In theme with the season of giving, two Lake Oswego High School seniors are raising donations to purchase items on youth sex trafficking survivors' wishlists.
The students' efforts are part of a community giving project for their international marketing class, which prompts students to raise funds or donations for a certain charity. The two seniors chose to work with A Village For One, a Portland nonprofit organization, and rally up donations for youth who have experienced sex trafficking.
Robles and Carlson were initially drawn to the organization because of their commitment to helping sex trafficking victims get back on their feet and heal from sexual exploitation through training, outreach and activity.
"We had known from the beginning of our project that we want to work with, and support, sex trafficking victims, because that's prevalent in our neighboring communities," Robles said.
The seniors were also drawn to A Village For One's emphasis on mental health. Carlson said that the staff ensures that the youth in their care are emotionally stable.
"Other organizations (that we looked at) were more focused towards getting them out of sex trafficking, and not necessarily helping them continue their life after they're out of sex trafficking," said Carlson.
The Amazon wishlist is pre-loaded and all community members need to do is buy an item off the wishlist. The items will be sent to A Village For One and distributed as part of a list that includes two "needs" and one "want" for each person.
A lot of the listed items are basic items, like socks or coloring pencils for schools.
"I would also like to put an emphasis that the items that they asked for a lot of the time aren't even for themselves, like these youths also have children of their own. So, some have asked for children's clothes. It's so important to these people that they get these items because it's really … helping them with functionality," Carlson said.
Multnomah and Clackamas counties have the two highest sex trafficking victim populations, according to a 2020 Oregon Department of Education press release.
"Sex trafficking is so heavily misunderstood. When people think about sex trafficking, they think a girl being pulled out of the street and into a car and then lost forever. But really, it's being coerced into having sex with people for money, and losing all your family, friends and supports," said Robles.
The seniors said they hope that alongside raising donations, they can raise attention for how prominent this issue is in the Portland metro area.
"We weren't really necessarily aware of (sex trafficking) growing up in Lake Oswego. It's like a bubble that we live in," said Carlson. "Also, it's sort of like a taboo topic. When people hear 'sex trafficking,' sometimes they can shy away and not want to talk about it because they feel like it's an uncomfortable thing. But if we don't talk about it, there's really no movement forward."
How to donate:
Scan the QR Code for the Amazon wishlist where you can purchase a gift that will go directly to A Village For One. Community members can also purchase the items locally and drop them off at the designated donation box at Lake Oswego High School before Dec. 17.
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