May 21, 2012 at 10:17am
Recently one of our Franciscan Community Volunteers, as a part of her work at her service site, organized a launch event for an anti-human trafficking campaign in St. Cloud, MN. The event, entitled "Free At Last," was a huge success and was a great start to a community effort to keep St. Cloud safe from trafficking. Moreover, almost all the FCVers were present that day and or helped out with Sara's effort in some way! What a community! Below is her reflections on the event. These reflections will also be featured in the Summer edition of the Francsican Sisters of Little Falls publication, Our Journey.
On Thursday April 26, 2012 120 people gathered at Hands Across the World for Free At Last: Human Trafficking Prevention Campaign. Free At Last was a half day event aimed at creating awareness in the St. Cloud area on the issue of human trafficking. After three months of hard work, the day had finally arrived. The big event as I liked to refer to it as was here. After countless phone calls, meetings, and emails, and hundreds of hours of planning and organizing, it was time whether I was ready for it or not. I arrived at work around 6:45 that morning excited and ready for the day to begin. (At right - the room is all ready for the event.)
The morning officially began at 8 am with breakfast and registration. It was wonderful to watch people mingle with one another and catch up before the start of the day’s event. I sat down to be interviewed by a writer from the St. Cloud Times shortly after 8 while still trying to field questions from volunteers. After the interview concluded, I had some time to continue to tend to a few last minute details and greet people when I could. Around 8:45 as people began to take their seats, I realized that we were not going to have enough chairs (we planned for 100), so I quickly organized volunteers to bring in more chairs. Thank goodness we had room for a few more! (At left - participants discuss how to prevent human trafficking in St. Cloud in teh breakout sessions.)
At 9:00 Erin Bitzan who is a board member for Hands Across the World provided opening remarks for the day. A panel consisting of Linda Miller, Michele Garnett McKenzie, Peggy Roy, and Richard Wilson followed for the next hour. Panelists answered questions about human trafficking, what it is, myths surrounding human trafficking, what they have been able to accomplish, and what we can do to combat human trafficking. It was a lively discussion and an excellent start to the morning. Following the panel, and then a short break, participants had an opportunity to partake in breakout sessions. In the breakout sessions, people were asked to reflect and discuss the question, what should St. Cloud do to prevent human trafficking? Participants in groups of about 20 had approximately 45 minutes to explore different issues. Some groups discussed the need for outreach and education in the schools. Others discussed the importance of creating awareness in the community about human trafficking. To conclude the morning, a keynote address was delivered by Joy Friedman of Breaking Free. Joy is a survivor and eloquently combined her experiences with passion, motivation, and encouragement to the audience to take a stand to prevent human trafficking. She reminded the audience that we are all children of God and being a victim of human trafficking or prostitution does not change that. Victims can be of all ages and backgrounds which is something people often forget. Her address was moving and motivating, leaving audience members charged and ready to continue to work on this issue. (At right is a picture of Joy Friedman of Breaking Free giving the keynote address.)
The overall response from the event was very positive and despite the minor glitches that happen with any big event as I told the audience that morning, the event was a success. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to put this event together. It was wonderful to see people come together to learn about such an important topic; the atmosphere that morning was very charged and people were eager to continue the work to keep St. Cloud safe. I am truly inspired by the commitment of the community and hope that people will continue to work on this very important issue. I believe the most successful communities are the ones in which members feel involved and committed to the success and wellbeing of its people. It was a beautiful day to see the beginnings of this as participants came together to learn about human trafficking and realizing there is much work to be done. As I gave the closing remarks for the morning, I concluded by exclaiming that it is our hope through the work began by this event that one day the citizens of the world will be able to restate the famous works of Martin Luther King Jr., “Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, we’re free at last!”
(At left is Franciscan Community Volunteer, Sara, presenting at "Free at Last.")
May 21, 2012 at 11:36am