NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The pictures of those who have been forced into slavery will line the inside of a tent positioned strategically in front of the Baker Pattillo Student Center at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches until late Thursday evening.
It's a haunting scene; one that is filled with hope and sadness for the 27 million people trapped inside labor and sex trafficking worldwide.
"Most people don't even know that slavery exists. They think it's a past-time and actually it's still very current and it's happening in the United States as well," said Laura Sadler, a senior at SFA. "There are 17,500 slaves in the U.S. and the average age for those kids is only 14 years old, and most people don't know that."
For 27 hours, members of SFA's End It Movement, a national campaign that started on March 5 and will last until March 15, will stand, cheer, yell and advocate for those whose voices cannot be heard. The students began the event at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will stand until 9 p.m. Thursday in the dark and cold East Texas temperatures.
But for Zak Tharp, a freshman, this is one of the ways he feels he can express his passion to help those who are trapped and oppressed.
"I didn't realize how God wants to set people free physically and wants to use his people to go into places and really see some life change; see some lives completely transform," Tharp said.
The End It Movement began in January of 2013 at the Passion 2013 Freedom Campaign in Atlanta, Georgia. Over 60,000 people gathered inside the Georgia Dome to worship together and help raise their voices for those who are lost. The campaign raised $3.3 million to fund 23 causes and 19 partner organizations. One of those organizations was the End It Movement, Tharp said.
Jacob Griffin, an officer for the SFA group, says the goal of the event is to raise $2,700 for the national campaign and get 1,000 signatures on a petition they, and groups nationwide, will send to President Obama to get a comprehensive plan enacted to end slavery.
"These partners go directly into places and businesses where enslaved, like bonded labor or human trafficking. These organizations actually bring people out of that and we are raising money for that to give directly to them and also we are having students sign a petition," Griffin said.
Students can give change, cash or even donate money from their credit and debit cards. Sadler says it doesn't have to be much, but anything will help. Students who donate to the movement will get their pictures taken with motivational signs that will be hung up on a clothes pin line outside the student center for other students to see.
Those that do not want to donate money can also sign the petition or take a picture of themselves showing how they stand4freedom. Sadler says the movement isn't only for students and they want people from all over to come and stand with them, or donate.
"It's important to inform this generation to stand up for things like this and raise money for people who can't help themselves," Sadler said.
Amelia Greene, a junior, was the first donation of the night and says it was important for her to take a stand.
"I decided to donate because I have a family at home and they love me and to have the feeling of somebody in slavery would really be horrible. I don't want other people to go through that and I want them to know that [the] Lord loves them," Greene said.
The group was able to raise $1,850 for the national group, which is $850 less than their goal of $2,700. But they say they will continue to accept donations until March 15. They were also 100 signatures short for their petition, but say they will still be sending it off to the president.