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SUNY Canton students organize events to raise awareness of human trafficking

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CANTON — The disadvantages and benefits of living in a border region can become so ingrained into the north country lifestyle, it is difficult to imagine that the vehicles crossing between the United States and Canada each day could be carrying illicit human cargo.

That is why a small group of SUNY Canton students wants to give the area a wake-up call about the dangers of human trafficking.

The college’s International Student Activist Organization is leading two events designed to increase local awareness of the global issue. Beginning at noon Tuesday, the group will lead a march from the Canton post office up Main Street to the SUNY Canton campus.

“I decided to organize this march because what I have seen in today’s world is that a lot of people know what is going on, but the problem is that for us here in America, it is out of face and out of mind,” said Malik C. McKenzie, ISAO president. “We know it is happening, but it is easy to ignore it.”

The march is scheduled to last for 27 minutes, symbolic of the estimated 27 million people illegally trafficked annually.

“It is a big problem in the United States,” Mr. McKenzie said. “Usually what will happen, someone will get kidnapped — going to a job interview or answering an online ad — and they’ll be forced into labor and slavery.”

On Wednesday, Gabriel Bol Deng, a former South Sudanese child soldier, will lead a screening of his documentary “Rebuilding Hope” and afterward offer a presentation.

“At the age of 10, his village was raided by soldiers. He barely escaped with his life,” Mr. McKenzie said. “He went through tumultuous trouble — he is lucky to be alive today. A few years later he went back to his home and saw a lack of education, lack of teacher training. So now he has his own campaign.”

Mr. Deng is the founder of HOPE for Ariang, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding educational opportunities in South Sudan.

Mr. McKenzie and some classmates founded the SUNY Canton ISAO last year after watching “Kony 2012,” a documentary about Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony.

“We decided we should do what we can now — we can raise awareness; we can fight this,” he said. “We can do something; we have a voice; we are consumers. If we voice our concerns, there will be change.”

Mr. Deng’s presentation will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday in SUNY Canton’s Kingston Theater.

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