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Summer 2014 Horizon Header

       

Tackling root causes of human trafficking and helping victims are center’s goals

The WSU Center for Combating Human Trafficking seeks additional private support to expand its role

Karen Countryman-Roswurm delivers remarks at a forum on human trafficking held at the Ulrich Museum of Art earlier this year.
Karen Countryman-Roswurm delivers remarks at a forum on human trafficking held at the Ulrich Museum of Art earlier this year.

It’s been said that Wichita is literally at a crossroads when it comes to the problem of human trafficking. Its location places the city along a major north-south highway that facilitates those in the business of preying on and transporting their victims.

    Being at a crossroads also could describe the Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State. Up to now, the two-year-old program has focused on providing training and raising awareness, particularly at the community level.

    But for Karen Countryman-Roswurm, who founded and runs the center, that work goes only so far in addressing the larger issues that can lead to human and sex trafficking.

    “Much of the progress we’ve made addresses the issue narrowly and in a manner that provides short-term solutions,” says Countryman-Roswurm, an assistant professor in the WSU School of Social Work. “I want the center to be part of something bigger — to prevent human trafficking and create opportunities for prosperity.”

    With the help of Keith Pickus, the center’s director of operations and now also vice president for corporate and foundation relations for the WSU Foundation, Countryman-Roswurm wants to draw on the resources and expertise at Wichita State to create a comprehensive approach to ease human trafficking.

    “We’re in a unique position,” she says. “We have significant experience, phenomenal faculty, fantastic students in all disciplines and long-lasting partnerships with the Wichita community. The center can be an important part of resolving the issue of human trafficking in our own city, our state, our country and abroad.”

    Strategies must include tackling broader issues such as neglect and lack of opportunity; conducting research on causes and solutions; and adopting policies that help victims recover and improve their lives, Countryman-Roswurm says. Among the center’s goals are providing training and assistance to at least 500 more people and establishing scholarships for survivors of human trafficking.

    Pickus and Countryman-Roswurm are involved in fundraising with the WSU Foundation to help the center grow. A fundraiser last spring raised about $50,000, a portion of which was used to hire a social worker who will take over some of Countryman-Roswurm’s duties so she can focus on strategy and growth. As more money is raised, it will be used to hire staff, facilitate research and underwrite training for entities that can’t afford to pay CCHT for it. “We have a great opportunity to be a nationally recognized resource to combat human trafficking,” Pickus says. “With growth and support, the center can bring great distinction to Wichita State.”

 

circle arrow If you’d like to support the work of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking, contact Keith Pickus, WSU Foundation vice president for corporate and foundation relations, at 316-978-7791 or at keith.pickus@wichita.edu.