future in the Asian eyes of a 5-year-old girl. Later, she saw the heartbreaking results in those who had seen that play out into a terrible reality.
During her recent three-week public service trip to Thailand, Felicia Bratti became painfully aware of the toll of human trafficking.
The 20-year-old Bollinger County resident joined a group of teenagers from the Unification Church as part of its Generation Peace Academy, a gap-year program between high school and college. The group, which included adult church leaders, divided its time between the cities of Chiang Rai and Bangkok, working first at a school geared toward preventing child exploitation and later for an organization that cares for victims of Thailand’s massive sex trade.
“It’s not something you see a lot out in the open when you go there,” Bratti said. “Most areas look like a business district of a city. People obviously know it’s there. But you don’t hear about it from your average person.”
Felicia Bratti, a member of Generation Peace Academy, traveled to Thailand for three weeks to work at a school geared towards preventing child exploitation and to care for victims of sex trafficking.
“They just seemed so happy and sweet,” Bratti said of the children who were victims of sex trafficking. “But they were quiet. You could tell something bad had happened to them. It’s hard to think about what they had been through at such a young age. That they could even talk to anyone or trust anyone was just incredible to me.”
That was quite a shock to the Glennallen resident, who expected to find rallies and movements to stop the abuse of the country’s children, who are sometimes abducted or sold as sex slaves or for cheap labor.
“I expected people to care,” she said. “But it’s normalized for them. It’s not a big deal for them anymore.”
Sex trafficking has been called one of the most disturbing global crimes, specifically in the Asia-Pacific area. The industry in Thailand thrives as a $150 billion business each year, dating back to the Vietnam War when Thailand basically became a brothel for American GIs on leave. While Thailand’s government bristles at the nickname “brothel of the world,” several analysts say the country is home to 150,000 to 220,000 prostitutes, including many minor children.
While it’s illegal in Thailand, many massage parlors serve as a front for prostitution and brothel owners have networks of agents combing the villages seeking out troubled families caught up in debt with few options.
“The world is a bigger place now,” Bratti said. “It’s hard to imagine when you’re grocery shopping in your quiet little town that people across the world and even in your own country are being so horribly abused and violated.”
Bratti’s parents described their daughter as a responsible and mature young woman who is looking to make a difference in the world.
“She has a world view that doesn’t just go with fashion or the new thing that comes around the corner,” said her father, Kim. “She’s really grounded, with morals and values that are beyond current trends. … She’s trying to make an impact on the world, however small that impact may be.”
Bratti’s mother, Mary, agreed.
Even as a young girl, Mary Bratti said, her daughter showed signs of being a leader.
“She’s focused and happy and could easily inspire the kids around her,” Mary Bratti said. “She also has a deep and sincere heart to seek out God’s will. She was happy and excited to participate. I think it was a learning experience for her.”
Once in Thailand, Felicia Bratti’s first task was working with the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities, whose founder, Sompap Jantraka, has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nongovernmental organization works to prevent child exploitation and defends vulnerable minors and their rights.
Bratti described it basically as a school for children — boys and girls — more likely to become targets for sex trafficking. These are the country’s poor children, often whose parents aren’t with them. The school provides permanent shelter and education. The school’s website says the program has helped prevent thousands of children from the Mekong subregion from succumbing to the sex industry or other exploitive child labor practices.
Bratti and the others taught different sports, crafts and how to make certain things.
It was, for the most part, like any other school, Bratti said.
But sometimes it would hit her that some of these children may wind up in the sex industry. Some of them were as young as 4 or 5, which is the age that some are abducted. She’d be holding one of them and she’d imagine a horrible scenario playing out.
“Very easily their life could be so full of pain,” Bratti said. “They really wouldn’t know the difference. That would be the only life they’d know.”
While the school touted that only 5 percent of students there would go on to somehow be in the sex trade, that offered Bratti little comfort, she said.
“They said that 95 percent of these kids would be fine,” she said. “To me, I was like, that’s not OK. That’s still 5 percent. Even if only one kid has to go through that, it’s not OK. It was hard.”
The group later went to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, where Bratti and the others worked with Pavena Hongsakul Foundation for Children and Women, a not-for-profit organization that cares for victims of the sex industry. It was this job, Bratti said, that was “emotionally more difficult” for her. Here, the group came across women who had been repeatedly raped who had come to the center seeking help.
Five children, ages 10 to 12, were also at the center trying to recover after being involuntarily involved in the sex industry.
“They just seemed so happy and sweet,” Bratti said. “But they were quiet. You could tell something bad had happened to them. It’s hard to think about what they had been through at such a young age. That they could even talk to anyone or trust anyone was just incredible to me.”
At the end of her trip, as the people at the center sang a song of unity, Bratti was holding the hand of an 11-year-old girl who she had become especially close to. Bratti broke down.
She said she had never wanted to take someone’s pain away so badly before.
“All you want is healing and for no one to have to go through that,” she said. “So it was definitely really hard. I cried a lot that night. I think about her a lot.”
Reprinted courtesy of the Southeast Missourian:
Below is a brief interview of the NJIT CARP club vice pres Satoe Ozawa, who pulled the whole thing together:
How did you come up with that idea and why was it needed?
I just wanted our Carp team to become closer as a family, so I wanted to do something fun but that was productive as well. I stumbled upon cake pops by chance as I was searching the internet on creative goodies we could sell. I didn’t want us to do a regular bake sale like everyone else.
We needed the money because we need funds for our next event. For the first event we did last semester (I hope you remember it! click here in case you don’t
), Nolan had to pay out of pocket to provide food and I thought that it was not fair for him. As one of the Z (lowest) ranked clubs, apparently we are not given funding from the school, so we needed to make the money ourselves.
However, my main focus was for our group members to break out of their shell. Most of our carpies are very shy. I wanted to give them an opportunity to become closer together in a relaxed environment and baking together served that purpose well.
Who did the baking?
Almost every member of our Carp group. Some could not make it due to various reasons. In total, I think we had about 8 people come.
How much time and effort did it involve?
Well, the whole baking process took about 5 hours. Before we got to that point, I had everyone create a design and submit it to me. I examined each design, chose a couple, and had to plan out how each was to be made and the ingredients that would be needed.
What did you have to do to make it happen at NJIT?
Making it happen was actually the easiest part. NJIT has a website that has a calendar with all the activities that are going on each day. So all I had to do was look for a date that did not have a bake sale going on, fill out some papers to reserve a table, submit them and I received a confirmation e-mail that very day.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how delicious were the cake pops?
Unfortunately, I did not try any of the cake pops, but I was informed that they were very good. In fact, we had a couple of people buy one, eat it, and then come back to buy another one!
[testimonial from club pres, Nolan Ching, re: the cake pops: "I had a cake pop - it was # 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, especially after a few hours of selling them to other people"]
Tell us about yourself.
So a little about me. I am a Biology major and currently a Freshman (Class of 2015). I am from Nutley, New Jersey. The thing I like most about NJIT is the individual attention they give to each student. It is a small school, so all the professors encourage their students to visit them at their offices out of class if we are struggling. Also, NJIT offers great opportunities to network and make great connections with outside businesses and renowned companies.
Sincerely, Satoe Ozawa
Through the medium of music and art, last Friday, Berkeley CARP students worked to raise awareness and provide action steps for how to get involved in tackling the issue of Sex Slavery and Sex Trafficking. Sign the petition to support this call for action at CaliforniaAgainstSlavery.org .
How to: Coordinate an event to raise awareness about an issue on your campus!
1. Chose your cause.
2. Find a couple more people who believe in your cause and want to support it (3 is always a good starting number). At this point, it is not too early to go around to other leaders around campus to get buy-in/ co-sponsorships from clubs. All you need is a vision/ idea.
3. Brainstorm the type of event you want to host, for example:
a. Panel Discussion. Several people sit on a panel. Each person on the panel can have a few minutes to talk and then a moderator facilitates a discussion with prepared questions and/or questions from the audience. Panelists can include survivors, ‘experts’ in the field of whatever that cause is, professors, etc.
b. Invite a keynote speaker. Event has one main speaker, and someone to introduce the topic and that speaker. It is always nice to include some form of media in these programs, such as an introductory video to the issue, musical performance, etc. This could be in the style of a rally.
c. Documentary viewing. Watch a documentary which would enlighten students on the issue and facilitate a discussion afterwards.
d. Variety Show/ Music show. Invite different acts to perform material that is relevant to raising awareness about the cause, include a master of ceremonies who in between acts, shares more details about what is going on.
e. Do something challenging, for example, a bike-a-thon, walk-a-thon, dance-a-thon, eat-a-thon, or “day of silence,” boycott, everyone wear the same color clothing for a week, a fast (many of the persons kidnapped and confined fasted to send a message to their “deprogrammers”).
4. Chose a date and reserve a space on campus.
5. Request funding from the school. If you are sponsoring this event as a club, you should be able to request money directly from student activities/ student union. If you are hosting as an individual, look into relevant grants that may be available through different departments in your school.
6. Publicize the heck out of it. Also, make a press release for your school newspaper and invite them to the event.
7. Provide free food, or anything else for FREE (paid for by funding from the school).
8. Have your awesome event and include immediate action points so that those who are excited about the cause can make a difference right away!