April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Take the opportunity to learn about sex trafficking.
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The Collaborative began in 2007 in Cleveland Ohio in response to a need for information and action in northeast Ohio regarding the growing problem of human trafficking in the world, in the United States, and in Ohio.
The group’s early goals were to research and learn as much as possible about the issue of human trafficking, to network with local and national organizations addressing the issue, and to share the knowledge it obtained by providing educational awareness programs across northeast Ohio.
To raise awareness of human trafficking, the Collaborative has and continues to create educational programs for diverse audiences, including high school and university students and teachers, social service agencies, hospitals and other health care providers, parish groups, professional organizations and the public. Speakers from the Collaborative have travelled throughout northern Ohio in response to program requests.
The Collaborative has also sponsored a variety of evening programs open to the public. The speakers at these programs have included traffickingsurvivors, and have addressed such topics as child sex trafficking in Ohio, human trafficking and internet safety for children, the law and human trafficking, immigrants – a population vulnerable to human trafficking, and a returned Peace Corps Volunteer’s description of the trafficking of school students in Malawi.
In September 2008, the Collaborative offered a leadership conference for high school students and teachers, featuring Theresa Flores and Given Kachepa, two survivors of childhood trafficking. After listening to Theresa’s story of sex trafficking in Detroit Michigan when she was 15 and Given’s story of labor trafficking from Zambia to Texas when he was 11, the students were challenged to create and lead awareness programs in their respective schools. They were also invited to return in March 2009 to share these programs. Many of the students returned in March, new students joined the gathering, and together they realized that they can make a difference.
In another effort to raise awareness of human trafficking across northern Ohio, the Collaborative has developed regional education resource centers across northern Ohio. Each site has resource materials available and trained presenters who can provide basic programs on human trafficking.
Catholic Charities of Youngstown, Ohio presented the Collaborative with its 2009 Voice of Hope Award for its “remarkable efforts to educate the community about the hidden crisis of human trafficking in our country and in our state. Through their work, social service providers, law enforcement, health care providers, legal advocates and community members are more aware of this growing issue, enabling them to recognize the signs [of] human trafficking and advocate for its victims.”*
From the beginning, the Collaborative has participated in local and national meetings to address human trafficking and worked with local and national organizations to raise awareness and to connect services for victims. Members from the Collaborative participate in the legal and legislative subcommittee of the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission. Its advocacy has also extended to victims and to connecting services for them.
Receiving its initial funding from the Sisters of the Humility of Mary and theSisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, the Collaborative continues to depend upon the significant volunteer service of its members, as well as contributions from area religious congregations, foundations, and other donations.
The Collaborative continues to grow and develop in an effort to meet the needs surrounding this issue and those of the victims. Together we can make a difference.
The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking educates and advocates for the prevention and abolition of human trafficking while connecting services on behalf of trafficked persons.