“Behind any social issue, it’s very important to have a young presence and energy…we are the next generation.” ~Erin Greenhaw, President of One Voice Atlanta
When ERIN GREENHAW arrived at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Ga., four years ago, she never thought that she would spend the next four years working to end sex trafficking.
“I didn’t know much about sex trafficking and didn’t know the severity of it in Atlanta,” Greenhaw says. But she soon learned about the local crisis from Brittany Mays, the founder of Georgia Tech’s One Voice Atlanta—a student group at Georgia Tech, which raises awareness of sex trafficking and works with local organizations within the city of Atlanta that provide direct services to trafficking survivors or those at risk.
When Greenhaw joined the campus chapter of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, she met Mays, then a senior. “Brittany really had a passion for activism and being a modern-day abolitionist against slavery. She invited all of the new [sorority] girls to come to the club she had started and find out more about the issue.”
Greenhaw immediately got involved in One Voice and became a leader in the organization. During her first year, she initiated a community partnership with the Atlanta-based nonprofit 4Sarah. Later in her sophomore and junior years, she served on the One Voice executive board and is currently serving as the organization’s president. Slated to graduate in May with a biomedical engineering degree and Spanish minor, Greenhaw credits her involvement in One Voice with opening her eyes to the human rights abuses taking place worldwide and helping her grow as a leader.
One Voice makes campus education a primary part of its mission. The organization frequently sets up information booths on campus to let students know about the issue using ways that will attract their attention, such as giving away candy with sex trafficking facts on the wrapper. One of the most important things One Voice does is provide students with an outlet to get involved in anti-sex trafficking work. In addition to 4Sarah, One Voice partners with other direct services organizations in Atlanta such as the rescue organization Out of Darkness, the recovery home Wellspring Living, the youth mentoring group Action Ministries and the anti-trafficking organization youthSpark.
One Voice has also worked actively with the International Human Trafficking Institute (IHTI), a student-led movement dedicated to combating human trafficking. In September 2015, One Voice organized a symposium that focused on the travel industry’s efforts to combat human trafficking. IHTI Program Coordinator, William Hassall, was invited to speak at the event and praised the great work that One Voice brings to the anti-trafficking movement in the city. “The student organizers of One Voice are among the strongest in the Atlanta area on the issue of human trafficking,” said Hassall. “IHTI encourages those that are inspired by One Voice’s contagious work ethic to contact us and learn more about what they can do in the fight against modern-day slavery.”
The presence of One Voice at Georgia Tech especially helps students who are already aware of human trafficking exercise their passion for human rights. One such student is SURAJ SEHGAL, a former youthSpark intern and current second year industrial and systems engineering student minoring in international affairs. Unlike Greenhaw, Sehgal was familiar with the issue of sex trafficking when he arrived on campus. While a high school junior, he attended a community ambassador training conducted by youthSpark and, as one of only two high school students there, he was immediately struck by the lack of youth participation. Sehgal used the information he learned to start the student club People Against Trafficking Humans. One of the proudest moments Sehgal remembers from high school was when he led a group of 24 of his peers to the state capitol during a lobbying day. The presence of high school students made an impression on those in attendance and Sehgal himself.
“It really made a difference when a group of 24 students walked in all wearing the same t-shirt to show support for anti-trafficking legislation. That, for me was really powerful,” Sehgal remembers. Now through One Voice, Sehgal continues his leadership as the organization’s vice president for external affairs, reaching out to local nonprofits to set up volunteer opportunities for Georgia Tech students. Sehgal echoes Greenhaw’s sentiment that acting as a conduit for students to further their involvement in anti-trafficking work is One Voice’s most important role.
“When we educate students, there’s usually some sort of confusion and an extreme amount of concern, followed by the desire to do something,” Sehgal says. “That’s the part I feel is the most important—not only being able to provide awareness for someone, but also taking advantage of that moment when they really want to do something and giving them an outlet.”
Building an anti-trafficking culture on Georgia Tech’s campus is one of the long-lasting legacies of Mays, the founder of One Voice, as well as its leaders like Greenhaw and Sehgal. With more youth aware and willing to get involved, the issue will attract growing media attention. “A lot of people, especially in the [anti-trafficking] field or maybe politics in general, are so used to an environment where there isn’t a youth presence. So I think it really takes people by surprise to recognize that there are people who are part of the young generation who actually care about this issue,” Sehgal says.
Greenhaw agrees. “Behind any social issue, it’s very important to have a young presence and energy,” she says. “We are the next generation that is going into the workforce…if you become passionate about it at a young age, you’ll probably keep that passion as you grow older…as you have a larger professional network with more resources, you can have a bigger impact on the issue.”