International Justice Mission

Jenny Lynn/New University Intern

Kirie was sexually assaulted by a man in her family and became pregnant as a result. Scared, she kept her terrible secret hidden from her family. Kirie’s parents finally discovered what had happened and together, they filed a report.

Days, weeks and months went by without any action from the Guatemalan government. No arrest was made, no warrant was issued — nothing happened. Kirie’s family was poor and could not afford a lawyer to represent their voices. This is where International Justice Mission stepped in.

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a human rights organization that secures justice against different forms of violence: aggressive human violence, violence that strips widows and orphans of their property and work, violence that steals dignity and health from children forced into prostitution, violence that seizes freedom and security from families trapped in slavery.

There have always been humanitarian and mission organizations that have supported and fought for the rights of those in need. However, little was being done to the oppressors.

They simply walked away with no punishment, granted an unfair freedom. Freedom they had taken from their victims.

A group of lawyers, human rights professionals and public officials decided to take action and do something about it. They came together in 1997 to start International Justice Mission.

Today, IJM has grown. The justice professionals of this organization are spread throughout 12 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It’s not only a movement overseas but also throughout the college systems.

UC Irvine has its own branch of the International Justice Mission. They are constantly brainstorming ways to raise awareness and spread the news about children who have been abused, like Kirie.

“IJM doesn’t just deal with surface issues,” said fourth-year Sharon Whelchel, president of UCI’s IJM. “There are a lot of non- profit organizations out there, but IJM works directly with the local government. IJM trains the government to spot problems and has aftercare for the victims.

They work alongside with the government which means the long term results will be much better.”

Whelchel leads the group to raise awareness through their planed activities and events. Recently, they hosted a benefit concert known as the “Pawn Project,” where several musical groups, including Circle of Fifths performed. That night, the “Pawn Project” raised $1063.92.

UC Irvine’s IJM will soon be hosting an art auction on Tuesday night, May 24. They will promote awareness through art and raise money for the great purpose.

“Our job is to raise student awareness,” said fourth-year vice president Dustin Wen. “The larger organization of IJM performs the physical work.

However, as students, that is quite difficult for us.

The IJM here at UCI raises awareness and money so other people who have the means can do the good work. We want to affect our immediate community through service projects and good old fashioned networking.”

Because of the persistent hard work from college clubs like UCI’s IJM, Kirie was referred to the hospital where she received immediate care. The investigators and lawyers of IJM helped put her rapist behind bars for eight years.

Kirie is now safe and happily raising her daughter. She is doing well in school, and her goal is to one day become a teacher.

“My favorite part about IJM is when we read the IJM national newsletter about the work that IJM is doing,” said member Julia Burke-Haddad, an international studies and political science double major, “It’s cool to know that our money is going towards something.

It encourages me to keep working when I hear that rapists and those who facilitate trafficking are being locked up.

I especially like it when we get letters about how little kids have been freed from sex slavery. It’s nice to be able to work for an organization that acts out justice in such a crazy, chaotic world.”