Holly Burke

In 2005, between 10,000 and 20,000 women and children in Vietnam were kidnapped and sold into slavery. The numbers however, are inexact since the business of trafficking humans is deeply rooted underground.

Cal Poly students will have the opportunity to learn about the human trafficking in Southeast Asia on Saturday, March 11, and can learn what they can do to help. “A Light of Hope: Helping Vietnamese Women at Risk” will feature workshops, performances and an art exhibit and will be held from noon to 8 p.m. in room 220 of the University Union.

The event was organized by JR Webb, a political science senior who visited Vietnam last year. Before visiting Vietnam with a friend of Vietnamese decent, Webb saw a news program about the trafficking of Vietnamese women and children.

“(The show) posed some interesting questions about why (Vietnamese women and children) were being sold to brothels in Cambodia,” Webb said.

Webb, affected by the show, was determined to help.

In Vietnam, Webb worked with two San Jose-based nonprofit organizations that work to prevent human trafficking in Vietnam. He proposed the organizations use college interns to help run the programs.

“Almost any major can help,” Webb said. “The (organizations) help teach medicine, there are corrective surgery programs, even English majors could write the grants to fund the programs.”

Prevention programs run by the organizations attempt to educate the children in rural villages and provide them with opportunities for the future to prevent their involvement with human trafficking.

Phyusin Myint, a communications senior and slam poet, will perform at the event. Myint felt touched when she learned about the trafficking through a video Webb showed her. Though Myint will perform other poems, she has written one specifically for the event. She will perform “We Are Strangers,” directed toward a girl featured in the video.

“I could understand what (the girl) was going through,” she said. “She is precious and should have hope and strength. I will start a fire with my poetry to help her. That is what I can do for her.”

According to Creating Opportunities in Vietnam (COVN), one of the agencies Webb worked with, 71 percent of the illiterate population in Vietnam are women. COVN also attributes the mistreatment of women in that country to the strong influence of Confucianism, which views women as subordinate figures in society.

The event, sponsored by the political science department, the social science department, the career center, Student Community Services, ASI and local business, will feature artists from across the United States as well as art from Vietnam. Lahn Tran, an award-winning writer featured on NPR, will also speak.

Guitarist Tinh Mahoney, who appears on albums produced by George Winston, will also perform.

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