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Encounter club fundraises for anti-trafficking
Members of Encounter, a Webster University Christian club are preparing for a bake sale to help raise funds for When the Saints, an organization that strives to protect African women and children from sex trafficking.
The bake sale will be held at Webster University from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m on Dec. 9 in the University Center and on Dec. 10 in the East Academic Building. Encounter hopes to raise enough money to help When the Saints support people in Africa.
The president of Encounter, Domenic Mendoza, said that reading the Bible inspired him to give back.
“Jesus talked about taking care of the affected and whoever is being oppressed,” Mendoza said. “I just felt like I wanted to be a part of something and I took advantage of the opportunity.”
Mendoza met the founder of, David Peterka, at Church STL in Ellisville, Mo. One year after meeting Peterka, he learned about When the Saints. He said it was amazing to learn about how the project rescued women from the homes they were being held in.
When Peterka heard of Encounter’s fundraiser, he said the students were thoughtful to want to help his organization’s cause.
“I’m just grateful any time someone wants to help the organization,” Peterka said.
When the Saints has built safe homes in Malawi to pull women and children off the streets and protect them from sex trafficking. The organization hosts fundraising banquets. Last year, the organization raised nearly $53,000 of their $60,000 goal. This year, the goal was to raise $100,000; instead, the organization only raised $62,000.
“The money we raised is enough to make the safe homes livable, handling furnishing and plumbing,” Peterka said.
Because Malawi is the tenth poorest country in the world, there are very few jobs available. Because of this, Maggie Palozola, a worker for When the Saints and prospective Webster student, said the group let the Malawians build the safe homes.
“Allowing the Malawians to help with building creates more jobs for them,” Palozola said. “We didn’t want it to be an American project.”
He said part of his purpose in life is to help women and children in Africa.
“To me, it (sex trafficking,) it’s the greatest form of injustice, and this is what I’m supposed to do,” Peterka said. “I’m going to do my best to protect them.”
Palozola volunteered in Africa this past May. She had met Peterka in 2010 at Maryville University, Mo. at the debut of Peterka’s documentary “Give A Damn?” Palozola said Peterka’s discussion about his organization inspired her decision to help.
“Finding out about sex trafficking in Africa broke my heart,” Palozola said. “I knew I wanted to be a part of the organization.”
According to the Voices of the Broken website, females account for about 80 percent of human sex trafficking. An estimated 500,000 to 2 million people fall victim to human trafficking annually.
Palozola said some of the girls she spoke with in Malawi saw prostitution as the only way to help provide for their families.
“We would minister to them to encourage that prostituting isn’t the only way,” Palozola said. “Today, one of the girls is in the process of starting her own business.”
Mendoza said Encounter would donate all of the proceeds from the bake sale to When the Saints. He said Encounter plans to host more fundraisers, and mentioned the possibility of selling t-shirts. One day he hopes to minister in Africa.