2018-01-11 / News

Human Trafficking Task Force spreads awareness throughout January

By Cameron Kerkau

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. While many believe that human trafficking only exists in other countries, Community Engagement Director for Underground Railroad Inc. and Coordinator for the Mid-Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force Angela Aday says that’s a myth. It’s happening in local communities and Aday plans to combat it by spreading education and awareness.

“That’s the way that we’re going to be able to end it in the long run,” Aday said.

According to Aday, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transport, harboring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim for the purpose of exploitation. The Mid-Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force has events planned throughout the month of January to spread awareness on the topic.

“Chosen,” a 20-minute short documentary telling the true story of two teenage girls being deceived into trafficking will be premiered at Carrollton Middle School on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, today, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. Following the film, a Human Trafficking Panel consisting of a Michigan State police officer, an LGBTQIAH expert, a childhood survivor of sex trafficking, and a high-risk youth trauma therapist will discuss ways for youth to be kept safe in the community.

Aday will be giving a presentation at the Second Presbyterian Church, 2665 Midland Road, on Sunday, Jan. 14. The church is also collecting items needed for the Underground Railroad’s Emergency Shelter throughout January. A list of items needed can be found at http://undergroundrailroadinc.org/ contributions.html or at the church’s website at www.spcsaginaw.org.

On Thursday, Jan. 25, the feature length documentary “Break the Chain,” will premier at Delta College at 6 p.m. Special guests Laura Swanson, who served as producer, co-director and production manager on the film, and Jane White, director of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, will participate in a discussion panel after the film.

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, the Mid- Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force will be rounding out the month at St. Mary’s Health Education Center, 800 South Washington Ave., with six breakout sessions designed for professionals in the medical field, law enforcement, education, social work and technology as well as the general public. Topics include “Special Populations,” “the Role and Power of Privilege,” “Substance Abuse” and more. The sessions will take place from 8 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We have very highly-credentialed speakers that are experts on human trafficking that are volunteering their time to be a part of this particular conference,” said Aday.

The Mid-Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force is also collecting submissions for its “Art for Awareness” art contest. Sixth through twelfth grade students living in Saginaw County can submit. Any art (painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, etc.) with the themes of human trafficking and awareness in mind is eligible. Top prize for the contest is $50 and the artist can donate his or her artwork to the Mid-Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force to be sold in a silent auction. Art pieces will be displayed at Human Trafficking Awareness events throughout the month. Deadline for submissions is Jan. 18.

“I want everyone to see this amazing art that the students are creating,” said Aday.

For students who prefer to express themselves through writing, an essay contest is also taking place. The essay topic is “What does human trafficking mean to me?” Essays must be in APA format with a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 1,000 words.

Submissions can be emailed to Aday at aaday@undergroundrailroadinc.org with a subject line reading “Essay contest.” Submissions should include name, age and school. The first-place winner of the contest will receive a $50 visa gift card and the opportunity to read their essay at the Jan. 30 event at St. Mary’s.

For more information on the events or contests, contact Aday at (989) 399-0007 or aaday@undergroundrailroadinc.org. To pre-register for any of these events, visit eventbrite.com.

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