Starting today, UT's chapter of International Justice Mission (IJM) will take a stand for the 27 million people around the world held captive in modern-day slavery.

IJM is an internationally reaching human rights agency and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1997, it works to rescue victims of violent oppression and bring the law to bear on the perpetrators of those crimes.

UT students involved with IJM will be participating in the organization's nationwide "Stand for Freedom" by standing for 27 hours on Pedestrian Walkway to raise awareness of the pervasive modern slave trade.

"The Stand for Freedom is to stand for those who can't stand for themselves," said Benjamin Wing, senior in materials science and engineering, and fundraising chair for UT's chapter of IJM. "We hope to give a voice to people who otherwise don't have a voice."

Though the ultimate goal of the event is wide in scope, the goals of UT's participants are much more specific.

"The first step with any change is awareness, and that's the main issue," Wing said. "We also hope to raise $2,700, get at least 270 people participating in this event, and sign 1,000 signatures for a petition."

The event began yesterday with a promotional day, during which IJM members were stationed in the University Center from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to hand out flyers and sign volunteers up for the event.

Today, the Stand officially kicks off as volunteers converge on Pedestrian Walkway in shifts from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

"Primarily, we're going to have a bunch of people standing with signs that say 'I stand for freedom' just to bring awareness," Wing said. "We'll also have, over to the side, a place for donations. We'll have laptops set up so if people want to donate and help us raise the money, then they can help us do that."

The members of UT's chapter of IJM have a passion for putting an end to modern slavery and look forward to sharing that with other students on campus during this event.

"I hope that this event raises awareness and plants some seeds of passion in people," Olivia Gross, freshman in social work, said. "Most people don't understand how vast the problem of human trafficking is, and some don't know that it still exists."

IJM is not alone in its effort to raise awareness on campus. Volunteers from several other organizations will be joining the ranks as well.

"We're expecting a fair amount of people," Wing said. "I know Campus Crusade for Christ is getting involved and some of the other campus ministries."

In order to be as successful in raising awareness about their cause as possible, the volunteers will be hoping to speak personally to passers-by about just how dire the situation is.

According to IJM's official website, nearly 2 million children are exploited in the sex trade every year, and human trafficking as an industry generates more than $32 billion in profits each year.

"Come up to the booths," Gross said. "Don't shy away from us. We aren't trying to sell you anything or sign you into a contract. We just really want to help give a voice to those who don't have any."

Although IJM would love for the event to bring in enough donations and signatures to make an immediate change in the world, the ultimate goal is to educate more people about the prevalence of modern day slavery.

"If one person more learns about human trafficking, then we've done our job," Wing said.

For more information about the work of IJM, visit their website at www.ijm.org. To volunteer to participate in the "Stand for Freedom," contact Micah Mohieddin at mmohiedd@utk.edu.