While we live out days unlike any others in history, bound together by the COVID-19 crisis, but ironically “distanced” from each other, the fabric of humankind has a way of showing its true colors most vividly. Stories of toilet paper hoarding make headlines, meanwhile, neighbors check in on each other, friends and family text words of comfort, communities rally food donations for the hungry, and social media has gone from triggering FOMO to offering a place where we can find commonality -- a place to laugh, connect, inspire and encourage. The world is truly, already, a different place.
But these experiences are limited to those of us who have our freedom.
In the dark and hidden corners of the world, where the machine of human trafficking grinds on, sons and daughters are not only enslaved but unprotected from this pandemic. The health and well-being of modern slaves was never a priority to their traffickers, and the outbreak of COVID-19 has left these men, women, and children even more vulnerable than before.
As we endeavor to find peace in the midst of the COVID-19 chaos, we must also make choices about what matters most.
The whiplash of our economic downturn is affecting us all, but we can choose to give of our time, energy, and resources to fight human trafficking, even during the COVID-19 crisis. Our national operatives are currently doing their investigative work in different ways due to government health orders, but they have not given up searching for those suffering exploitation. And so, understanding that so much feels unstable in the world, here are some simple ways you can still fight human trafficking -- right from your home.
#1 Broaden Your Knowledge. Then Share It With Others. We cannot underestimate the power of education and prevention when it comes to fighting human trafficking. There is much to learn and now is the time to educate yourself and take some time to explore our new TraffickWatch site which offers our human trafficking training and awareness program. Watch a documentary, catch up on the blogs from other anti-trafficking nonprofits, or download a book about human trafficking and read it. You have the gift of time; leverage it to learn about the issue you care so much about.
Teach your children the warning signs of human trafficking recruitment, and make sure that their devices are protected from traffickers and online abuse. Your kids are online a lot right now, and traffickers can still prey on them. Use this season as a time to talk about and dial-in to internet safety in your home.
Then, spread the word. Share what you learn on social media with your friends and family. All of us are on social media right now; share resources or ideas that you care about and continue to advocate for the most oppressed.
#2 Support Search + Rescue. Our Search + Rescue Team collaborates with local police authorities to find survivors of human trafficking and arrest their traffickers. Trafficking becomes a more dangerous crime with each arrest. The work of intervention requires hours of investigative time which is fueled by your support. If you are able during this time, consider supporting our Search + Rescue Team by giving to fund monthly investigative work.
Look for ways to leverage your spending, and connect to our Amazon Smile account -- a percentage of every purchase will then be directed to the work of The Exodus Road. This is a simple way you can still give to rescue, that doesn’t cost you anything. Here’s a tutorial on how to buy from Amazon Smile.
And, as always, if you suspect that someone you know is being trafficked, don’t hesitate to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711) or text 233733. Now is the perfect time to put those numbers in your phone.
#3 Empower Survivors. Just like so many businesses are struggling financially right now, so are aftercare shelters and survivor-centered service providers. These brave survivors of human trafficking need healing, stability, and oftentimes employment to fully experience freedom. We employ social workers and partner with aftercare shelters to ensure that each survivor can have their physical, mental, and legal needs met after the rescue, and this work is critical. If you have the financial ability, you can help keep the doors open for places that directly create a marketplace for survivor-made products. Shop places like Starfish Project, Elegantees, Purpose Jewelry, Sudara, Trades of Hope, Sparrow House Botanicals, and Made For Them. Shop these and other companies that exist to offer dignified work to survivors.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies...but the silence of our friends.” Of all times in history, now is the time to fight even harder for those enslaved. In most instances, they are even more vulnerable now than they were before. And while we may all be at home right now, finding ways to bring justice even during COVID-19, there is still so much we can do. Our actions and generosity right now can fuel freedom.
Click below for a shareable infographic and to read our post about how we can prove justice is in the hands of the ordinary even during COVID-19.