Statement: Humor Travel Life is meant to focus on combining humor, life stories, and information all under the umbrella theme of travel. That being said, sometimes it is necessary to change gears a little in order to bring awareness to important issues. This is not a topic of politics; It is about humanity and how necessary it is to help those in need. Human trafficking may seem like it has nothing to do with travel, but in fact, the two intersect more often than we realize. Please take a moment to read about an organization whose work to fight human trafficking inspired me to write this article.
On January 29, 2018, the i-5 Freedom Network held its second annual Big Cheese auction in San Clemente, a coastal suburban community in California’s upscale South Orange County. The i-5 Freedom Network is a training and advocacy organization that aims to bring together the community and business leaders to actively engage in the fight against human trafficking. Although local to San Clemente, the organization reaches out to other cities throughout Orange County and California. By focusing on specific goals that include community awareness, training, corporate engagement, and legislative advocacy, i-5 has helped highlight an issue that far too often goes unnoticed, along with active steps to help combat it.
An additional key component of i-5’s mission is survivor empowerment. Brenda Wells, founder and executive director of i-5, was made aware of the human trafficking epidemic in Orange County, and while she learned a lot from research and meetings on the issue, she felt that these meetings provided no real-world tools or opportunities to actually make a difference. Wells, who is also an instructor with Dale Carnegie’s Orange County division, believed that the skills acquired through Dale Carnegie’s training program would not only help her create a successful organization to fight human trafficking but also be effective in helping survivors. The Big Cheese auction’s focus was to raise money to sponsor survivors to enroll in the Dale Carnegie program. Wells stresses, however, that the courses do not substitute as therapy but instead are aimed at enabling survivors to become strong communicators and establish goals for themselves. Another part of the training includes delivering presentations, as many survivors express interest in sharing their story with others through motivational speaking. One such survivor, Jaimee, was a speaker at i-5’s auction and was one of the first to go through the Dale Carnegie program after coming out of human trafficking. Jaimee, who has created her own initiative to support fellow survivors, spoke of the success she found through this collaboration between Dale Carnegie and i-5. Dale Carnegie Orange County CEO Geri Cerkovnik, who was also a guest speaker at the auction, added, “It’s so hard to get them out of that world that it’s important to give them the skillsets that make them successful and not afraid.”
Visiting San Clemente, without much knowledge of the statistics of human trafficking, it would seem surprising to discover that this small, affluent community would also be a location disposed to such a problem, but Wells emphasized that it exists throughout the United States wherever the demand may be. People who are willing to purchase and take part in human trafficking include those from all demographics and incomes.
While most people may associate trafficking for sex-related purposes, labor trafficking actually represents a major portion of this underworld. Many times, people may hire someone to do housework through an agency, without knowing that the agency is actually sending trafficked laborers. In the United States, 80 percent of trafficked labor is foreign nationals, while 80 percent of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, many of which include minors.
Because trafficking victims may travel frequently, airline employees have been in training for signs and behavior to be aware of. The work of i-5 intends to extend that awareness and training to the hospitality industry, where they can also regularly encounter trafficking victims. Wells also suggests specific ways the public can aide in helping the fight against human trafficking. One of those is to add the hotline number 888-3737-888 into your phone, so that when you see something suspicious you can quickly report it. Other ways include using your consumer dollars to support fair trade companies who do not engage in trafficked labor, as well as checking in with hotels in your area about their knowledge on the issue as a call to action to compel them to be better trained in this.
Human trafficking is vastly overlooked in our society because much of it is under the radar. The truth is that it is all around us in our communities, even places you’d least expect. The more we are conscious of it though, the better the chance we have to prevent new victims from falling into this world and helping to get current victims out of it. For the people who are fortunate enough to make it out though, it is also just as important to give them a chance at empowering themselves for a better life ahead. For more information on the i-5 Freedom Network visit their official website at: https://www.i5freedomnetwork.org/
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com