Shannon Sprowal and Jay Atlas Are Walking Across the U.S. To Prevent Human Trafficking
What did you do this summer? Margarita on the beach? Finally make a dent in your reading list?
Shannon Sprowal, 21, and Jay Atlas, 23, had summers that looked a little different. These young men have been walking across the United States since July 15 to raise awareness about human trafficking. They have 50 pounds on their backs, and they're not stopping until they reach their destination in Los Angeles. ETA: November-ish.
Bustle's Ana Defillo spoke with these young men to find out why they're walking:
Ana: So where are you guys now?
Jay: We will be in Independence, Missouri by the end of the night.
Ana: Tell me a little about yourselves — why are you guys walking across the U.S.?
Jay: I'm 23, just a regular guy from Norristown, Pennsylvania. I got introduced [to human trafficking] by going to the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Got to hear the End It message there. Came home and kinda picked it up.
Shannon: Jay told me about it. We always talked about doing something kinda like this but he brought it to my attention...I couldn't let him go alone — so I tagged along and now I am here.
Ana: What was it about human trafficking that motivated you to walk across the country?
Jay: How pervasive it is in our culture, and just how common it is around the world. Also, it's something that can affect anyone, there's no specific person, there's no ideal type to target. So it could be myself or anyone else that we know.
Ana: What's been your favorite moment on this walk so far?
Shannon: We slept in a dumpster. That was one of the big... It was a big deal for me... It was fun.
Ana: How come?
Shannon: Well, we were sitting behind the dumpster and the rain started and it woke us right up, so Jay jumped in there and I followed after. Luckily enough, it was only a recycling dumpster so it was only paper and cardboard but it was one of the more comfortable nights of sleep.
Ana: What does your typical day look like?
Jay: We have signs on our bags. Our bags are both over 50 lbs so they are pretty large bags, draws enough attention. Lets people know what we are doing. We have t-shirts as well that have different things written on them. We walk till we are tired, get up, stretch, have a short breakfast, walk for a few hours, finish breakfast, then walk till lunch and dinner. We fall asleep wherever we are tired. Libraries, churches.
Ana: What do you hope this walk will accomplish?
Jay: The first step is education. That's really the goal. This walk doesn't end human trafficking — but it gives some attention to it. The next step, I would also like to start a non-profit and then I would like to go into work to at least in someway to directly remove people from human trafficking.
Ana: What kind of non-profit are you interested in starting?
Jay: The idea that I've sort of been toying around with is focusing on young men, and teaching them to aspire to be more than the things they see on television. Or to have a broader perspective on their opportunities in the world.
Ana: I know this is a very complicated issue but I wanted to know your opinions on how you think we should combat trafficking in the United States.
Jay: I think they should promote [awareness about it] over the television. That's something we've talked about as we meet people in our walk. They have infomercials for erectile dysfunction and the new legos that are coming out, why not have something that promotes some form of education? Then from there more people will look into it.
Ana: From your experience during your walk, does it seem like a lot of people don't know about human trafficking?
Jay: I would say 50/50.
Shannon: We have met some people that don't know it exists, but a lot of people don't think it's a big issue and they don't think it's going on here in America.
Ana: Thanks for talking with us and stay safe!
You can follow Sprowal and Atlas' journey on their Facebook page.