As a journalist, I come across controversial topics on a regular basis–but none have captivated me like human trafficking has. I’m passionate about raising awareness about the criminal activity that claims an estimated 300,000 minors each year within the United States (and countless more in countries around the world, including Honduras). As much as I love researching and writing, though, I’m starting to realize talking isn’t enough. So I’ve decided to do something.
I’m going to run TraffickFree’s 5K in downtown Chicago this Saturday, September 7th.
But how does putting myself through a 5k help men, women, and children being sold into forced labor and sexual slavery?
First of all, the money ($35 entrance fee) goes toward a good cause: the race is sponsored by Traffick Free, a nonprofit organization in Chicago dedicated to raising awareness for the injustice of human trafficking in Chicago. According to the Illinois Rescue and Restore Coalition, upwards of 25,000 women and girls are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Chicago every year, and an estimated 27 million people are enslaved around the world – more slaves than spanned the entire 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade.
I’m all about contributing my money and prayers to an effort to set captives free.
In addition to celebrating innovative legislation (like the Illinois Safe Children Act that immediately recognizes all those found engaged in commercial sexual exploitation under the age of 18 as victims) and fostering progressive collaboration like the weekly Law Enforcement Working Group that engages prosecutors, officers, and social workers to ensure that all cases are victim-centered and not victim-driven, Traffick Free also has long-term goals to run around-the-clock social services and continued increase of trauma-informed services across the Chicagoland area, including the establishment of safe houses for women recovering from exploitation.
According to the organization, proceeds from the 5K will support their current education and awareness initiatives to provide the greater metropolitan area of Chicago with tools and sustainable programs to combat human trafficking and transform the lives of victims, perpetrators and communities. Registration is now open for only $35 and includes a takeaway gift participants can wear every day to remind themselves what they have accomplished and use as a conversation-starter to engage others in the issue. The 5k Run Against Traffick, born simply from the knowledge that we needed to engage a larger Chicago community, began in 2011 with only 500 participants. With the 5k almost doubled in size last year and continues to grow–will you sign up to take on the fight?
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