After six months as organizer I am writing to give you an update on VA SMS and to invite your participation. On the positive side, VA SMS has grown in membership and has held many events during the last six months. We have tried to follow the mandate to educate not only our members but reach out to the community as well, but unfortunately the attendance at these events has been very small. Over the last few months I have been networking with many committed individuals throughout Virginia. We are working together to form a coalition of groups and individuals that will work together to share resources, speakers, and information in order to have a stronger impact and to reach all Virginians. We are also working to develop an educational presentation that will travel throughout the state reaching community groups, faith groups, colleges/schools of all levels, and civic leaders. It is in the developing stages and we would certainly welcome input and support as we attempt to identify specific areas and cases of human trafficking throughout the state.
There are many great ideas that have come to the table, but now we need individuals to step up and help implement these projects. I will continue to work on the state-wide collaborative efforts and the education program, but hope that some of you will step forward and take over organizing events for VA SMS. I thank the assistant organizers who have contributed their time and energy in the past, but as often happens in life new jobs, school, family and/or relocation have to be a priority in their life. Please consider stepping forward and taking on a role whether it is planning just one event or taking on a more permanent role. There are so many ways that this organization could make a difference, but it cannot be done without a team of committed individuals. I certainly welcome your comments and input as to how you can help and what role you see as most important for VA SMS.
We do have two events coming up. The first is the DC Walk on October 23rd. You can support this event by either registering to walk or by pledging funds to support our VA SMS team. This will be the largest anti-human trafficking event in DC history and so we hope to see you there.
The second event will take place Tuesday, November 16th at the Manassas Campus of George Mason University. The film will be part of the Immigration and Human Rights Cinema series that is presented by GMU and the interfaith group Unity in the Community. The post film discussion will be led by Mr. Bill Hillar. He is an international expert in human trafficking and has devoted his life to fighting this atrocity both abroad and in our own country. The hit movie ?Taken? with Liam Neesem was loosely based on Bill Hillar?s personal story although the Hollywood ending was not his own. Tragically his daughter was killed by her captors. He is a highly sought after presenter and keynote speaker across the country. Don?t miss this opportunity to learn about human trafficking through a highly acclaimed film and from an expert in the field.
Again, I look forward to hearing from you. I hope to see VA SMS grow into an organization that can make a difference in ending modern day slavery in our lifetime. Julie Keany
We are an all-volunteer, grassroots community group raising awareness and taking action to end human trafficking not only in the state of Virginia, but around the world. We learned that slavery was abolished in our country in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to our constitution, and around the globe by the turn of the 20th century. Sadly, slavery is not only alive, but thriving in our world today including our own neighborhoods. Human trafficking is the term used today to describe the modern day slave trade, it is a lucrative enterprise of buying and selling human beings. It is the second largest criminal industry in the world, and yields over $35-45 billion annually to those involved. Trafficking today far exceeds the transatlantic slave trade that ended over two centuries ago.
It is estimated that over 27 million people live in slavery throughout the world today. These victims are men, women, and children who are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Labor trafficking is widespread and can be in the form of domestic servitude to labor operations in agriculture, contruction, nail salons, sweatshops, and multinational corporations. Sex trafficking is the most lucrative form of human trafficking and includes prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children. Under international law, any sexually exploited child is considered a trafficking victim, even if no force or coercion is present. An estimated 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked annually in the United States alone and the number of US citizens trafficked within the country is even higher. An estimated 200,000 American children are at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry each year.
Come join us and become a modern day abolitionist to make a stand against slavery in our world today. You can learn how to recognize human trafficking victims, how the decisions you make in where you shop and what you buy can affect the slave market, and how to influence our local, state, and national government to make tougher laws and higher penalties for those caught in the business of buying and selling human beings.