January 27, 2018, Orlando, FL
Orlando residents joined forces for a remarkable day. At the 10th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day, organizations and individuals from the community gathered together to bring an end to human trafficking.
Tomas Lares, Chief Executive Officer of Florida Abolitionist started the event in 2009 at Lake Eola with a group of students from Sigma Chi. He recalls, “We didn’t know we needed a permit to march, so a police officer approached us. Thankfully, he was a Sigma Chi in college, so instead of kicking us out or fining us, he joined us! It was a great start to what has grown into a wonderful event.
No longer at Lake Eola, the event was held on the campus of Calvary Orlando in Winter Park, FL. Passionate leaders who have been involved from early on recall some cold days in January at Lake Eola. Now the event holds seminars, speakers, vendor booths, and even held the first human trafficking film festival in the world for the second time this year.
Jan Edwards of Paving the Way hosted the film festival. Last year, she received five submissions for short films. This year, over 500. The response was overwhelming but led to an incredible array of movies throughout the day.
Central Floridians made their way to vendor booths for organizations that work together to stop human trafficking. Florida Abolitionist had a booth along with many other friends that make up the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force.
Volunteers educated children in age-appropriate ways to help keep them safe. Brave survivors shared their stories, people learned in English and Spanish, and the public was inspired to make a change.
The Freedom Rally highlighted the transformation of Survivor and Executive Director of The Porch Light, Christa Hicks. In a live interview with Channel 9’s Karla Ray, she recounted the heartbreaking experience of being the daughter of a trafficking victim who went on to be trafficked on two different occasions. She praised God for setting her free and bringing healing in her life to break the cycle of abuse. Now she is helping other youth experience healing and wholeness through her leadership at The Porch Light, a shelter for minor victims of human trafficking.
Each person who attended left inspired and motivated to help Orlando become a slave-free city carrying the rallying cry was that we can all stop human trafficking by working together. The audience was encouraged to attend the upcoming Orlando Regional Abolitionist Training to take things deeper.
Did you miss Human Trafficking Awareness Day? You can still get involved and learn more by attending the Orlando Regional Abolitionist Training on February 17! Register today!
by Blair Pippin
Creative & Prevention Director • Florida Abolitionist