Unbeknownst to me, this month is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and I am probably not the only one who did not know. It will end on February 1, with National Freedom Day. President Barack Obama in 2013 declared January as a month dedicated to ending this modern day nightmare. His full proclamation can be read here http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/31/presidential-proclamation-national-slavery-and-human-trafficking-prevent?goback=.gmp_2199632.gde_2199632_news_5692672623788429392. In an excerpt he realizes that we in the United States cannot do this alone. “Our commitment to stopping human trafficking does not end at our borders. As a leader in the global movement to combat this scourge, the United States has renewed sanctions on governments that harbor the worst offenders. We have partnered with groups around the world to help men, women, and children escape their abusers. And recognizing that no country can meet this challenge alone, we have aided others in addressing modern slavery’s root causes, and encouraged nations across the globe to pass comprehensive anti-trafficking laws, enforce them rigorously, and care for survivors.”
According to the United Nation’s Global Compact website, “An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking.” Over a million children are trafficked per year and the vast majority of those trafficked are between the ages of 18 and 24. This is not something that is easily stopped because the money is too alluring. Here in the United States we like to think we are immune to these atrocities, but, alas, we are not. While some of the victims are undocumented people, the vast majority are U.S. citizens, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Every year the numbers seem to increase. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, they have seen a 259% increase in calls to their hotline between 2008 and 2012, an estimated 73,000 interactions for help. The graphic below illustrates what sort of industries are being “helped” by human trafficking, including child trafficking.
Many charities have picked up the torch to try and help combat this horrifying problem. I personally am only going to focus on one, the Polaris Project. Their mission statement is “For a world without slavery.”
Two students from Brown University, Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman, had an eye-opening experience when they read about a brothel located near their college apartment. Set up for debt bondage, police found six Asian women with cigarette burns inside the disguised massage parlor. Derek and Katherine decided that they could not sit idly by while this modern-day slavery happened here in the United States. Inspired by the idea of Polaris, the North Star, that guided slaves north via the Underground Railroad, they embarked on a journey to help others find freedom and safety, and so the Polaris Project came into being on Valentine’s Day 2002.
According to their website:
Polaris Project’s central goal was to create long-term solutions that would change the underlying systems that allow human trafficking to occur. Katherine and Derek’s programmatic strategy was grounded in an analysis of human trafficking as a market-based phenomenon driven by two primary factors: low-risk and high-profit. They believed then, as they do today, that modern-day slavery can be eliminated by reaching a tipping point where human trafficking becomes a high-risk, low-profit endeavor.
To do this they started the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a 24-hour helpline. Additionally, they provide client services, training and assistance to those combating the problem, advocacy for policy changes nationwide, sponsorship for a fellowship program to train future leaders in the anti-trafficking area, and look to expand their goals from a national to a global level.
From seniors in college to advocates to stop this trade in human flesh, the founders, Katherine and Derek, their staff, and volunteers have set out to make a difference in our nation and our world.
To donate you can follow this link. https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5417/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=10644&tag=Website_givebutton
Follow them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/polarisproject orTwitter, https://twitter.com/polaris_project