“In this great land of the free we call it human trafficking. And so long as we don’t partake in the luxury, ignoring slavery is of no consequence. It is much easier to look away and ignore the victims. The person who ignores slavery justifies it by quickly deducting the victim is a willing participant hampered by misfortune.”
― D’Andre Lampkin link
Important disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog do not in any way represent the views of organizations mentioned in this post.
Questions: Email Dee Parsons: firstname.lastname@example.org
This all started with a comment. I was meeting with a group of Christian health professionals to plan some programs for 2017-2018. I suggested that we figure out how to care for human trafficking victims. One person cogently answered, “What can we do to actually help trafficked victims? That seems like a huge undertaking.” He was right. It seemed overwhelming. However, I felt like we should be doing *something.*
What is human trafficking?
Did you know that human trafficking is found in the Bible?
-Joseph’s brothers trafficked him to the Ishmaelites.
-The Canaanite army trafficked girls for rape and sexual slavery.
-In 2 Kings, creditors threatened to traffic children into debt and bondage
-In each of these situations, God provided rescue and blessing to the victims.
-Amos 2:6-7 is our biblical imperative to pursue social justice.
This is an excellent post which discusses some facts as well as some of the myths that people believe about human trafficking.
According to the United Nations, there are between 27 and 30 million modern-day slaves in the world. And the U.S. State Department cites that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across borders every year. But these numbers are often under-reported and victims are usually hidden in the shadows, meaning that real, concrete statistics are often elusive.
Sex trafficking is rampant.
-In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims.
-Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally.
-In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.
Children are victims of human trafficking.
Trafficking can involve school-age youth, particularly those made vulnerable by challenging family situations, and can take a variety of forms including forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation.
The children at risk are not just high school students—pimps or traffickers are known to prey on victims as young as 9. Traffickers may target minor victims through social media websites, telephone chat-lines, after-school programs, at shopping malls and bus depots, in clubs, or through friends or acquaintances who recruit students on school campuses.
It is particularly difficult to be a foreign trafficking victim in the United States.
What Happens to Foreign Human Trafficking Victims in the United States? discusses the particular difficulties faced by those trafficked individuals who were brought illegally into this country to be.
I wanted to help actual victims with specific needs but what?
Enter Project Fight of Wake County
Late last spring, I invited Project Fight from the local Salvation Army to come to a dinner and address our group on the issues surrounding human trafficking. Here is a link to our local Project Fight.
Project FIGHT (Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking) provides comprehensive case management for victims of human trafficking found in North Carolina, and works to generate education and awareness about human trafficking in the community. Project FIGHT is also the leader of the Rapid Response Team of the Triangle, where they collaborate efforts amongst service providers including law enforcement, legal aid, and medical/mental health providers. Project FIGHT works with these agencies to connect clients with basic needs, mental health assessments, education, employment, housing, and other resources. Since its inception in 2011, Project FIGHT has seen over 140 cases of human trafficking in North Carolina. On January 9, 2015, the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission presented Project FIGHT with the Survivor Care Award. In 2016, the program expanded its statewide effort to include five different locations across North Carolina.
Here is a film that Project Fight of Wake County produced in 2013.
Due to a unexpected conflict, the dinner was not well attended and I was frustrated. They spoke to those present and I felt like they were talking directly to me. I offered to take the managers out to lunch to discover what their needs might be.
During that lunch I discovered that Project Fight carries an approximate case load of 45 clients at any one time. These individuals are identified and referred by local law enforcement, hospitals, courts and even other trafficked victims.
Many clients have been brought to the area with no identification papers to prove who they are. If so, they are not immediately eligible for various state programs for low income clients. Although the case managers begin applications, etc., it takes time. However, they often have immediate health needs as clearly shown by the picture at the start of this post. These individuals are subjected to violence, poor nutrition, substandard housing, etc.
As we talked, I began to think that there was actually something I could help with due to my connections in the broader health care community. So, I asked them to call me if they had a need which they did shortly thereafter. I was on vacation with my family and they called, saying they had a client who had a torn bridge that he was trying to keep on with superglue and they wondered if I could help.
My dentist son in law was staying with us and I knocked on his door and asked him if he might be able to help us out *gratis.* He immediately agreed. He took care of that client and shortly afterwards helped the man pictured at the start of the post. (He is one awesome son in law!)
I realized that we would not be serving a huge number of clients so the project began to seem doable. I originally planned to twist the arms of all health care professionals I knew to begin to build up a volunteer base. My husband had a better idea to make my job easier.
Enter Project Access
Project Access, with offices all over North Carolina, is a system for matching uninsured clients with volunteer physicians. My husband is one of those physicians who often cares for such patients with cardiology needs.
Wake County Physicians are generous, compassionate and caring. Since 2000, over 585 physicians and clinical staff have continued to donate care to poor uninsured men, women and children through Project Access of Wake County (PA). They are leaders in collaborating with community health clinics and Wake County Hospitals to deliver care to many who had little hope for feeling better or receiving extraordinary treatment. Lives have been changed because of their passion to help people get and stay well.
Project Access of Wake County is a physician referral program, which means qualified enrollees can only be referred into the program due to medical necessity. These enrollees are carefully screened for eligibility before being referred.
He contacted the coordinator who immediately called me back and said that they had been trying to figure out how to care for victims of human trafficking! I immediately planned another lunch meeting and got Project Fight and Project Access to meet face to face.
As the discussion proceeded, I realized that a synergistic relationship was quickly forming.
My appeal for other health professionals
However, this combining of resources did not cover all of the medical/dental needs that we would have and it was obvious that we would need more support. So, with the help of a local Christian organization, I began reaching out to local professionals with an appeal for volunteers to help meet these needs. If anyone who is in my local area and would like to physically help, please feel free to contact me.
Long term goals
I have already heard from health care professionals in other parts of North Carolina who are interested in starting this sort of relationship with the Salvation Army (they have 5 offices dealing with human trafficking in North Carolina.) Project Access is also in many counties in North Carolina. If our initial trial continues to prove successful in Wake County, we would like to extend it throughout North Carolina.
There are many issues I haven’t mentioned because I didn’t want to get bogged down in details. For example, I approached a dental rep who is going to supply some toothbrushes and toothpaste. A local orthodontist has just put together 70 oral hygiene kits to donate.
Folks, this is a great time to think about doing something like this. So many people from all sorts of backgrounds are aware of human trafficking and are willing to help.
How can our readers help?
There are a number of health care and safety needs that cannot be fully met by the volunteer health professionals alone.
-A baby was born with serious allergies to most regular diapers on the market. Remember, these folks are often housed in group homes, etc. without access to regular laundry services. The baby needed specialty diapers which cost far more than regular diapers.
-Many times mothers must run with their babies and they do not have the funds to purchase car seats or infant formula, etc.
-Dental needs such as bridges, crowns, etc. are costly. I hope to approach dental labs to donate such items but that will take time.
-Many clients are malnourished due to their abusive treatment at the hands of their trafficker. They may need help with vitamins, food, etc.
-One client had his glasses broken and needed new ones.
-Prescriptions for things like antibiotics.
-Medical equipment like leg braces.
-Basic needs like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, razors, etc.
Project Fight has set up a tax deductible fund in which 100% of all donations will go to meet these ancillary needs.
I asked if a fund could be set up to meet these needs and they immediately responded.These Project Fight managers are incredibly devoted. We set up some parameters for the fund. Anything that doesn’t fit within the guidelines will be discussed with me. There will be NO overhead taken out of the donations and the donation is fully tax deductible.
Here is the direct donation link.
I have set up an email to use specifically for this initiative.
Would you consider helping with this effort?
A quid pro quo promise from me
If anyone if interested in setting up a similar project in their area, I am more than willing to offer advice and help in identifying local resources in your area if you make a donation to this project.
Why are we doing this?
We wanted to do something to reach out to those who are abused. We also wanted to focus on a particular issue that we could address practically. In this effort, we can report to you from time to time about the clients that we have helped. This is not a theoretical need. The money is going directly to identified victims of human trafficking. Health and safety needs are basic needs of all humans. At the same time, we are not attempting to serve an overwhelming number of clients with a variety of needs.
We will plan to cover the issues surrounding human slavery throughout the year, as well.
Let me close this appeal by telling you about the man who was our first client. He had been with Project Fight for about 6 months. He had a bridge in his mouth that had broken and he kept trying to keep on with superglue.This had been going on for months and his mouth was sore and he was embarrassed by his problem. The case manager was unable to find anyone to help him.
When I told the case manager that my son in law would see him, she started to cry because she didn’t believe it could be that easy. She transported him to his appointment. She said that all the way home he kept admiring his mouth in the car mirror while giving her huge grins, proudly showing off his new mouth. His mouth no longer hurt. Something so small meant so much.
It is difficult for me to describe how important this is to me. We cannot eradicate human trafficking but with a little bit of imagination, experience and money we can help a few of our brothers and sisters who were once enslaved to live a life of freedom.
This is from my favorite Christmas hymn, O Holy Night. These verses particularly touch me.
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name