Students working to make ‘Stella’s Voice’ heard
February 8, 2013
Courtesy of Mary Schuch - 2012 graduate Mary Schuch and Nadia, one of the first to live in Stella’s House, smile during an outing on the 2011 Moldova trip. Current students are establishing a chapter of “Stella’s Voice” on campus.
In Moldova, a country the size of Maryland, the worst thing one can be is an orphan – and Moldova has approximately 14,000 of them. Often raised by abusive caretakers, children “age out” when they turn 16. This often leads to a future in the slave and sex trafficking trades, many of them dying from drugs or AIDS within a few short years.
“Girls are kicked out every June, and, often times, there are traffickers just waiting for them at bus stops,” said psychology professor Kristin Larson. “It’s frightening. We want to save as many girls as possible.”
Students of Monmouth College have previously had a hand in helping these orphans by partnering with “Stella’s Voice,” an organization introduced by former Board of Trustees chairman David Byrnes, and they’re about to do more. Currently a student chapter of “Stella’s Voice” is in the works to be an official organization on campus.
The effort is headed by Larson and juniors Sarah Houston and McCahl Murray. Until they reach official recognition from the college, “Stella’s Voice” is currently under Psi Chi, the psychology honor society.
“‘Stella’s Voice’ provides housing for girls who have aged out of the system and rescues them from becoming victims in the sex trafficking industry,” Larson said. “Currently there are two Stella houses and one Simon’s house for boys.”
In the past, efforts to help “Stella’s Voice” include a winter items drive in Fall 2010, in which 900 winter items were donated, and a “delicates” drive last year, which allowed Houston and members of the Monmouth College Volleyball team to collect money and buy a bra and three pairs of underwear for every girl in Stella’s House. In summer 2011, six students, two staff members and Byrnes visited Moldova’s orphanages and Stella’s House.
The goal for the organization on campus is to raise money for two new houses currently being built in Moldova by “Stella’s Voice” to house 60 girls each. The college’s chapter is aiming to make at least $2,000 by holding a dance-a-thon in April.
“We’re still tossing around ideas about how to make [a dance-a-thon] work, so that’s mainly what we’re discussing in meetings,” Murray said, who “got hooked” on the idea of starting a chapter after visiting the website, stellasvoice.org. “We’re trying to raise $2,000 by asking 300 people to get sponsors and dance. If each person raises $50, we will more than make our goal.”
While the international organization “Stella’s Voice” is religiously-affiliated, Larson stresses that the campus chapter will not be and welcomes students from all walks of life to join without feeling “pressured.”
“The thing that makes ‘Stella’s Voice’ so different is you can see that it is making a huge difference in an entire country,” Larson said. “We worked with a different organization in Alabama with the winter items and the amount of items total shipped was 12,000 – that’s something for almost every orphan in Moldova. You can actually see the dent.”
Larson previously visited Moldova last August and spent a week with the girls in Stella’s House and the boys in Simon’s House. She intends to visit again next year with any students who are interested.