what is going on in the world around us, the real world, inhabited
by people whose experience is totally unlike our own...people who
we meet on the street or encounter at the store, without ever
knowing- or usually, even wanting to know- anything about them,
about who they really are and what their life is really like. But, then,
at other times, life hits us between the eyes, opening them- and
our hearts- wide...wide enough to let in the awareness that our
own way of living and seeing and understanding is simply not
This is how I felt on Saturday evening last, when I attended the
Stand for Freedom gala sponsored by World Relief of High Point,
NC- the place where I live and have lived for the past twelve years.
The topic was human trafficking, something I have been hearing
about for some time but about which I felt woefully uninformed.
I had heard about this event from a friend and made the decision
to go, even if I had to go alone- which I intimately did. Of course,
"alone" is a relative concept, as there were more than 400 people
Lovely hors d'oeuvres were being served at stations all over the
huge loft space and education and information "spots" provided
both verbal and printed information about the issue. But the
highlight of the evening- after delightful music by Hayden and Lee,
bluegrass artists- was the speaker, Chong Kim. A tiny dynamo of
a woman, Ms. Kim was a survivor of human trafficking, having
been taken captive by a man she thought was her boyfriend when
she was 19 years old and was subsequently trafficked throughout
the U.S. until she finally found the courage to run away in her
mid-20s. Though her story was filled with many horrors, she
expressed herself with amazing courage and humor, making it
clear that she operates, not from the stance of victim, but from the
strong position of survivor and advocate for those who are still
victims. She is dedicated to raising awareness and empowering and
giving voice to the voiceless and powerless by sharing her own
story. And she has written a book which will soon be released,
entitled Broken Silence.
So, what did I learn that opened my eyes and mind and heart?
The official definition of human trafficking by the United Nations
Office on Drugs & Crime says, to be considered trafficking, it
an act such as recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring,
or receipt of persons; a means such as force, fraud, coercion,
or abuse of power; and a purpose of exploitation.
- North Carolina is ranked as a top ten state for human trafficking.
- Charlotte ranks as the 6th city in the U.S. for human trafficking.
- Over 1700 girls are trafficked in N.C. each year, as young as 12.
- Trafficking is about exploitation and coercion.
- There is both sexual and labor trafficking.
- Trafficking is driven by consumerism...supply and demand.
- Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry!
- Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling.
- Many people know their traffickers.
- Children are trafficked for both sexual and labor purposes.
- There are an estimated 29.8 million slaves in the world.
- 1 out of 5 work-related deaths on farms are children.
- The traffickers work through fear, control, and coercion.
you are around every day. But be aware of the following clues
that something may be very wrong:
- Accompanied by a controlling person or boss
- Lack of control over personal schedule, money, ID
- Transported to and from work
- Lives and works in the same place
- Bruises, depression, fear, overly submissive
- Not speaking on one's own behalf and/or non-English speaking
- No passport of other form of identification
- Debt owed to employer/crew leader; inability to leave job
trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource
Center, 1.888.3737.888. Educate yourself by going to the site,
www.act.hhs.gov.trafficking or, in the Triad, access the World
Relief site, www.worldrelief.org/highpoint
World Relief High Point is collaborating with other organizations to
meet the immediate needs of victims, including safe shelter, food,
clothing, and medical care. After these immediate needs are met,
World Relief partners with the client to empower them on their
way toward healing and restoration, which may often include
counseling, job training, housing employment, education, spiritual
support, and building healthy relationships. All of this takes both
money and volunteers- which is where all of us come in. If this
issue speaks to your heart, if you experience a deep concern for
these fellow human beings who have been, in a very real way,
enslaved in our country which so touts its image as "Land of the
Free", then why not contact World Relief High Point? The address
is 155 Northpoint Ave. Suite 102 and the phone is 336.887.9007.
I'm certain they will welcome your contribution, however small,
and whatever form it takes. It's the least we can do for "the least
of these, our sisters and brothers."