Like most high school students, Haley Vincent loves to travel. Instead of spring break trips to relax at the beach or to tour colleges, however, the Westminster Schools junior travels to India, where she works with victims of human trafficking.
After reading “Half the Sky,” a book that discusses different women’s rights issues around the world, her freshman year, Haley realized her passion for women’s rights. While there were many issues in the book, sex trafficking had the biggest impact on Haley.
“I realized that the girls in the industry were so young, and this could’ve easily happened to me,” she said, “and I felt like it was my responsibility to help end it.”
To pursue her passion for social justice, Haley began working with various organizations and nonprofit companies. This past summer, she worked as an intern at youthSpark, an organization in Atlanta that seeks to inspire change and social justice. Her work there ranged from organizing baby clothes for teen mothers to designing flyers.
“I was impressed with Haley’s level of involvement in her community and her commitment to being a global citizen, particularly at a young age,” said Allison Hood, one of Haley’s supervisors at youthSpark. “She was a great asset to the team, producing quality work on the same level as our college interns.”
In addition, Haley served at WellSpring Living, a small Christian aftercare home for girls who are victims of sex trafficking. She sometimes had the opportunity to work directly with the girls, an experience that Haley says reminds her “how important this issue really is.”
For the past two spring breaks, Haley has traveled to Kolkata, India, with Peachtree Presbyterian Church to work with victims of trafficking. There, her mission group works with the International Justice Mission’s Kolkata field office and at two aftercare homes, Mahima and Sunlaap.
“It’s a life-changing experience that lets me meet victims of trafficking, and the amazing men and women fighting against the issue,” she said. For Haley, the most important part of the trip is forming relationships with the girls. Her first year, Haley recalls meeting a girl at Mahima. The girl, who had endured three brutal years of sex trafficking, was skittish and timid, and Haley recalls helping her slowly rebuild some of her self-confidence. The next year, Haley encountered the same girl, and she greeted Haley with a huge hug and a smile.
“I couldn’t believe someone who had endured so much in her life could come out so happy,” Haley said. “She was determined to move on.”
In addition to fighting sex trafficking overseas, Haley also does work in the local community for women’s rights. Haley started and is the co-president of the Gender Equality and Relations club at Westminster. Through G.E.A.R, she raises awareness about sex trafficking. Last year, she helped put together a school assembly to educate students about this issue. She is also a member of Street Grace Speaker’s Bureau, a local organization that works to prevent domestic minor sex trafficking. This group provides her with public speaking opportunities.
“It’s so important to keep talking about [human trafficking] because once people find out about it, they want to do something,” Haley said.
Right now, Haley is busy finishing up high school. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector and would love to fight for women’s rights and possibly even start her own nonprofit organization.
This article was prepared by Liam Kirchner, a student at Marist.