Last summer Leah Heath spent time abroad. She wasn't on a Caribbean cruise or wandering the Spanish countryside.
She was knee deep in mission work stationed in Ghana, South Africa, where she saw things no child should have to see -- a world steeped in human trafficking and slavery.
Heath, a senior at Marcellus High School, took a road trip Monday morning to tell students at Fayetteville-Manlius High School her story and how she and others can help give slavery a face as part of her senior project.
"There's lots of shapes and forms of slavery," she told a packed classroom with a maximum occupancy of 129 people.
Slavery comes to us in different forms, such as prostitution, restaurant workers, clerks at mini marts, housekeepers and nannies, Heath said. Some of those employees may not be earning a wage and are held against their free will. When she left South Africa for home, she thought she'd leave the inhumane treatment of others behind her. What she found at home was that it happens here too.
"These cases are local and around us," Heath said, adding that Syracuse is a hub between the bright lights of New York City and the country's border at Canada. "This is something that's surrounding us. It's not easy to talk about. It's not easy for me to get up here and talk about it. ... They have no way out."
Statistics have shown that there are 27 million people in slavery around the world, and the United States is not immune.
"The sale of slaves exceeded the sale of illegal drugs and illegal weapons," said Cynthia Rosenau, president and CEO of Christ Living in You Ministries Inc. "There's are people that have no choice, no voice. Why is this important? Because humanity is at stake."