5.15.2009

Alum Strategically Tackling Issues of Human Trafficking

Regent alumnus Kyle Westaway (’07) is a self-proclaimed “southern boy” from Knoxville, Tennessee. However, from his office in Manhattan, he’s carving out a global impact larger than he ever expected it could be.

Westaway is a sole practitioner primarily representing artists, entrepreneurs and activists. His website proclaims, “We are looking to partner with those who have a DREAM, the ingenuity and courage to CREATE something that will SHAPE culture. We are committed to partnering with you to make that dream a reality.”

“I believe in the power of art to create change,” said Westaway. “But I’m no artist; the only thing I can play is an iPod. So, I’m fortunate to be able to play a key role in that process through my legal work.”

In the last year and a half, however, Westaway has connected with a non-profit that is changing culture in a way that Westaway can contribute to -- through both his legal expertise and his personal passion.

The Blind Project (TBP) is a non-profit that is seeking to leverage art and fashion to empower women vulnerable to, and rescued from, the sex trade. When he’s not managing his practice, Westaway serves as TBP’s Director of Business Development and has been reaching out to potential partners, creating a strategic business plan, and working towards gaining 501(c)(3) IRS status.

His personal passion makes this less of a legal project and more of a ministry.

“Basically, for me, it’s clear that God has a special interest in the poor and oppressed, and we in a rich western nation have the resources to do something about it,” said Westaway. “Once my eyes have been opened about oppression, inaction is not an option.”

While still a student at Regent, Westaway co-founded the campus chapter of International Justice Mission, a national agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Regent’s chapter hosted a week-long campaign to raise awareness and money to fight human trafficking.

Those efforts continue through TBP. “When I learned about what was happening at TBP, I knew I had something to contribute to the team,” he said. “The work we’re doing is about meeting a very practical need for some of the most oppressed people on the face of the planet.”

The plan is simple: poverty makes women vulnerable to the sex trade, so start by tackling the poverty. Thus, TBP has formed a relationship with after-care facilities in Southeast Asia, where women rescued from human trafficking live. TBP’s creative team has designed an apparel line which will be manufactured by these women and sold in U.S. markets. The profits then return to the after-care communities. The women are given a sense of purpose and an economic incentive to stay out of the sex trade.

In addition, TBP aims to raise awareness of the issue in relevant ways. Headquartered in New York City, the organization has the opportunity to do just that.  Westaway points out, “This city is amazing because it is the center of so many industries – finance, media, publishing, entertainment, non-profits, international diplomacy to name a few. To impact this city is to impact the world.”

Crediting the influence of Regent Law Professor Thomas Folsom, Westaway says he’s achieved a place in his professional path that he never expected. And it’s from that place, in his office in Manhattan, that he is able to make ripple effects around the globe.