Volunteers for Concordia’s IJM chapter, Lighthouse, gathered in J-top on Valentine’s Day selling flowers to fundraise for International Justice Mission. Photo courtesy of Sarah Van Duser.
by April Bayer
Concordia’s International Justice Mission chapter, Lighthouse, sold flowers to students on Valentine’s Day in their second annual “Buy Flowers, Not Girls” fundraiser to raise money for organizations that fight against human trafficking.
IJM is an organization that works to combat several types of trafficking, including forced labor, human sex trafficking, and property grabbing, an issue common in third-world countries where the government and other stakeholders can legally take a woman’s matrimonial property if she is widowed or separated from her husband.
Members of Concordia’s IJM chapter gathered on the top floor of the Janzow Campus Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to sell daisies, carnations and roses and to share information about the organization’s mission. Hy-Vee provided the flowers at a discounted rate to help support the event.
Senior Sarah Van Duser, the chapter president, came up with the idea for the fundraiser in September 2017 while she was brainstorming ideas for chapter events. She said she never expected the event to become a reality and was overwhelmed by the positive response it received from chapter members and Seward community members in its first year, when Lighthouse was able to collaborate with local businesses like Merle’s Flower Shop to provide flowers for the fundraiser.
“Today I did have a friend text me, and she (said), ‘Think of the bigger purpose that you’re doing it for. You’re doing it for all these girls who have never in their life gotten flowers,’” Van Duser said. “That just kind of hit home, and I (realized), ‘Whoa, these girls are out there, and they’re spending Valentine’s Day in this fake traumatic kind of love and not the deep kind of love that God sent for us.’”
The fundraiser coincided with a campus-wide call to action in which members of Lighthouse posted flyers containing information and statistics about human trafficking around the campus. They encouraged students to contact members of Congress with emails and text messages, urging them to support a bill that would provide funds to support anti-trafficking groups.
All proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward efforts against human trafficking. Some of the funds will be used in Lighthouse’s advocacy efforts on campus, and the remaining funds will be donated to the international IJM organization.
“For (people) to walk away with a line like ‘Buy Flowers, Not Girls’ is really important because it speaks to the broader mission of Lighthouse and IJM,” junior Julia O’Laughlin, the chapter’s communications coordinator, said. “It just encompasses our mission that we want to help in this fight against human trafficking. We know we’re not going to end it just by selling flowers, but the point is that every little bit makes a difference.”
Lighthouse will continue its advocacy efforts in April with its annual Justice Week, which will include several activities to raise awareness about human trafficking. The group will partner with 10:31 Coffee for a fundraiser and host a 24-hour prayer room where students can come together and pray for the liberation of trafficking victims.
Anyone interested in getting involved with Lighthouse’s efforts against trafficking can contact Van Duser at email@example.com.