October 27, 2016

LIVONIA, Mich. – Madonna University recently hosted a human trafficking awareness program that featured Nico Maceda, a Filipino-American who was a victim of forced labor human trafficking. The event was part of the University’s Mission and Heritage week, and it focused on one of Madonna’s Franciscan core values:  respect for the dignity of all people.

Before Maceda spoke to the group of faculty, students, staff and guests, Connie Tingson-Gatuz, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs and mission integration, read a letter from Dr. Jose Evangelista, Philippine Honorary Consulate General of Detroit and a Livonia physician, who was unable to attend the event, which occurred during Filipino History Month, because he was in the Philippines. Evangelista commended the University for hosting the event which he referred to as a call for action and said, “We must translate this call into concrete actions in the same way that Nico’s rescuers did for him. Programs like this bring light to dispel the darkness that descends upon our world today.” 

Often overcome by emotions, Maceda shared his story of being lured to the United States with the promise of high-paying employment so that he could move his family here. What he encountered in the hospitality industry in Mississippi, were deplorable working and living conditions. Oftentimes he was supervised by armed men, and the agency that brought him to America took most of his pay. 

Maceda told of how he escaped and fled to Washington D.C. in hopes of getting help from the Embassy. While at a clinic there, he met a woman who told him about Polaris, an agency that helps victims of human trafficking. Through Polaris he met attorney Suellyn Scarnecchia, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and Human Trafficking Clinic who provided legal services to help get his family to the U.S., as well as assistance with legal proceedings against the company engaging in human trafficking. 

At the end of his presentation, Maceda received a standing ovation. During the question and answer period, Maceda was moved to tears again, when he met Scarnecchia in person, for the first time. 

Background:  Tingson-Gatuz and Madonna President Michael Grandillo, Ph.D. met Maceda while at a conference in Washington, D.C. He was their waiter at dinner, and Tingson-Gatuz, also a Filipino American, learned pieces of his inspirational story each time he came to their table. 

About Madonna:  Liberal arts education, career preparation and service-learning have been the hallmarks of a Madonna University education for 79 years. A Madonna education not only changes the lives of students, but also the lives of those they serve in their careers. Michigan’s most affordable, independent, Catholic, liberal arts university, Madonna offers more than 100 undergraduate and 30-plus graduate programs in the colleges of arts and humanities, science and mathematics, social sciences, education, and nursing and health, as well as the School of Business and the Graduate School. In addition to the beautiful main campus, conveniently located at I-96 and Levan Road in Livonia, Madonna offers academic programs in Gaylord, Macomb, Southwest Detroit, and online in China, and Haiti.