FYI is starting a new initiative that perfectly ties into all of our programs … raising awareness of the immorality of human trafficking.
Ohio is No. 5 in the nation for human trafficking. We’ve all got to do something about it!
FYI wants to focus on the preventative side of this tragedy. Let’s stop it before it happens. The name of our new initiative against this evil and immoral industry is Safeguarding Those Oppressed by Predators (S.T.O.P.).
“If we can protect one student from being trafficked, it will be worth it … whether it’s stopping them from being picked up or them recognizing a friend in danger. It’s about preventing and reducing trauma for children, and FYI is focused on protecting those we serve,” said Nikki Stefanow, FYI Executive Director. “Another part of this awareness is also making parents aware of what red flags to look for in their children and their friends, and making people aware of what human trafficking isn’t. Some people think it’s a white van that comes up and steals kids. That’s not what happens most of the time. Most of the time it is someone the child knows and trusts who trafficks them. We aren’t recognizing it’s happening in our own backyard.”
The United Nations refers to human trafficking as the hidden figure of crime. According to DoSomething.org, it is a $150 billion per year industry which has an estimated 20-40 million victims internationally caught in its evil web. Becoming known as modern-day slavery, one in four human trafficking victims are children and 70 percent are females. The average age of a child entering the sex trade is 12 to 14.
“They are right here in our middle schools and high schools, right under our noses. We’re just not seeing it,” said newest FYI board member Ryan Wallace, referring to human trafficking victims. He recently made a passionate and comprehensive presentation to our board on this issue.The board moved to join the fight after the presentation.
FYI is in 65 schools in six counties with our Real Life Teen Choices and Mentoring programs, and therefore is already on the frontlines and positioned to help. Both are teaching life and decision-making skills, curriculums in which human trafficking awareness fits well.
“What it really amounts to is it is abuse,” Ryan said. “The likelihood of FYI and school districts coming in contact with a victim is very high. You root it out with awareness.”
He added that schools are often the safest place for some students.
“There are teachers and guidance counselors who care about them and provide a safe space for them to be in,” Ryan said. “These are connection points and if teachers are educated on this, they can recognize and poinpoint signs of human trafficking. It’s a natural battlefront.”
FYI has been fighting on that battlefield for many years.
“It’s an area where FYI can be pivotal to raise awareness,” he said. “We already have the partnerships. It’s just enhancing our services and enhancing the value that FYI brings to the table.”
Our mission of educating, equipping and empowering happen to be keys in raising awareness as well.
“The more that we’re educated, the more we can share that knowledge with other educators, the more we can prevent this from happening in our own neighborhoods and schools,” Ryan said. “It’s also about rescuing victims, rescuing survivors. The more people we have paying attention to it, the higher the likelihood we are going to save someone through this.”
“We want to root it out, help prevent it and save lives,” he added. “It is all worth it if we can save one person.”
It is such a huge problem that FYI will not be able to tackle this alone.
“It’s going to take a community effort,” Ryan said. “We need partners: school districts, local organizations, government entities. If we do that, we're going to realize our goal.”
Human trafficking poses such a big problem because it often happens in anonimity.
“We don’t talk about it enough,” he said. “The more we talk about it, the more we will pay attention to it. The general consensus is that it is not happening in our local community, but it is.”
As it is with all our programs, the goal is rescuing children and saving a life.
“We see an opportunity to be a huge influencer in this space,” he said. “We’re leveraging our partnerships to really make a difference. We have an incredible opportunity to grow this awareness There’s an incredible need for help in this area.”
Is this issue close to your heart as well? If so, give us a call at (937) 845-0403 and join the fight.