Wheaton student aims to help high-schoolers combat human trafficking

Sophomore Hayley Bennett is creating a new ministry focused on providing high school students with the mentorship and resources they need to join the fight against human trafficking.
The ministry is still in the early stages of creation — at the moment, it does not even have a name. Soon Bennett will assemble a team of Wheaton College students to begin designing the ministry’s details. She plans to ask Wheaton students to mentor high school students who are interested in starting anti-trafficking clubs on their respective campuses. The clubs will focus on praying for those caught in sex trafficking, but according to Bennett, “It can really take any shape or form.”
For example, the clubs may host fundraising events to raise awareness of sex trafficking on their campuses. Bennett also hopes to connect the clubs with local organizations such as Reclaim Thirteen, an organization that specifically works with underage girls forced into sex trafficking. Perhaps students could even help New Name, a local organization, host prevention training at juvenile detention centers.
In the future, Bennett dreams of expanding the high schools’ horizons to the world by connecting each club to a specific grassroots organization overseas. The clubs would pray for and receive updates from these grassroots organizations. Most importantly, Bennett hopes that the awareness raised by the clubs will help prevent the exploitation of young women in their own high schools.
For Bennett, her interest in combating sex trafficking began when she was a junior in high school. Bennett explained that though her heart broke for those caught in sex trafficking, she did not have an opportunity to act on that heartbreak until she came to Wheaton.
Now Bennett works with the International Justice Mission’s chapter on campus. The new high school ministry, however, stems out of Bennett’s connections with New Name. Reaching out to trafficked women, New Name helps them leave their situations and connects them with restorative care programs. Bennett participates in a call center under the leadership of Ann Polencheck, a New Name leader. “On Monday nights,” Bennett explained, “we’ll call women and say, ‘Hey, we have resources, God loves you, if you ever want to get out we are here for you.’”
It was Polencheck who originally had the idea for a high school ministry. Bennett recalled Polencheck saying, “Yeah, I think it would be cool to have high schoolers start clubs and college students mentor them.” Bennett’s response was, “Well, I don’t really have any reason not to.”
Bennett believes that God is clearly at work. She has started programs before, but never has she seen something take shape so quickly and easily. Through professors, friends and college staff, Bennett has already found contacts both locally and overseas who are willing to help her.
She said she is amazed at the number of Wheaton students who have already enthusiastically applied to staff the new ministry. “I just feel,” Bennett concluded, “like God is graciously paving the way and I’m just walking in what he’s already doing.”
If you are interested in this new ministry, you can contact Hayley Bennett at hayley.bennett@my.wheaton.edu.

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