Affecting the American Culture to Stop Supply and Demand
As an infant organization of less than six months, we are taking time to evaluate the baby steps we have made this year (our legs are still a bit wobbly, but we are standing), primarily our vision. Beginning a non-profit has been scary but it the goal set before us that has taken some of the fear away. I’ve been asked on numerous occasions, “What made you decide to do what you are doing?” I always find that question a bit humorous and sometimes reply, “What made you decide to do what you are doing?” We all become ignited by the Spirit of God to pursue his will for our lives and that is really the answer – we’re simply attempting to follow our hearts as inspired by our maker. But in reality, the answer that most want to hear is this – The first time I learned of human trafficking in America was in 2004 and when I heard of it via a television talk show, my heart broke in two. I knew it would be a journey and my life would never be the same. That was the beginning. My husband and I have worked for 8 years educating through various means, and this year it was time to take it to a new level.
And so while educating is important, we felt that it is simply only the beginning of working to end human trafficking in America. Even rescue and restoration, as important as it is, is only a bandage and will not stop trafficking of humanity. Until we change our culture we will not end it. That mindset became our vision . . . and . . . the
Trafficking In America Task Force is Birthed
After such a successful TIA Conference in June of this year we felt to go ahead and form our non-profit to enable us to continue moving forward. After tossing around numerous possibilities in search of the correct name of the organization we decided on the TASK FORCE since we felt that it fit with the vision that we had of working across the country to end human trafficking. We went to work, formed our board of directors and wrote our vision and mission statements.
Before we had a chance to lay our foundation, immediately we began to receive requests from people across the nation wanting to be a part of what we are doing. We formed a volunteer group that meets regularly to discuss our projects and programs and work to bring them to pass; introduced our social media on facebook and twitter, and continue to educate ourselves. It’s a real team effort.
Empower Me Literacy Program
Another aspect of the 2011 conference was asking attendees to tell us what programs they want to see us implement. After reviewing all of the comments we created a list of the top 12 ideas and published it waiting for volunteers to come forth and take charge. The first official TIATF Program created is being designed to bring healing and restoration to victims of human trafficking. Latamera Woodley, of DHS and the Tennessee Conference on Social Welfare responded within a day of the list being published and now, the Empower Me Literacy Program is being written with the goal of having it completed by early 2012. A pilot program will be conducted with Hope House in Asheville, NC so we can monitor the effectiveness of the program before we make it available to other safe houses.
I Promise To Do My Part Campaign for Youth
We believe that we need to start with those who are at risk and make an attempt at helping them to understand their culture and the issues that surround them regarding human trafficking. If we can affect our youth, we can dry up the supply. This campaign will have a State Ambassador from the youth population working to recruit and inspire those in their schools to take the “I Promise To Do My Part” pledge (seen on the T-shirt above). The program was launched in November with the State Awareness Week.
Trafficking In America NOW
To meet our mission of bringing awareness we implemented a weekly television program, Trafficking In America Now is being produced by Marion Williams (Producer of the feature film, A Dance For Bethany). The first 5 programs have been filmed and edited (4 additional being edited) waiting to be launched through NECAT Channel 19 on Comcast Cable. Some of the first guests include Steve Siler on pornography; Bryan Thomas, his story as a survivor of sexual abuse as a child; and Kathy Hines, former Detective Detroit PD.
Human Trafficking Awareness Week in TN Proclaimed by Governor Haslam
One of the attendees at the conference contacted me in July and asked, “If you could meet with First Lady Haslam what would you say to her?” That opened the door for me to accompany Delores Johnson from Memphis and Kim Benson (A Bridge of Hope – also Memphis) to a meeting at the First Lady’s office to talk about human trafficking. At that meeting we were asked what we wanted from the Governor’s office and I can still hear myself say, “I’d like to see the Governor proclaim Human Trafficking Awareness Week in TN Schools.” Having a desire to reach our youth since learning of human trafficking in America, this would be an ideal opportunity to begin that push. Several weeks later I received a call from the Governor’s office asking me to submit the proclamation with instructions about how to do so. I quickly went to work writing it and submitted the document for the Governor’s review. On September 27th, he indeed signed the first ever Human Trafficking Awareness Week to include the entire state of TN. This event is now being submitted in the form of a Resolution to become an annual monthly event in TN. And, to date, 13 other states are taking our lead and have submitted the proclamation to their Governor’s. Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker has already signed their proclamation and we are working with our WI Team to get their awareness month off the ground.
PSA and Training
As another means of bringing awareness, a simple Public Service Announcement was created and sent to Pastors, Civic Organizations, Non-government organizations, School Teachers, and many others across the State and throughout the Nation. We accepted speaking opportunities at over 30 churches, schools, organizations, and other venues to educate about the who, what, where, why, and when of human trafficking. And, in that process we have discovered a hunger for the general population to know more . . . finally! And now we are coming full circle to what launched us out there in this manner.
Plans for 2012 TIA Conference are Well Underway
Nashville, TN will be host for the 2nd annual Trafficking In America Conference to be held Thursday thru Saturday, May 24 to 26, 2012. With the success of the 2011 event, planners are working to honor the desires of attendee’s remarks on the evaluation forms. One of the repeated requests included break-out sessions with forums covering a broader slate of topics.
Some of the forum topics include: Human Trafficking 101; Hollywood’s Impact on HT; For Girls Only (under 18); For Boys Only (under 18); For Men Only; For Women Only; Video from a sex offender discussing “The Criminal Mind”; and others. There will be a Meet and Greet on the opening night and an Awards Banquet with full meal to close the 3-day Conference. Registration is now open.