As we wrap up 2019, I would like to thank all our volunteers and donors who dedicated their time and energy and supported our mission to help save lives by preventing trafficking through our education and outreach programs.

In 2019, with the help of almost 50 volunteers who donated close to 900 volunteer hours, we were able to educate 945 adults, 124 youth and reached more than 1,000 people during our outreach events, thus sharing this important message with more than 2,000 people across the Diocese. In addition, we trained almost 200 people during eight training sessions held throughout the year to further engage people to spread the message and join our task force to fight this affront to human dignity.

Finally, we received 28 phone calls to assist victims and survivors of human trafficking. It is the generosity of our donors and volunteers who make all this possible.

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, our focus in 2020 will be on how we can get this message out to our youth, who are the targets of traffickers in our communities.

Human Trafficking has become a topic that is often covered in the media more than ever before and as we continue our efforts to prevent it from happening in the first place, it’s important to note we have much more to tackle.

With an estimated 40 million slaves worldwide and 300,000 children in the United States who are at risk or currently being trafficked, we must not stop until everyone is free, and people are no longer considered mere commodities but human beings. Our brothers and sisters are bought and sold due to humanity’s greed, lust, control and power.

According to STRIVE, children under the age of 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption for those under 18 years of age. Pictures of child sexual abuse have long been produced and shared to satisfy twisted adult obsessions, with children, some just 3 or 4 years old, being sexually abused and in some cases tortured. But it has never been like this: Technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of the abuse last year. – 9/28/19 NY Times. Read More Here. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/28/us/child-sex-abuse.html

When we struggle to find the resources for trafficking survivors because all the shelters are full, when we hear about children being tortured, abused and used, and the lack of law enforcement resources to address child sex crimes, it is easy to lose hope. I try to find it in the individuals who are saved and rehabilitated, in those who speak out to protect others, and who fight tirelessly for those who are most vulnerable.

It is my Christmas wish that all those who suffer at the hands of their traffickers find hope, healing, freedom and the services they need this holiday season and continue into the New Year; that the perpetrators will have a change of heart and grant their captives mercy; that law enforcement, providers and advocates will continue to find the strength to continue this fight. Finally, that each individual will look at their purchasing power and take the time to explore how they contribute to modern-day slavery and will begin to stand up for the justice of others by buying fair trade, by spreading the word and praying for those who don’t have a voice, and by contacting their legislators to advocate for individuals’ rights and for companies to look at their global supply chain.

This is a big Christmas wish, I know, but we must not give up hope. We must continue to stamp out the injustice that exists in our world and right here in our communities.

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

We must walk with the light of Christ. We must be the ones who want to build the Kingdom of God right in our own communities. There might be darkness around us, we see it every day on the news, but we will never let it affect us. Instead, we will be the ones who chase it out! – (Diocese of Orlando Faith Fit Inspiration)

Wishing all our warriors and supporters a very Merry Christmas and Hopeful New Year!

By Christine Commerce, Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator – December 2019