Beyond the Hill

Point Loma Nazarene University works to fund scholarship for survivors of human trafficking

Tony Chao | Art Director

Students, faculty and volunteers from Point Loma Nazarene University are creating a scholarship that will allow survivors of human trafficking to get a college education.

Jamie Gates, director of the school’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation, and student volunteers were inspired to create the scholarship after working with San Diego service agencies for victims of human trafficking and hearing that a college education was one of the most common requests of survivors. They began planning the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund, named for a verse in the Isaiah, which will hopefully allow the first recipients to start classes at Point Loma in the fall of 2015.

Kim Berry Jones, a Point Loma alumna and CJR volunteer, said the Beauty for Ashes team would like to use the scholarship to fund multiple survivors.

“Our belief is that most people coming in will be eligible for other kinds of financial aid, federal or state grants, possibly merit aid, and that the scholarship will fill in the gaps,” she said. “We’d like to help four people rather than one if we can.”

The scholarship is available to both male and female survivors of human trafficking, whether sex or labor trafficking. Both sex and labor trafficking have reached “epidemic proportions” in the United States, according to Beauty for Ashes’ Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

“Gangs have begun to recognize that they can stay under the radar more and actually make more money when they’re trafficking women than when they’re selling drugs,” Jones said. “There are girls who go to high school Monday through Friday and on weekends, they’re being trafficked by their in-quotes boyfriends, and they’re still functioning somehow.”

Mollie Ah Sing, a senior international relations major at Point Loma, has been involved with Beauty for Ashes ever since returning from study abroad in Nepal last spring, where she was involved in human trafficking research.

She said human trafficking is profitable since people, unlike drugs or arms, can be exploited for money repeatedly and easily disguised as friends or relatives.

“A human is something that you’re going to exploit over and over and over again, and it’s disgusting,” she said, but “when it comes down to it, it’s lucrative.”

Ah Sing said people who’ve only heard about sex trafficking don’t consider human trafficking’s other forms, such as forced labor on construction sites, begging and domestic servitude.

Jones said that the Beauty for Ashes team is working with more than a dozen service agencies in San Diego to determine how best to support scholarship recipients, from housing and health care to academic support and mentorship services.

“It’s not just as simple as saying, ‘Here’s the money for college,’” she said. “It’s also as complicated as setting up a structure so that we can really support whoever comes so that they can be successful.”

The Beauty for Ashes team started an Indiegogo campaign Oct. 28 with a goal of raising $40,000 for the scholarship fund. As of Wednesday, it had raised just over $8,000, with a deadline of Dec. 14.

“The Indiegogo campaign we look at really as seed money,” Jones said, “because obviously $40,000 isn’t going to go that far long term, and we’re really in this for the long haul.”

Gates, director of the school’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation, said the Indiegogo campaign was intended to bring attention to their project, as well as to bring in money. He added that in the long term, Point Loma will potentially create an endowment fund to support the scholarships.

Gates said he hopes to see the Beauty for Ashes fund “take wings” at Point Loma and inspire other universities across the country to start similar scholarships. He said the mere existence of such an opportunity can inspire those who’ve survived human trafficking.

Said Gates: “We’ve been told by many of these agency directors that the scholarship in and of itself, whether it’s one person or 10 people that get funded by it, the scholarship in and of itself is a sign of hope for the survivors.”

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