Did you know that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the United States? Unfortunately, this 32-billion-dollar industry has not received the same national attention as obesity, the war on drugs, racism, or terrorism, and yet it is one of the most evil practices on the Earth today. Every 30 seconds, a child is sold….for sex, labor, or organ harvesting.
The International Labor Organization estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labor globally. As the oldest of six brothers and sisters, I was even more shocked to learn that children constitute one third of this number.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging Governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge. In addition to establishing a trust fund for on-the-ground assistance and protection to victims of trafficking, the General Assembly also designated July 30th as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Now it is up to us to raise awareness of this issue and promote the protection of human rights.
I believe this is a topic we don’t often discuss because we don’t want to think about it. It’s too hard for most of us to comprehend this kind of darkness or realize that it may be happening in our very own neighborhoods.
My desire to combat this global epidemic is what inspired me to move to the Dominican Republic and work to rescue victims of human trafficking. This summer, I have been working in several aftercare facilities—empowering survivors by teaching courses on entrepreneurship and self-reliance. Thanks to the efforts of Mentors International and Operation Underground Railroad, our team has been able to assist in survivor healing by reducing the vulnerabilities that often lead to human trafficking.
One of our success stories involves a women named Karen who recently started a small business in her neighborhood. In her store, Karen sells baked goods, clothing, beauty products, and other items of high-demand. Through daily entrepreneurship classes, our team has been able to help Karen grow her business by teaching her to record her finances and promote her business. Although she still faces the difficulties of being a single mother, Karen is now on her way to complete self-reliance with the goal to provide an education for her children.
With respect to the issue of human trafficking, I would encourage you to think globally and act locally. Although the work I have experienced in the Dominican Republic has been incredibly rewarding, I understand it is not always possible to move to another country to dedicate your full attention to your passion. For this reason, I would encourage you to get involved locally and help me raise awareness online.
Here’s how you can help:
Sign up for the Signs of Trafficking Training Course. The training takes one hour to complete and automatically saves your progress so you can go at your own pace. The training taught me to recognize the some of the common signs of trafficking.
- Physical signs
- Cuts covered by makeup
- Matching tattoos by two or more people
- Emotional signs
- Lack of self-identity
- Behavioral signs
- Usually tired
- Avoids of eye contact
- Accompanied by a dominating individual
We can be one of the people that is part of the solution by engaging the problem directly. We can do this by looking for signs, speaking up, and reporting suspicious activity. Once you’ve completed the training, you will receive a certificate for your hard work. Please share your certificate and training link with your friends and family on social media.
In addition to becoming trained, I want to equip you with the necessary resources to be able to help others. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a 24/7, confidential, multilingual hotline for victims, survivors, and witnesses of human trafficking.
The hotline can be reached:
- By phone: 1-888-373-7888
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- By text: text HELP to 233733 (BEFREE)
- Online chat: www.humantraffickinghotline.org
I promise you will not regret being prepared to help when the situation arises.
As my humanitarian trip in the Dominican Republic comes to a close, I want you to know I am fully committed to the elimination of human trafficking. The opportunity to serve you as the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations is a responsibility I hold with high regard. I want to engage with you this year on issues that are important to you. I invite you to connect with me on social media @USYouthObserver and contact me often. Together, we can do so much good. So let’s work together this year and let our voice be heard!