To honor Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re offering a rundown of the ways you can get involved in this issue on the local level.
1. Understand why and how labor and sex trafficking happens in Yakima. Poverty, the agriculture industry, and the presence of gangs combine to increase the risk of human exploitation in our area. For an overview, read “Human Trafficking a Terrible Nightmare for Yakima Valley Families,” “‘Largest’ Human Trafficking Lawsuit Includes Two Yakima Valley Farms,” & “Human Trafficking in the Yakima Valley.”
2. Come and bring a friend or two to the Anti Trafficking Awareness Walk in Millennium Plaza on January 25, 10:00-11:30AM. This is a tour of downtown with stops at Yakima County Jail and Yakima County Courthouse.
3. Follow Mercy Project of Washington on Facebook. This new Yakima-based nonprofit will keep you up to date with trafficking-related news and events.
5. Like other cities, Yakima is displaying awareness-raising billboards like the one on the right throughout the month of January. Check out the relevant messages on city buses as they move around town.
6. Learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking. Truck stops, rest areas, motels, etc. are all places to keep your eyes open. Young single women are the most frequent victims, but boys, men, and married women can also be caught up in slavery. (“Identify and Assist a Trafficking Victim” –U.S. Department of State)
7. If you missed Sheila Houston’s talk, “Breaking the Chains of Sex Trafficking,” on January 9 at St. Timothy’s, you can watch our recording here. Ms. Houston is the founder of Rare Coins Ministries, a Seattle-area group that acts as a restorative link between sex trafficking victims and their families, the church and community.
8. Make a donation to or volunteer with Rod’s House, La Casa Hogar, Sunrise Outreach Center, Zonta Club of Yakima, or the Hands of Hope Women’s Winter Shelter at East Valley’s Foursquare Church. All of these groups work to intervene, educate, and empower.
9. Plan a local house party for a nationally-based organization. In November, we did a story on a mother-daughter team that hosted a jewelry sale in partnership with Women at Risk International. They’ve done it several years in a row and you can, too. Here’s how.
10. Be careful where you buy your tomatoes. Better yet, grow your own. OK. This isn’t Yakima-specific, but since tomatoes are the #1 veggie we consume in this country, we’re throwing it in anyway. Florida’s tomato farms are another hotbed of modern slavery. To learn more, read “A Dispach From Tomatoland.”
These are just the resources we’ve come across so far. If you know of others, please tell us in the comment section!