International Justice Mission’s campaign “BAITED” raises awareness of slavery in Thailand

The K-State International Justice Mission chapter executive team: Jonathan Andrusak, Clay Strickland, Kevin Merwin, Brody Lumpkins, Emily Reddel, Mariah Moore, Meredith Wesley and Madeline Donaldson. (Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Smith)

Kansas State students started a local chapter of the world’s largest anti-slavery organization, International Justice Mission, in September 2019 to join the fight against slavery.

“[The International Justice Mission] is unlike most other anti-slavery organizations in that they really attack the issue of modern-day slavery at the root,” Meredith Wesley, president of the campus chapter and senior in human development and family science, said. “They do that by partnering with local governments, local law enforcement, and helping them build policy and also helping them advocate for the poor and those who are susceptible to violence.”

The campaign “BAITED” focuses on the thousands of people being trafficked into Thailand’s fishing industry, lured by the promise of a good-paying job. Instead, these people are forced by boat captains to work long hours of demanding and often dangerous work, never knowing if they will return home.

The "BAITED" campaign focuses on labor trafficking in Thailand. (Photo courtesy of International Justice Mission)
The "BAITED" campaign focuses on labor trafficking in Thailand. (Photo courtesy of International Justice Mission)

“I really wanted students within the state of Kansas to realize that they can make a difference on these global issues,” Wesley said. “Just because it feels like it’s far removed from them doesn’t mean it’s not something they should try to act on or take responsibility for, because there are people within the state of Kansas and all over the United States that are trafficked as well.”

This month, Wesley said K-State’s International Justice Mission chapter will participate in the “BAITED” campaign by tabling and collecting signatures. People who sign the petition will have the opportunity to scan a QR code and put in their contact information to send a pre-drafted email to Congress explaining the situation in Thailand and the reality of modern-day slavery.

“This semester so far, we’ve gotten over 500 signatures and emails, but we’re not trying to settle,” Clay Strickland, vice president of campus outreach for the campus chapter and junior in animal sciences and industry, said. “We are trying to keep pushing [because] our tentative goal is 1,000.”

After collecting signatures for the petition, Madeline Donaldson, vice president of advocacy for the chapter and senior in human development and family science, said the leadership team will set up in-district meetings with two representatives from Congress to ask them to secure funds for ending modern-day slavery in places like Thailand.

“For the past three years, [the government] has secured what our goal is now,” Strickland said. “They’ve secured $25 million each year from the U.S. government budget to go to the global fund to end modern-day slavery, and we are just trying to re-secure that this time.”

Donaldson said she believes the campaign “BAITED” and the International Justice Mission are important because many do not realize slavery is still happening both abroad and in the United States.

“There are so many people who just don’t know that there’s slavery going on in the world,” Donaldson said. “They don’t know that there are vulnerable people that are taken advantage of and who are manipulated. I think being a part of International Justice Mission gives us the opportunity to help other people know about it.”

The organization’s next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on March 17 in Business Building room 1088, where the entire community will be invited to hear from guest speaker Deb Kluttz from The Homestead. Those interested in getting more involved are encouraged to attend the meeting or get in contact through the organization’s social media.