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Published: March 14, 2016

Spring Breakers Seek Sun, Surf and Serving

As UT’s spring breakers left campus for some rest, relaxation and even some volunteering, they shared their experiences on social media. See them in the 2016 #UTSpringBreak Storify.

Jessie Beckett ’17 spent this spring break with a group of other UT women in Atlanta learning about and advocating against human trafficking, an experience she said one of the participants described as “beautifully brutal.”

“Our education on this social issue brought to light the devastating and brutal environment victims of sexual exploitation experience and the overwhelming prevalence in today’s world,” said Beckett, co-director of Alternative Breaks for the PEACE Volunteer Center. “The beauty laid with the people in the organizations. The individuals we encountered were filled with hope, positivity and love for their occupations.”

Beckett’s group lead organizational efforts for donations, constructed multiple pieces of furniture used in recovering victims’ housing and performed general maintenance for the facilities. They also wrote personalized letters that were offered to victims of trafficking, organized hundreds of donated educational books that were sent overseas to Africa for their school systems and assisted in classrooms at an inner-city charter school that had a 20 percent population of homeless students.

“The organizations we worked with are on the front line of educating and empowering communities, jails, hospitals and schools on this vast social issue,” said Beckett, a psychology major with a business administration minor from Kansas City, MO.

Jennifer Sanchez, the student coordinator of PEACE who helped lead the trip with Beckett, said this was the first time they offered an alternative break on this theme.

“I think that this experience has changed my entire view on life. Human trafficking is bigger than most individuals realize, and it needs to be addressed more in order for changes to happen,” said Sanchez, a philosophy and government and world affairs double major. “Human trafficking is a billion dollar industry and individuals will continue to be exploited and victimized if a call to action is not made.”

Sanchez said everyone who participated in the trip were impacted by the stories they heard.

“One thing that truly stuck with them was that the youngest victim rescued was a 4 year old and the oldest victim was a 67 year old,” Sanchez said. “Towards the final days of the trip the participants began planning how to start advocating on the issue on campus.”

PEACE also offered a trip to Tucson, AZ, where the students focused on youth development while volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club. Additional alternative breaks will be offered in May, including an international trip to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador to work on community farming and conservation. For more information, visit https://www.ut.edu/peace/.


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