(Lynn Hamric/UMW) - I have never considered myself privileged. Growing up in a small rural area of Alabama on a small farm, I was well taken care of. I always had what I needed, perhaps not always what I wanted. I had a loving mother and father and older brother and a wealth of friends and teachers who really cared about my success. Opportunity was the word of choice, not obstacle. Children played outside every day, neighbors helped look after all the children, parents worked but there was always time for meals together, sharing the events of the day and planning for the weekends.
Fast forward fifty years and we’re living in an entirely different world! I’m going to single out one topic that is near and dear to my heart...human trafficking. I pray after reading this article it will become an area of concern for you and one you will work toward eliminating.
-Children in Alabama and Florida are victims every day.
-Education is the key to preventing and ending human trafficking.
-Alabama Highway 20/59 has been named a superhighway of human trafficking where young girls and women are picked up or exploited at truck stops.
-According to www.fbi.gov, task forces, led primarily by local law enforcement agencies, investigated 2,515 incidents in the U.S. between January 2008 and June 2010.
-There are more slaves today in the world than at any other time in history according to Pat McCarty, Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.
-According to www.fbi.gov, the majority of victims in FBI cases are women and young girls from Central American and Asian countries, but 33 percent of victims are U.S. residents.
-80% of victims are women. Men and children are also targets.
-Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, has drafted a bill to be introduced in the Legislature this session. If this bill passes it means teenage prostitutes will be treated as victims rather than criminals in the justice system.
-Young girls and women do not ask to be a part of the human trafficking industry, but they don’t know how to get out.
This is where you and I can become active.
-Make contact with the legislature and make your concerns heard.
-Know what the Trafficking Victims Protection Act contains.
-Contact the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, www.enditalabama.org or the Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, http:// www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/ human-trafficking and arrange with them to sponsor a seminar in your church/community.
United Methodist Women are organized to work for better conditions for women, children and youth. We cannot make every child have a privileged childhood but we can work diligently to see they are cared for, and allowed a normal childhood including safe living conditions, education and a loving home in which to grow up. There are agencies with who we can work to insure this. Young women can be provided educational opportunities as well as assistance in obtaining legitimate employment.
There are many areas in need of our assistance but women, children and youth are who we are responsible for helping.
Won’t you join me in this effort?