Child trafficking and slavery aren't commonly discussed around the dinner table, but why not? More than 100,000 children are trafficked in the United States every year. However, most people don't know that, nor that it affects children in their own communities -- from Los Angeles to Dallas to Cleveland to, where I live, Seattle.
It's time to change that. It's time to reduce the stigma so that this issue can be discussed openly. And the first step is to empower individuals with the facts, educating them about the local organizations and resources that create change on the community level, which leads to a shift on the national level.
But let's face it, people have limited time to learn about a new issue, let alone take action. We need to make it easy for people, and that's where a new national anti-child trafficking campaign, Everyone's Kids, Everyone Gives (EKEG), steps in with a great strategy.
With the leading crowdfunding platform, Razoo.com, Everyone's Kids, Everyone Gives has gathered a coalition of more than 100 nonprofits working in the trafficking space. They range from very large advocacy groups to small shelters that just need funds for more beds. And all of these nonprofits will benefit from a national day of giving on Sept. 16, 2014, which aims to raise $1 million dollars in 24 hours.
This approach to unite groups from all over the United States who share the same mission will hopefully inspire more individuals to get on board or at least start a dialogue about trafficking in their own communities. And it's simple. Folks can learn about and support all of the participating nonprofits by visiting one website.
The campaign also takes a more positive route in addressing the issue through its inspirational Public Service Announcement that brings awareness to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The group is also rolling out a national digital billboard campaign with Clear Channel Outdoor.
EKEG's executive producer, Bonnie Calvin, says, "We want to empower these young girls, not blame them. We hope this campaign and PSA projects an inspiring call-to-action for more people to talk about the issue and get involved, so that one day child trafficking and slavery won't exist in the United States."
Shifting the conversation to one that is more inspirational and positive is something my Foundation is working on as well. In the United States, as a survivor of child trafficking, I advocate for many issues related to it -- and I am always seeking to empower victims.
As a cofounder of the Tronie Foundation, a non-profit organization, I am proud to partner with Razoo and the Everyone Kid's, Everyone Gives Campaign. The Tronie Foundation at http://everyoneskids.razoo.com/story/Tronie-Foundation has created a fundraiser to raise $5,000 in order to be able to receive a corporate match by Diamond Technologies Inc. The goal of this educational project is to develop specific tools to help students understand the meaning of child trafficking- a modern day form of slavery. In addition, through the project, the Tronie Foundation strives not only to create educational curriculum to prevent exploitation of children, but also to help restore the children who have been affected by this crime so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. My goal is to prevent what happened to me from happening to other young girls.
"So it's about reaching girls and teens, educating them about this issue before it can happen to them -- and also working closely with guidance counselors, teachers and hospital workers, giving them the tools they need to look for warning signs," says Ms. Calvin.
The Tronie Foundation has created educational material that is being distributed in Washington state public schools to help train students and teachers on the signs of a potentially trafficked victim. With your financial support, we will be able to expand our educational initiative and help inform students on how to stay safe in their communities. I encourage everyone to take part in this awareness and giving campaign, so we, as former victims, can achieve our greatest potential.
Together, we can help empower young girls and boys across the U.S. to take their lives back.
Join us on September 16, a day to stop U.S. child trafficking today and forever.