Elise: Although I recently moved to Medford, Massachusetts, I had been living in my hometown of Buffalo, New York for the last year while I worked at the International Institute of Buffalo (IIB) for the Trafficking Victim Services Program. The organization itself has been serving immigrants and refugees in Western New York since 1918, and the TVSP has been a part of the Institute since 2006. In these four years, TVSP has served as the Lead Service Provider on the Western District of New York Anti-Trafficking Task Force and assisted over 100 individuals and trained thousands of local professionals, law enforcement agents, and community members in over eight counties. The challenges for serving such a large area of New York state are imposing: the area has large urban, suburban and rural communities, there has been little pattern as to the country of origin, native language, age or background of the survivors and the majority of local residents are still unaware as to the magnitude of the problem in their own neighborhoods. If you are interested in volunteering, donating or would like to find a way to help raise awareness in Western New York, please contact the Trafficking Victim Services Program at the International Institute of Buffalo.
Lauren: This past summer I have been living in my hometown, Orange County, California. Despite its picturesque appearance, reality television shows, and ideal weather, even Orange County has a human trafficking history. The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF), which consists of over 40 different organizations, was founded in 2004 “to work together to protect victims, prosecute offenders, and prevent further perpetration of this crime in Orange County, CA.” The purpose of the task force’s collaborative communal work, which includes local law enforcement agencies, is to aggrandize the rate at which the community can identify and arraign human rights violators. Between the years of 2006 and 2009 the foundation assisted over 60 victims of human trafficking, most conspicuously a story of a young girl, Shyima. The task force’s exponential resources also help educate a community, while involving it in efforts to combat the continuation of this crime. If you are looking for ways to get involved in the Orange County region The OCHTTF is a collective force that incorporates volunteers, clubs, organizations, churches and communities. The OCHTTF also hosts public meetings and events to continue local involvement, for more information about the organization or general information about human trafficking visit their website.
Amanda: Prax(us) is an organization based out of Denver, CO which focusing on assisting homeless youth in trafficking situations. They use community engagement to “empower participants, advocate for equal rights, and address the root causes of human trafficking.” The organization does street outreach to find people who are vulnerable to or are already in situations of trafficking, helps people leave exploitative situations, informs the community about human trafficking, engages the community including law enforcement in their work and advocates for policies that end exploitation and human trafficking. Their work is motivated by the liberation model which suggests that hope is essential to their work, efforts to address the issue should be lead by those affected by it, action and reflection are required for freedom, political movements should be motivated by experience, oppression must be fought at every level and that the stories and histories of those affected help to build a successful movement.