Blouin Scholars Visit Lighthouse Ministries for Retreat

Walsh University Blouin Scholars with help from Lighthouse Ministries came together for an overnight retreat on Friday, March 17, for dedicated time to learn and connect.

The sophomore cohort is focused on the issue of human trafficking and exploitation, a pervasive problem that affects millions of people worldwide, with an estimated 24.9 million individuals trafficked each year. Ohio ranks fourth out of 50 states in human trafficking with Stark County experiencing an alarming rise in numbers over the past few years. While many people mistakenly believe it could never happen to them, it can occur anywhere at any time.

“It was alarming to learn that human trafficking is happening in the same county where I go to school,” said Blouin Scholar Chloe Hershberger, an Exercise Science Pre-OT major. “After dedicating the past two years to learning about human trafficking, I am amazed by the gravity, sadness and frustration of the issue and the lives it takes away from the world.”

During the retreat, the sophomore Blouin Scholars heard stories of how communities like Southeast Canton can be targets of human exploitation. They also gained a deeper understanding of how the highway system can negatively impact communities and lead to poverty, a lack of education and economic inequality, factors that make individuals more vulnerable to traffickers who lure victims by promising them a better life, job opportunities and a chance for their families to thrive. 

“By learning about the impact of highways on communities, we can start to think more critically about how we plan and design transportation infrastructure in the future,” Hershberger said. “We can also work to support and uplift individuals who have been negatively impacted by advocating for policy changes, supporting local organizations and working to create a more equitable and just society for all.”

The retreat included time for participants to hear presentations on two topics: the lines that shape Canton and the shift in family makeup.  They also reflected on global challenges and their role as change-agents, toured Lighthouse Ministries, Habitat for Humanity and Refuge of Hope, and took part in a service project at Lighthouse Ministries. The retreat ended with a “Call to Action” panel discussion with community partners from RAHAB Ministries and Canton City Schools.

“I have lived just ten minutes from these sites my entire life, but I had no idea they worked together to create such a great impact in the community,” said Blouin Scholar Emma Knisely, an Education major. “Organizations like Lighthouse Ministries help prevent human exploitation by working with children to create a stronger foundation for their life. As change agents, the Blouin Scholars can also support local communities by raising awareness of human trafficking, its causes and ways to prevent it.”

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a program that has the potential to make a positive impact on the community,” Hershberger said. “While the retreat gave us an opportunity to learn about the problems facing Southeast Canton and the greater Stark County community, it also highlighted the importance of relationships, collective goals and creating a better living environment.”