January 28, 2017
Orlando, FL – The Greater-Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force held it’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day for the 9th consecutive year on Saturday. This is the first year the event has been held indoors instead of Lake Eola, but the gusty winds and low temperatures made Calvary Orlando an ideal location.
This year, the theme of the event was Tomorrow Matters: Keeping Our Children Safe, so multiple seminars focused on educating youth and parents about human trafficking through the story of a survivor, training of how to stay safe online, empowering educators with human trafficking curriculums, and more. It was impossible to walk away from the event without learning something more about the issue. For those not as interested in listening to speakers, there was even a film festival with short films that cut to the heart of the issue.
Over 50 organizations from law enforcement to non-governmental agencies to Fair Trade Businesses had booths at the event. Hundreds of visitors walked through the organization fair to learn more about what each group is doing and hear how they can help stop the horrible crime of human trafficking.
The Faith Alliance subcommittee of the Greater-Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force relaunched their regular meetings under new leadership and invited Ashleigh Chapman to share how to best mobilize communities of faith in the issue. Ashley’s program, Engage Together, is being used nationwide to mobilize people into effective action. Her words were powerful and inspiring. Many times people want to get involved but are not sure how. Engage Together gives a clear plan of action and we are excited for what the future holds for our faith communities.
Following the Faith Alliance meeting was the exciting Freedom Rally emceed by Channel 9’s Karla Ray. The rally began with an interview with Florida Abolitionist Executive Director and Task Force Chair, Tomas Lares. Then, Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz took the stage to read the City’s proclamation, soon followed by Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke reading the proclamation by Orange County. These proclamations emphasized the fact that the Orlando community is committed to ending modern-day slavery together. Our governmental leaders are an active part of the solution.
Keynote speaker, Carol Robles-Roman, the CEO of Legal Momentum, shocked the crowd by sharing how much human trafficking is being facilitated through the internet. Her legal team is going against those who knowingly facilitate child trafficking on their websites. These sites make it easy for traffickers to sell children and they should be held accountable for their actions. Soon, the movie, I Am Jane Doe, will be released tracing the stories of three victims who were trafficked online. We hope this documentary will open eyes to the destruction these websites are causing in the lives of so many.
The rally closed with the touching story of Tina Kadolph, a survivor of human trafficking who was sold as a child for many years until she was 16 and found freedom. Her story is heartbreaking but also inspiring as she is now a powerful advocate for victims of human trafficking. Her courage touched every heart in the crowded room as we looked into her eyes and heard her powerful story. Seeing someone go from such trauma to healing is incredibly moving. She was once told she could never have children, but now she has children and grandchildren. In Tina, we see that transformation is possible!
The day came to a close with an expert panel discussing the links between homelessness youth and human trafficking. Moderated by homeless advocate, Andrae Bailey, the session was enlightening. The panelists shared that a leading cause of youth homelessness is sexual orientation. Many are forced from their homes when they share they are LGBTQ+ with their parents. This leaves them vulnerable. The panelists shared that most people assume that the #1 reason a homeless person sells their body for sex is either food or drugs; however, this is not the case. The main reason youth choose survival sex is for a place to stay. This need leaves them incredibly vulnerable to traffickers who look for young people to prey upon. Orlando has taken great strides to make a difference in the lives of the homeless in our community, now it is time to address how homelessness can lead to human trafficking. The panel was a great start.
The 9th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day was incredibly successful as, once again, our community came together to take a stand for justice. Thank you to everyone who came and those who made the event possible!