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Human Trafficking

Voices of Human Trafficking Team Members

United Methodist Women members who participated in the Human Trafficking training session in Atlanta, Ga. in 2009 reflect on what they've accomplished and how they've changed a year later.

I think that United Methodist Women members are the only ones who enter in when no one else wants to be involved. I have found this issue to be overwhelming. What I have found over the past year is that fighting human trafficking is difficult, to say the least. What we can do is raise awareness. The biggest hurdle is to get people involved. It has made me more sensitive and has heightened my awareness that it is really all around us.

—Rachel Bachenburg
Social Action Mission Coordinator, Missouri Conference

I’ve changed a lot ... everybody who I see I just talk to them about human trafficking to let them know what’s going on. You’d be surprised at how many women aren’t aware.

—Rosa Bernard
former Social Action Mission Coordinator, South Indiana Conference

I think it’s important because of our mission as United Methodist Women members, and the four areas we focus on are broad. Human trafficking is increasing. The issue is so vast and . . . I hadn’t been exposed to it before the training. It is an issue that is as serious as any of the issues that we are confronting. It is toxic. Members of the United Methodist Women have always been right there for all of the major social changes because that’s who we are.

—Susan Bradshaw
Member of the California–Pacific Conference

Because we have children being sold and rented daily, and it’s a form of modern day slavery. We can help children and get them out of this lifestyle. We can save their souls and spirits. I believe we want to make people whole again. It’s part of our purpose. I am able to recognize the red flags of trafficking. I know the risk factors. I spend more time with our young girls in church, mentoring and teaching them.

—Janice Elmore
Social Action Mission Coordinator, Kansas West Conference

I think two things: If you can get the info to United Methodist Women members, they can easily and quickly and very effectively disseminate the info to their communities. Historically they have done a superb job raising awareness and training and trying to solve issues. We’re in Georgia with Atlanta, and people need to know what is going on here. I think it is imperative for people to educate themselves on this issue.

It has changed me. I was virtually unaware and knew little, but since the training, because we knew we were going to be training others, I have done lots of research. With my friend, I have had the opportunity to do training at an issues workshop for our South Georgia women. I received a letter from one participant who shared the information at an adult Sunday school class and at a United Methodist Women prayer breakfast. We have a pocket of women working in Macon.

One lady said to me, “I hate to say anything negative against the United Methodist Women, but I have to ask this question: we do such a good job of educating ourselves, but can we follow through on this? We’re going to have to remind ourselves each year to talk about what have been doing.”

Women say to me, “Wow, we had no idea!” Now I’m starting to hear more about human trafficking. People are starting to be more aware and talking about the issue. I am excited about what we can do. Let’s be honest—you give it to women, and they’ll see that something gets done.

—The Rev. Kim Jenkins
Executive Director, Open Door Community House,
Columbus, Ga., a National Mission Institution

This is one of the most serious issues that we have today—deep violation of human dignity and human rights because the victims, and they are victims, are controlled, beaten down, and from my understanding even when they are rescued there is a long a road ahead of them. It’s given me the opportunity to learn what’s going on in my community. A lot of the exploitation—sexual exploitation—occurs through the travel industry. This has given me the opportunity to use my work in a different way. It is a slow process, small steps, a lot of awareness and then going beyond that.

There are a couple of organizations in the travel industry that work with this issue. For instance, The Code is three or four years old. It is where travel companies sign up and agree to certain training, particularly awareness, for their employees.

—Brenda Moland
Social Action Mission Coordinator, Rocky Mountain Conference

It’s a human rights issue as well as civil rights. I believe that United Methodist Women has a history of not looking for the easy things to support but really taking on those issues that people are uncomfortable with. We need to gently help people understand that in fact this is an important issue, and we as United Methodist Women members need to look at this issue for what it is, not around morals, immigration, the things that we have been told but to realize that women still are fearful because there is a lack of understanding and support for women in this position.

I have been working in the area of human trafficking for quite a few years and I am very much aware of it. I work in a police department and so, because of this, I have spent a lot of time trying to train officers that if they see someone they believe is a prostitute to look deeper. I try to sensitize them.

We had a case a few years ago in which I immediately recognized that the woman had been trafficked all over the United States. She couldn’t tell me who it was; she knew only about the color of car that would drop her off and the color of car that would pick her up. It was difficult for police to believe her, and they questioned her credibility. They asked me, “Why didn’t she call the police?” Well, what would that help? Are you going to believe her? We have had people come to health care for the homeless, and we let them know that if they are being trafficked or know about it, they need to tell us.

It is something that I now want to get more information for folks to have. I feel that my knowing and working in the community doesn’t absolve me from communicating and educating my faith community.

—Brenda Lopez
Social Action Mission Coordinator, New England Conference

At first I didn’t want to get involved, even though I am Social Action Coordinator, because it seemed too big and too burdensome to my spirit. I couldn’t do anything. But now I feel empowered, and though I can’t help 27 million people, maybe I can impact one person.

Since my initial training and subsequent trainings and networking I’m of the opinion that to do nothing left me more powerless and hopeless but to become informed and spread awareness took back some of my power. Also, I believe God is not calling on me to save 27 million people. If my work helps even one person, then my mission is accomplished.

—Anna Noble
former Social Action Coordinator, California–Nevada Conference

First of all I, it was new to me, I didn’t realize, I was like a plant inside a nursery. It just opened my eyes. I realized there is a lot of work to be done. Really a lot of us, including myself, say we are Christian, but just in the head, not much action. We really have to get involved.

—Grace Pyen
Member, North Georgia Conference, Women’s Division Board member

Because as United Methodist Women members we are women of action and we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I’ve become more aware of the situation, whereas I was not aware before. I notice in the newspaper now, and when I see it I’ll cut the clippings out of the newspaper. I’ve seen two instances recently. It has really hit home for me.

—Rita Smith
Social Action Mission Coordinator, Northern Illinois Conference

I know it involves other people and children of other lands, but I think the thing that brings it home is the number of kids being placed in slavery.

Awareness—I think that I didn’t look closely enough at things happening, and now I look at them and I see them from a different viewpoint. There was a music video playing at a local bar restaurant and the lady was in a cage. You know, before I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to that, but now it bothers me.

The word is getting out there. We work with Rescue and Restore in Houston, and they have some programs coming up and also a worship service. The new resources will be great to use.

—Lee Thornton
Social Action Mission Coordinator, Texas Conference

Over the past year or several years, I think I have become more passionate about helping people in these situations. I feel more determined to put an end to this.

—Tien Vo-Doan
Member, California–Pacific Conference

It allows us to serve others by raising awareness by educating people and letting them know that no matter where we are that children, women and men everywhere are being coerced into this type of organized activity. It’s just not right. Everybody is entitled to certain human rights that we take for granted. I like to think that I am a better advocate. I don’t hesitate to go out and speak on the topic, though I’m not an expert. I try to attend events. Our conference in West Ohio is having a three-hour event on human trafficking at a church near Dayton. I have been speaking since last year.

—Tara Wilson
West Ohio Justice Fund

Tragically, the victims have in the past and continue to be those incarcerated in this situation. With our mission focusing on women and children, it is vital for us to make others aware of this activity, which is on such a broad scale here in the United States and around the world.

The information garnered in our Atlanta workshop and continuing study/research/partnering with others has changed my perception completely. Formerly, it had seemed to be a nonissue, with women such as those in the brothels of Las Vegas choosing to engage in this work, seemingly as a career. It has broadened my knowledge of those who are not in this of their own volition. The children used in this inhuman way is a heartbreaking story, as are the huge numbers who are used as pawns by heartless individuals for their “pleasure” or greed.

I go to speak at El Paso to United Methodist Women’s units there on August 30th about human trafficking.

—Helen Jo Satterwhite
Social Action Mission Coordinator, New Mexico Conference

Last Updated: 08/31/2010

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