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3.8.18 – SPOKES Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Teresa Schaal

  • The meeting of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids was called to order on Thursday, March 8, 2018, with Jennifer Heemstra, an accomplished musician, as our featured speaker.
  • Jennifer spoke of her passion for trafficked women and children, and her work in helping to raise awareness of this tragic issue, which occurs here in Grand Rapids as well as in poor countries such as India.
  • Jennifer performs 1,500 concerts per year to draw attention to trafficking and often includes the women and children who have been trafficked, and performed in slums/red light districts
  • There are 4 ways that women/children get caught and pulled into the slave trade:
    • Family members sell girls
    • Parents are lied to; told that their children will have a better future (she’s starving so sell her)
    • Intergenerational prostitution/family business (“caste” system determined by birth)
    • Given in marriage “to God” and then pimp the girls out for household income
  • How to help? Jennifer started a 501©(3) organization:  Pitch Pipe, in honor of her 102 year old grandfather; she reaches out to underserved people and has performed 53 concerts through this organization so far.  Mack Winn, an Interact Student, interned with her in India.
  • Boys are trafficked for their labor or for pedophila
  • Jennifer recommended the book Half the Sky about sex trafficking, for those who want more information.
  • In one country the laws were changed to punish men who purchased sex; usually the woman is the one in trouble.
  • Rotary is involved with sex trafficking in India
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan, has the worse statistics for human trafficking than the rest of the state. The people trafficked are working in nail salons, massage parlors, and in the sex industry.
  • This is a global problem that needs to be addressed to improve the human condition.
  • Rotarians were reminded that the annual “Signature Event” honoring Shelley Irwin this year will be held on 3/21/18 at the Cultural Center at St. Nicholas. Everyone is encouraged to attend and bring a guest and/or be a sponsor!


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