Ramapo College has recently installed a chapter of the International Justice Mission (IJM) on campus as a club open to all students interested in helping humanitarian efforts.
The club was founded by a group of students led by Ashley Ronco, a junior and now the president of the club, who were inspired from a combination of past experiences, values and clubs that they share, such as the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus, which many of the members are a part of. They came together to form the club in hopes to inflict change on the international issue of human rights oppressions.
In high school Ronco went on a mission trip to India and worked with victims of sex trafficking. She stayed in an orphanage and worked to rescue girls from being forced into brothels; stating that the experience has stayed with her the rest of her life, shaping her college ambitions towards helping others.
"Ever since then I've had a passion about it," said Ronco. "I'll find any excuse to study it, and eventually I had the desire to take it a step further and actually put it into action by starting a club."
Ramapo joins 144 other colleges and universities across the country which are a part of the International Justice Mission (IJM) campus chapter network, whose missions are to partner with IJM in raising voices, awareness and financial support to help fund international efforts in a variety of cases.
IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law in developing nations that are prone to corrupt and illegitimate proceedings. IJM investigators, lawyers and social workers intervene in individual cases of abuse in partnership with state and local authorities.
By pushing individual cases of abuse through the justice system from the investigative stage to the prosecutorial stage, IJM determines the specific source of corruption, lack of resources or lack of good will in the system denying victims the protection of their legal systems. In collaboration with local authorities, IJM addresses these specific points of brokenness to meet the urgent needs of victims of injustice.
Human trafficking, a human rights abuse IJM fights, is usually at the center of international media coverage, but it is not the only widespread issue that Ramapo's club hopes to bring awareness to and change. Issues such as illegal property seizures by the wealthy or corrupt, illegal detention, and forced labor slavery, among others, all greatly affect the populations of third-world and developing nations that often have no line of defense.
Although the club chapter at Ramapo is in its initial stages, they hope to make a big impact. The club was approved a few weeks ago, leaving little time for events at the end of the semester, so the current 14-member group will push for events to happen next semester.
The key for now is to raise awareness.
"We figured that since not everyone is aware of the magnitude of something like human trafficking, we want to bring that to the forefront and really create awareness about the problem and solutions to the problem," said club member Erin Moran, a junior.
"Most people probably don't know the extent of these issues in the world, so to just raise awareness would be paramount in itself," said senior Evan Moore.