Did you know January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month?
The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, a grantee of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s Collaboration for Ministry Initiative, will be hosting the Sixth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Program in partnership with the City of Cleveland Community Relations Board on Monday, January 30th to raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking.
The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking began in 2007 in response to the need for information and action in Northeast Ohio regarding the problem of human trafficking. The collaborative supports the fundamental human right to freedom by educating and advocating for the prevention and abolition of human trafficking while bringing together services and resources on behalf of trafficked persons.
“We came about after a series of meetings with representatives from a number of religious communities. Our discussions began with the topic of immigration, but when the subject of human trafficking came up we were stunned to discover how prevalent it was and that it was taking place right here in Cleveland, Ohio,” commented Sister Anne Victory HM, founding member of the collaborative and education coordinator.
Members of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Dominican Sisters of Peace, Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Sisters of the Incarnate Words, Congregation of St. Joseph, Sisters of Notre Dame and Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland joined with professional lay colleagues to address the complexities of this human rights issues. Together with their combined expertise in education, health care, law, and social service they formed a “collaborative” in the truest sense of the word and provided a multi-disciplinary foundation for the emerging non-profit.
One of the collaborative’s goals is to spread awareness that human trafficking can occur anywhere and at any time. The collaborative partnered with the Polaris Project to bring together a multitude of agencies and organizations committed to this human rights issue through a campaign called, “Human Trafficking Happens Here Too.” Three goals for the campaign were to leverage public relations and community awareness around the issue, to educate the Ohio hospitality personnel as so much trafficking happens in hotels, and to create a coordinated response and intervention. “We wanted people to realize that human trafficking is happening everywhere, one of our survivor friends has said that it happens in every zip code we just don’t see it,” commented Sr. Anne. The collaborative’s focus on education and advocacy proved to be of particular significance with the high volume of people that flocked to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention this past July.
Sister Anne sits on the board and is president of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy in an effort to eradicate modern-day slavery. As a national entity, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is able to network with and provide resources to smaller, faith-based organizations that are also working on this issue.
According to the International Labor Organization, it is estimated that about 21 million people are trafficked and traffickers earn over 150 billion dollars every year. The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking is steadily gaining momentum and support in increasing awareness of this widespread human rights issue, as Sister Anne said, “It’s like following an uncharted path, you don’t know where it’s going but you know it is needed right now.”
If you would like to learn more about this critical human rights issue, or want to know how you can get involved in its eradication, you can attend the Sixth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Program on January 30th. The event is free and open to the public at Cleveland City Hall from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. You can also visit the collaborative online at www.collaborativeinitiative.org or www.happensheretoo.org.