Tackling human trafficking through the classroom

WORKSHOP CALLED 'MY SISTER'S KEEPER'.... A PROGRAM SPONSORED BY THE TWIN RIVERS CHAPTER OF THE LINKS INCORPORATED --- INTRODUCING YOUNG GIRLS TO SURVIVORS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING.
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A central Ohio organization is on a mission to protect young girls from human trafficking.

According to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit that tracks trafficking in the U.S. and abroad, nearly 400 cases of human trafficking were reported in Ohio in 2016. One in 4 of those cases involved a juvenile.

“The average age, they say, for trafficking is 12 to 14, believe it or not,” said Jakki Allen, co-chair of the National Trends and Services Facet for the Twin Rivers Chapter of the Links, Incorporated. The Links is one of the largest and oldest volunteer service organizations in the nation. Nationally, the organization consists of 16,000 members who are professional women of color.

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The chapter began offering a human trafficking program for middle and high school girls five years ago. The 4-hour workshop is called “My Sister’s Keeper: Breaking the Chains of Human Trafficking”. Students hear unfiltered testimonies from women who were once trafficked.

“They might have been in for 20 to 25 years without a way to get out,” said Allen.

This week, “My Sister’s Keeper” was taken to Africentric Early College where 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grade students were introduced to human trafficking survivors, given tips on things to look out for and ways to protect themselves.

“We don't look at it as we're going to get sex trafficked,” said Mikea Truss, a 10th grader. “We look at it as -- this boy is texting me and he's cute. But, we don't actually look at what can happen to us. We're just having fun right now.”

The speakers are raw and give a real account of how they were trafficked, and the emotional and physical toll it took on their lives.

“We have been in schools where young ladies have cried and come to us and said ‘my step dad is doing this to me’ or ‘I have a friend whose cousin who is doing this to her,” said Joan Woodard, co-chair and founder of the program. “So, we try to provide counseling or counselors at the school and give them resources on where they can go.”

“My Sister’s Keeper” has been offered in 10 Columbus schools and reached about 3,000 girls. Each student is given a backpack filled with information and resources to contact if they are in need.