Non-profit to fundraise for study abroad safety training

The non-profit organization ClearCause started a campaign this month to fundraise for Safe Journey Academy, the first online training for students who are traveling abroad.

ClearCause was founded in 2010 by Sheryl and Allen Hill after the devastating loss of their son Tyler during his study abroad program in Japan. Once they started this organization they began to get several calls from people with similar stories of students who were abused, starved, abandoned and sexually trafficked.

There are no laws in America for protecting students outside the U.S., so incidents like those go unreported. So far ClearCause has been able to move two laws in Minnesota concerning student travel safety, and a third law is waiting for the governor’s signature in Virginia.

“Every day when I get up I think ‘If I can just help one more,’” Hill said. “I may not be able to save the world, but I can help one more.”

The website has the Safe Journey Eye-Opener Quiz with 10 questions that reveal facts about traveling.

For example, the three digit emergency number is not 911 in most countries. Hill’s son, Tyler, tried to dial 911 in Japan, when the number he needed was 199. Once Hill got ahold of Japan from America, she couldn’t communicate because she didn’t know Japanese. Knowing how to ask for help in the country’s language is a crucial part of being safe, according to Hill.

Safe Journey will offer several modules to help students prepare for safe travel.

These trainings will include topics such as an emergency action plan, country specific information, housing, health and wellness, water safety, alcohol and substance abuse, sexual assaults and how to advocate for federal policies to safeguard students.

According to their website, SHSU’s study abroad program also takes precautions by guaranteeing they will not approve any student-travel to locations currently under US Department of State Travel Warning or locations that come under Travel Warning at any point in the study abroad process, including after the student has departed the U.S..

This travel warning means that the Department of State has labeled a certain country as unsafe and advises U.S. citizens not to travel there. Currently the government website has a warning for traveling to Turkey.

Jordan Land, SHSU’s Study Abroad Coordinator said that even if the country is not listed on this website but SHSU has reason for concern, they will not send students to that location either.

“We would not be sending any students to Brussels, Belgium tomorrow, even though the location is not listed under the government’s travel warnings,” Land said.

Land gives presentations to students on how to be safe when traveling abroad, including general safety precautions and location specific tips. A few of his many tips are to practice a heightened sense of awareness, don’t travel anywhere alone no matter how “close” it may be, and don’t carry large amounts of cash or electronics.

The fundraiser for Safe Journey Academy has just begun, and they need around 250,000 dollars to have a fully funded website. Hill said once they are fully funded, they can translate the modules into different languages and send this lifesaving program to students around the world.

“Someone once told me I am a buzz-kill,” Hill said. “I said let me tell you what a buzz kill is, a buzz-kill is when you get that phone call, and I never want another person to get that phone call. We kick buzz-kill butt.”

The Safe Journey Academy is going to be student influenced and student advertised. Hill made the point that young adults are more likely to listen to their peers about safety than their parents. She hopes that students will realize their voice is more powerful than they know.

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