Student to help Ugandan women in East Asia upon graduation

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When Monique Sandhu graduates on Dec. 14 from St. Edward’s University, she won’t be searching for a job. Instead, Sandhu is moving to East Asia to help Ugandan women who are victims of human trafficking through an unpaid position at Red Oak Ministries (ROM).

Sandhu, who is graduating with a degree in global studies with a concentration in Africa, turned down a position with the well-established International Justice Mission in Africa to help with this emerging organization. ROM started in March of 2012. The organization has one full-time employee, its founder Adisyn who is from Austin, as well as a handful of dedicated, regular volunteers.

“I prayed a lot, and I think this is what God is calling me to do,” Sandhu said.

By the request of ROM, Hilltop Views has agreed not to say the exact location in East Asia for where the organization is active. ROM fears that if this information is released, local government will persecute them because of their Christian mission.

Currently, ROM is focusing on Ugandan women forced into the sex trade. Adisyn said that she and her team of volunteers try to build friendships and trust among the victims, spread the Gospel and get them a flight back home.

Adisyn has built a relationship with the local Ugandan consulate that helps her get the women back to their families. ROM also has a partnership with the Kwagala Project, which helps to provide the victims with counseling and business training when the women return to Uganda. Adisyn and her team of volunteers also collect information that could be used by investigative firms in the future to locate and potentially prosecute traffickers.

Adisyn is “ecstatic” to add Sandhu to her team, especially because of Sandhu’s passion to help end human trafficking and her experience with brothel outreach in Austin through Redeemed Ministries. Sandhu will be Red Oak Ministries’ second full-time team member.  

During Sandhu’s freshman year, she learned about human trafficking from a talk given by Professor Kay Firth Butterfield. Her freshman year is also when she converted to Christianity. Sandhu grew up Sikh, but said that she never got anything out of the religion. When she started college, Sandhu identified as an Atheist.

“When I came to St. Edward’s, I just started learning more about God’s grace,” Sandhu said. She started reading the Bible and going to the Austin Stone Community Church. 

Butterfield’s talk propelled her to learn more about human trafficking and she said she “knew God was pushing her to do something.”

Butterfield suggested that Sandhu get involved with Redeemed Ministries, which was in the process of starting an Austin branch during Sandhu’s freshman year. 

Redeemed Ministries helps victims of human trafficking in the Austin area. 

The Texas-based organization strives to show the women that someone cares about them and works with Austin Police Department’s human trafficking division to help free the girls and build enough evidence to convict the traffickers.

Sandhu was “among one of the first few volunteers Redeemed ever had, she has been dedicated and is always willing to serve,” director of Field Ministry for Redeemed Ministries Nicole Marett said. 

Sandhu leaves for her trip in February and currenly plans to stay in East Asia for eight months to a year. She said that her parents think that she is a “little crazy,” but she hopes that by the time she is packing her bag they will be more supportive.

“They think I need to find a normal job,” she said. “But I know this is what I’m meant to do.”