With all the excitement and energy that it brings to a city, the Super Bowl also attracts something disturbing: human trafficking. It's an issue that is woefully under-exposed. Trafficking, for all effects and purposes, is slavery -- and it happens here in the US, in cities and towns all over, and not just in the far off places we may imagine. According to the Huffington Post, trafficking is "the most fundamental of human rights violations which is comprised of involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage, and includes forced child labor, sex trafficking and involuntary domestic labor." And large events, like the Super Bowl, generate an increase for demand in trafficking-- whether for labor at restaurants, salons, or other businesses or for the sex trade. In the US, over 100,000 people, mostly young girls, are trafficked in illegal slavery rings. Most of these girls are forced into the sex trade.
|Indy Super Bowl Crowd, from here.|
It's a disturbing and disheartening problem. But there are people who are taking strides to change the situation. Just in time for the Super Bowl, Indiana legislators passed a new law to strengthen regulations against sex trafficking. Penalties for trafficking have been increased and the legislature has crafted new training recommendations to aid in the identification of trafficked individuals.
But lawmakers aren't the only people fighting back against the awful reality of human trafficking. Indianapolis resident-- and my friend-- Chelsea Reynolds is partner in a new non-profit, 268 Unbound, raising awareness and funds for victims of slavery.
She was kind enough to answer some questions for Voyage-On readers:
|268 Unbound sells "Freedom" bracelets to raise awareness.|
I recently went to Passion 2012 at the Dome in Atlanta, GA. It’s a conference held every year that brings students together not only to worship and pray, but to give back and stand up for people who are unable to fight for themselves. At this conference, I was introduced to the reality of human trafficking. I was completely unaware this was going on! Slavery was an awful thing of the past that couldn’t possibly exist today -- or so I thought. In reality, an estimated 27 million people live in bondage. So for me, it was simple: this is a problem, we need to fix it. A friend of mine that went to the conference with me was interested in helping this cause too. So we got together and came up with something pretty simple that is hopefully going to make a difference in someone’s life. I think we’re a generation that has an inner fight song playing 24/7 - we just need to know what to fight for.
But Atlanta is a major hub of human trafficking and child sex exploitation – the average age is 14 - and things like chocolate, clothing, Christmas decorations, toys, and electronics are just a few items on the Department of Labor’s list of top goods produced by child labor and forced labor. To change this, we need to educate ourselves about it and spread the word. Check out slaverymap.org to join together with people around you and learn how to put an end to this in your own city.
|Jordin Sparks, via 268 Unbound.|
You’ve already gotten celebrity endorsement – from American Idol Jordin Sparks – how did that happen and how are you hoping to move forward with publicity for 268 Unbound?
This was actually unintentional. My friend/business partner Amanda was at a women’s shelter one weekend and Jordin Sparks happened to be there too. Amanda was able to share our story with her and what our mission was. She said Jordin is a big advocate for fighting human trafficking. As for moving forward with publicity…we don’t have any set plans. Spreading awareness, donating, and giving back any way we can is our main goal. The publicity was an (awesome) added bonus.
How can readers help with 268 Unbound’s mission?
As part of the Do Something Now movement, we are selling Freedom Bracelets for $5. 100% of the proceeds go to Hagar. We have a facebook page, 268 Unbound, that was recently created which has the link for buying/donating, or you can go directly to https://www.wepay.com/stores/543626
Where will funds from the bracelet go?
Hagar helps restore children that have been bought, sold, and exploited in Cambodia. At Hagar International’s Recovery Shelters, children receive intensive care, including medical care, counseling, and education.
Thanks to Chelsea for sharing on this wonderful project. She's a great inspiration on how to stand up an do something about injustice. Bravo!