By: Haley Elliott
International Justice Mission (IJM) is an international, Christian non-governmental 501 organization focused on human rights, law, and law enforcement. The organization was founded in 1997 by lawyer Gary Haugen of the United States. It is based in Washington D.C. They are a team of lawyers, investigators, social workers, and community activists. They work with many different organizations such as law enforcement, churches, and community members to help protect the poor and underrepresented from violence.
International Justice Mission has many chapters at different universities around the nation. The University of South Florida’s chapter president, Dakota Engel, agreed to speak with me about what exactly they were doing to help bring an end to human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area. When asked what her chapter specifically does she informed me that the university chapters usually focus on campus advocacy and fundraising. The fundraising money is given to the international organization to help rescue victims from slavery all over the world by conducting investigations and rescue missions and to help survivors start a new life.
Currently, the USF chapter of IJM hosts several events to raise awareness and gather funds for their mission. They have Java for Justice, which is a night of free coffee and education. Fast for Freedom is an event that is done where the members fast for a day and the money they would have spent on food gets donated. Stand for Freedom is another event they do where they stand for 24 hours for those suffering through oppression; the main idea of this event is: “standing one day for their everyday.” In addition to their annual events, they also hold meetings on the University of South Florida’s campus every other Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center room 3713; these meetings are open to all students who want to learn more about what is happening around them and want to help.
When asked what distinguishes IJM from other organization that are fighting for the same cause, Ms. Engel replied that the fact that they bring together everyone and everything involved internationally in the fight against human trafficking is what makes them unique. International Justice Mission currently is working to help strengthen the justice system to better protect victims of human trafficking. They do this in four ways: rescue, restore, restrain, and represent. They first work with local law enforcement to rescue victims. They then work with social workers to restore survivors back to a normal life. After this, they work with local law enforcement to restrain the criminals perpetrating these crimes and then work with public prosecution to represent survivors in court.
If you are interested in learning more about the International Justice Mission or getting involved their information can be found at www.ijm.org. If you are interested in working with the University of South Florida’s chapter their information can be found on their social media, @usfijm.