Human trafficking is a crime that occurs across the nation and throughout the world. It happens everywhere -- in small towns as well as larger cities. This includes locations close to home in Weld County communities.
In March, the Greeley-based national nonprofit organization Free Our Girls called attention to this issue by hosting Human Trafficking Awareness Week. The annual event featured a range of activities including a survivors’ art show, a flash mob, silent protests, petitions, letters to state representatives, a theatrical performance, and a social media campaign.
Activities were free of charge and held at the University of Northern Colorado in collaboration with the school’s Reisher Scholars. Executive Director Megan Lundstrom noted that the event was a unique opportunity for the community to “learn more about the issue and to know that this can happen close to home.”
To Lundstrom, the week was also an opportunity for participants to see hope and engage with in the survivors in rebuilding their lives. She noted how the survivors’ art exhibit provided a space where girls’ voices would not be silenced. She related that “for a moment, before the audience arrived, I stood in the beautiful UNC ballroom, alone and among the art. I cried as I realized that these girls created a space where their voices could be heard – some for the very first time.”
The event offered other opportunities for former victims to speak out. Several survivors participated in an Open Mic night, in reading journal entries, poems, and other writing about their experiences.Being able to share, sometimes for the first time ever, was an empowering experience.
For Free Our Girls, the first step to preventing and responding to the issue of commercial sexual exploitation is by discussing steps community members can take to end it. The powerful week accomplished both. It is likely to impact Weld County women and the community far into the future.
CFSGWC grant that funded the program: Making Your Wish: 20th Anniversary Community Grant
Amount of grant funds given to the program: $2,000
- Grant award date: February 2017
- Grant activity and dates: March 20-25, 2017
Program Impact: As a result of the grant, Free Our Girls was able to educate individuals on both preventing and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking occurring in our community. The event targeted service providers who have contact with the socially and economically disadvantaged, our youth, and those at high-risk for chronic health issues as a result of trauma, abuse, and exploitation. The community also gained a higher awareness to the realities of the issue, that it does happen locally, and that there is hope despite all odds.