Human Trafficking - The Key Challenge                                         by Ida Lopez

As the Lead Case Manager for World Relief Tampa, I have been working directly with human trafficking survivors for the past 8 years. With each new victim, the question that continuously comes to mind is - why?

I question what we as a community can do differently. Maybe I have not yet done all that can be done to prevent this horrible crime. Why is it that every day this crime increases? Dirty money changes hands, countless lives are devastated and countries around the world recognize that the problem is huge and must be STOPPED.

Back in 2000, when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act first became federal law, the President clearly acknowledged that we have a problem! That problem is human trafficking, something we now refer to as modern day slavery.

The media has begun to bring this travesty to light; we see it every day. But we are only looking to the surface, missing the underlying dynamics that increase the vulnerability of children and adults. And the question that comes back to my mind is why?

A key challenge lies in educating the community especially our children about the sanctity of our basic human rights, that all men and women are created equal and have the same rights.

We need to stop labeling people like merchandise. Each of us has intrinsic value, a concept traffickers work to abolish. What is going to happen if we don’t educate youth about their value and rights? What can you do to lessen a child’s vulnerability? What can you do to set your children and grandchildren up for success and safety? What will we all do to reduce the risk of that our children and grandchildren will not fall prey to this great evil?

It all starts in home, but unfortunately in today’s western world there is no such thing as home anymore. Everybody is so busy building careers, paying the bills and pursuing entertainment. Many adults spend very little quality time with their children. But if the children are the FUTURE, then the only hope we have is to start these discussions early and prepare them to stay safe and continue this fight against modern day slavery. We must reach children, and particularly at-risk kids, wherever they are. Schools are a logical place to start in this prevention and human rights awareness campaign.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”



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