By Sara Jayne Breuer
On Sunday January 24th my team and I visited 4 businesses to fight human trafficking by providing a resource to potential victims. Driven by purpose and supported by spontaneous friendship, I had one of my most meaningful experiences that night.
I firmly believe human trafficking to be one of the greatest humanitarian crises facing our world today, and it’s an issue that disproportionately affects women, especially here in the United States. Women are forced, tricked, or coerced into situations where they are trapped. They become victims of physical, psychological, and sexual violence, with little hope of escape, much less a happy life. The issue is unbelievably widespread, and difficult to solve. NCJW/LA’s Human Trafficking Outreach Project (HTOP) has allowed volunteers to grapple with this problem, and potentially rescue someone who is enslaved by spreading information about a hotline number they can call for help.
The HTOP team put together an extraordinary event, bringing together many people from all over Los Angeles for one big night of canvassing. It was incredible just being in the room with people from different religions, races, ages, and backgrounds. I commend the team at NCJW/LA for bringing such diverse people together for one of the most important causes. Some refresher training and the moving story of a former slave emboldened us to take to the streets to enforce SB1193, a law that requires certain businesses to put up a poster with hotline information for potential victims as well as survivors.
I was extremely lucky to have the team I had. Bre is an incredible girl- although it was her first time canvassing with NCJW/LA she has canvassed with other worthy causes. Rudy is a standout volunteer from my job whom I tapped at the last minute to help us. Both of them were not only enthusiastic about the work we were doing, but incredible people with whom I became fast friends and learned from. Rudy was the only one who lived in the area we were canvassing, and despite the fact that this evening was his first experience with the HTOP campaign, he volunteered to take us to each destination.
While driving, we learned about each other’s lives, experiences, passions, and struggles. We were brought together by a need to help others, and we felt bonded despite the short time we had known each other. As we visited each hospital or bar, the strength of our camaraderie allowed us to interact with our targets with positivity and honesty. When we came to employees and owners, we walked in with a smile and expressed how important these posters are, as well as their legal obligation to post them. In every place we visited, we received a positive reaction in return, with the business owners who agreed to see us at the late hour promising that the posters would be put up.
By the end of the evening, we felt incredibly energized by each other. All of us work and volunteer in different areas to try to improve lives, but we all felt especially passionate about fighting human trafficking. We exchanged our information and agreed to help each other moving forward with our own causes, as well as with the Human Trafficking Outreach Project. This coming Saturday, I will work with Bre to advocate for the LGBT community, next week I am working with Rudy to help protect people from home fires, and we will meet again soon to finish what we started in Council District 7.
I would like to thank Maya Paley and the team at NCJW/LA for the incredible work they do for women, children, families, and vulnerable people in and around Los Angeles. Their work has improved and saved lives, and brought together people from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and make our world a better place.
Sara Jayne Breuer is a Preparedness Specialist with the American Red Cross, Los Angeles Region and volunteers with organizations supporting LGBT rights, women, children, and animals.