Valley Art Students Tackle Human Trafficking

Through writing and art, Tippecanoe Valley High School students hope to help fight human trafficking and slavery.
Students from Lois Buss’s English classes and Jan Mills’ Visual Communications II class will present a gallery of writing and art Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in TVHS room 117. Cost is $1 for seniors and students, $2 for adults and $5 for family. Proceeds benefit Destiny Rescue, and donations will be accepted.
This is the second year for the Writing & Art Gallery. In 2014, the gallery raised $1,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Our goal this year is $1,500 – that’s what it takes for the complete rescue (by Destiny Rescue) of one girl,” Buss said.
Destiny Rescue is a grassroots, internationally recognized, Christian-based, non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation, according to its official website. It helps rescue the sexually exploited and enslaved, restore the abused, protect the vulnerable, empower the poor and are a voice for those that can’t speak up for themselves.
It currently operates in five nations: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and India. It also has offices in three donor nations: United States, Australia and New Zealand.
In choosing Destiny Rescue as the recipient of the funds from this year’s gallery, Buss said, “It was just a passion of my heart and I brought it to my kids. They were very open. They didn’t understand at first what I was talking about, so they did a lot of reading.”
She said her students read mainly news articles about the subject as well as the U.S. Department of State report on human trafficking. They read a story about the different ways people can be enslaved, and about a Carmel, Ind., girl who recently returned home after being enslaved in California.
“It’s a topic that we all were pretty ignorant of,” Buss said.
Freshman Baylee LaFollette said, “I think the problem itself is really heartbreaking and it gets to me.” 
“I thought it was kind of heartbreaking to learn what girls had to go through,” freshman Jade VanMeter said. “I feel good to be a part of doing something about it. It makes you feel good inside.” 
David Grant, a program director for Destiny Rescue, talked to Buss’s and Mills’ students in January about human trafficking, slavery and what his organization does. 
Buss said the students were drawn to the topic because it is happening to people their age and they were ignorant of it before. There are about 27 million slaves in the world today, she said, working as prostitutes, miners or child soldiers.
LaFollette said one of the biggest things she learned was the number of slaves in the world today. 
“That’s unbelieveable, shocking. You don’t really see it here so it’s shocking,” LaFollette said. 
VanMeter said she was surprised to learn that once a girl is rescued, it’s very hard for them to know how to live a normal life. 
Buss said, “The topic is so sensitive, I had to draw a line somewhere. I wanted to educate them, but there was a point where some of it was too much for some students. I think we have a good grasp of it, and they have a good heart and mind for it. That is one of the joys of teaching – I brought something personal of mine to them and they embraced it because they’re my students, and that felt great. It just made me feel good at how open their hearts are.”
For the writing portion of the gallery, Buss said her students were in the midst of studying memoirs so they had to write a story of their lives. Those memoirs ranged from two to 10 pages. From their memoirs, the students then wrote six-word memoirs. They also wrote six-word memoirs about the life of someone involved in human trafficking. 
The six-word memoirs were then framed for the gallery. At Tuesday’s event, each framed memoir will be sold for $5, with proceeds benefitting Destiny Rescue. 
“Once we decided we wanted to display our writings for Destiny Rescue, we knew people would want to see visual art,” Buss said. 
Mills’ students then were tasked with creating art for the gallery inspired by Buss’s students’ memoirs and Destiny Rescue.
“We’re showing with words, they’re showing with image,” Buss said.
Mills said she asked her students to research the issue. Buss brought over her students’ six-word slavery memoirs for Mills’ class to talk about. They’ve been working on the art projects for the past month, though not exclusively.
Mills’ students’ paintings will be sold through silent auction at Tuesday’s event, with proceeds benefitting Destiny Rescue.
“This is something where they given an idea or theme and they could take it in different direction,” Mills said.
With the mixed media art form, she said students chose to work with charcoal, pen ink, charcoal, colored pencils, acrylic paint or markers. 
For her art project, senior Ariel Schoettmer said she did an abstract expressionism acrylic painting. It incorporates the Destiny Rescue logo with a world in the background. 
“Initially, I planned a different painting but I’m not good at painting people so I switched it around. I usually don’t do abstract, and I wanted to incorporate lots of color,” Schoettmer said.
She said some of her art is influenced by religion, but this is the first time she’s created art for a special cause.
“After this, I may do more. I don’t know a lot of different groups and stuff, but if I do learn about more, I may be inspired to do more art for causes,” she said.
Senior Than Angsakul is an exchange student from Thailand. His art project is mixed media including pen ink, charcoal and colored pencil. 
“It’s about my country too,” Angsakul said of the human trafficking problem. “I want to do something. They need help, too.”
His piece features a girl in the center breaking out of a cage with the help of an eagle. 
He said he knew some about the human slavery problem before coming to the United States, but learned even more through this project. 
Destiny Rescue also will be on hand at Tuesday’s event, Buss said. The organization will share information on what they do and sell jewelry made by the rescued girls. More information on Destiny Rescue can be found online at

(Story By The Times Union)