By Evelyn Ticona
As President Barack Obama named January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, a group of West Palm Beach residents raised awareness of the problem in their own back yard.
On Thursday, Jan. 28 a crowd held a vigil outside a home on Lave Avenue where two years ago, federal investigators found 13 women used as sex slaves.
Todd Mullins, pastor of Christ Fellowship Church, addressed the issue of human trafficking on Jan. 31 in his sermon.
According to Mullins, 27 million people serve as slaves in the world today, and half of those are children.
With the earthquake in Haiti, the issue of human trafficking was brought to the table.
“Think about that,” Mullins said. “These precious children whose lives have been totally wrecked. Everything they knew has been destroyed and now these evil men come in and take them to sell them as slaves.”
Mullins affirmed that Haiti is not only the poorest country on earth at this moment, but also the place where human trafficking has been thriving for years.
“It’s unbelievable the evil of these people,” Mullins said.
Various non-profit organizations are creating awareness and encouraging people to take a stand against this issue.
Since the risk of sex trafficking and child prostitution is higher at massive events such as the Super Bowl, Not for Sale, a non-profit organization, conducted two outreaches in Miami at the New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts game this past weekend.
Activists handed out flyers and talked to hotel and business owners who could have been in contact with victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Their goal was to identify and assist in the rescue and recovery of juvenile or adult victims of sex trafficking. MSNBC and local police officers accompanied the group throughout the outreach.
The U.S. State Department said South Florida is considered a hot spot for human trafficking. California, New York and Texas follow on the list. It is also estimated that 17,500 people enter the country annually to serve as slaves.
CNN reported on Jan. 30 that ten Americans from a church in Idaho were arrested and accused of child trafficking when they tried to take 33 children from Haiti into the Dominican Republic.
“Slavery exists, we can stop it,” said anti-slavery activist and Palm Beach Atlantic University graduate student Denise Garcia. “Every little bit helps. To support any organization, become a conscious consumer. Find out about the stuff you’re buying. Find out about what your legislators are doing.”
The Yard Sale for Freedom is an upcoming event organized by Christ Fellowship where residents all over Palm Beach and Martin counties will use their yards to raise awareness for the crisis of international human trafficking.
The event will take place on Feb. 20 from 7 a.m. to noon. All the money will serve to support Love 146, an organization seeking to end child sex slavery and exploitation.
“Love takes action, compassion is more than just feeling bad or somebody; it takes action,” Mullins said. “We make the invisible God visible by our actions, by caring loving and sharing.”
For more information about human trafficking and how to get involved, contact Denise Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.