It seems no matter where people are trafficked, they have one thing in common: the traffickers are feeding on their vulnerabilities. Worldwide, estimates are that 12 to 27 million people are trafficked. Half of these are kids and teens, most are female. Each year, 14, 500 to 17, 500 people are trafficked into America.
However, not just foreigners are trafficked. A lot of people are surprised when I do talks about the number of American kids who are trafficked inside America, not while on a trip abroad – this is very rare, despite what Hollywood wants to tell you. The real story is more shocking. 100 000 American kids and teens are trafficked within America every year. If an average high school has around 1000 kids, that’s 100 high schools. Trafficking doesn’t mean they are being smuggled or transported – it means they’re being exploited, threatened and used for their labor and their bodies, usually in the sex industry.
Most people agree that human trafficking is a terrible problem and an issue we need to solve in our society today. But how? As with many of these big issues, it’s normal to wonder what kind of an impact one person can have, especially if you’re a young person with fewer resources.
Here are some small things any person can do to make a difference. Choose one and do it today and then tweet, Facebook or email me to let me know how it went. Then I’ll share your story as an inspiration to others.
Almost all big cities have anti-trafficking organizations, so you can look online to see who is in your city. Some of the ones I recommend who helped me with the research for Trafficked or who’ve helped with the promotion of Trafficked as a tool of awareness are … Love 146, Gems, Restore NYC, Cast LA, La Strada International, Safe Horizon, The Salvation Army.
2. Write your senator or representative in Congress.
Tell him or her that you want strict laws to punish traffickers and funds to support victims of trafficking. Go here.
3. Spread the word.
Kids, teens and college students can make a bigger impact today than they ever could in the past through social media and blogging. Nobody knows how old you are, just that you have something interesting to say. All young people should have blogs and twitter accounts to share the things they are passionate about. As a side benefit, this can lead to a career. Maybe you don’t want to start a Twitter account or blog dedicated to the subject of human trafficking, but at least you can let your friends know about the issue through Facebook or Twitter.
4. Avoid buying slave labor goods.
This includes everything from electronics to clothing to coffee to chocolate. How can you avoid these goods? Shop for fair trade items. Also, shop for things made in the US, or another developed country for a higher chance that it is not made with slave labor. It might cost a bit more, but the quality is usually better too. Better to buy fewer things than to know you might be wearing something made by slave labor. One of my favorite fair trade stores is Ten Thousand Villages and, as a plus, they have unique, good quality gifts.
5. Donate or start a fund-raiser at your school.
Even if you donate five dollars, it can help. I visited a school in Washington, DC, where students are doing regular bake sales. I did a Skype visit with another school in Utah, where students printed up anti-slavery t-shirts and sold those. Every little bit helps. This is why I’m donating 20 percent of everything I make from Trafficked to anti-trafficking organizations. It’s not much, but it’s something.
There are so many innovative things you can do to help end human trafficking. If you decide to turn your compassion into action, let me know what you end up doing. I love hearing these stories. And it doesn’t have to be big…Even a five-minute tweet can change the world if it’s retweeted enough times. We can work together and end slavery in this generation.