Perhaps you’ve heard the word “trafficking” in passing but never gave it much thought. Perhaps photos of a red “X” on the back of your friends’ hands have filled your social networking feed this week and you’re wondering what it means. Perhaps a news story caused you to do a little research and now you feel overwhelmed by the ugly reality that slavery still exists in our country.
You want to do something. But perhaps you think the problem is too big. You hate knowing what’s happening in the world, but you just don’t know what sort of difference you can make. Or even where to start.
Trust me; you’re far from alone in this feeling.
Standing up against human trafficking doesn’t have to mean grand gestures. It’s in the little things we do together that add up to make the biggest difference and make the greatest change.
Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”
In other words, you don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need to dedicate all of your free time. And you don’t have to tackle the entire issue of human trafficking on your own. Instead, you can make a world of difference by doing something small in your own community.
First, learn what trafficking is and what it isn’t. Whether it’s forced manual labor or sex trafficking, there are incredible non-profits and governmental agencies around the globe that have joined forces to educate the public about human trafficking.
I have the privilege of working for one such organization. Shared Hope International exists to intervene on behalf of victims of sex trafficking. One of the ways in which we do so is through public education and policy reform. You can learn more at www.sharedhope.org
Second, become a volunteer or mentor at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or pregnancy resource center. It might only be for an hour a week, but that hour could change the life of a victim of trafficking without you even knowing it. Regardless of who you meet there, you’ll likely discover that your life is one that’s changed for the better.
Third, donate to local shelters, ministries, and organizations that serve victims of human trafficking. There’s always a “big” financial need for medical care, shelter, and operational expenses, sure. But there’s also the “smaller” need of new clothing, shoes, and toiletries. Don’t underestimate what owning a warm coat or a new pair of shoes in the middle of winter can mean to someone living without them. Especially if they come with no strings attached. Reach out to groups in your hometown to find out what their most urgent needs are, then plan your giving accordingly.
Fourth, be vigilant. If you see activity that you suspect may be connected to human trafficking of any form, contact your local authorities, or an agency such as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. You can also alert your pastor, teachers, or school administrators.
Fifth, be smart and stay safe. Unless you have been properly trained, don’t engage in any activities that may endanger you or the victim. Your good intentions could make a bad situation worse. I repeat what I said above: always report suspicious activity to the proper authorities. Let them take it from there.
When it comes to ending human trafficking, there is no such thing as “Go big or go home.”
This is a fight that can only be won one battle at a time with the help of many active hands and compassionate hearts. Armchair awareness is well and good, but it’s just the start.
What will you do now that you know?