Starting at home

A Kiwanis club makes huge efforts to combat human trafficking on its own turf.

Story by Wendy Rose Gould

Human trafficking is a widely under-reported crime given its nature — mental manipulation, threats, violence and unresolved disappearances — but the U.S. Department of State estimates more than 25 million victims are affected globally each year. Though the issue of human trafficking may feel far from home, the truth is that it can happen anywhere.

With the realization that even their home turf was affected by human trafficking, members of the Kiwanis Club of Port Huron, Michigan, set out to educate and raise awareness. In fact, the topic became the club’s primary focus beginning in late 2017. Since then, members have partnered with the Michigan Abolitionist Project to develop informational materials, created a website to help spread information and formed speaking teams that host free seminars at schools, churches and other organizations. 

Looking Away

“Our ultimate goal is to get human trafficking out of our community, which involves making the community aware of what it looks like so they can report it and making kids aware of how to stay out of it and stop the demand,” says club President Rick Collins. “All that requires a lot of community involvement and education, which is the most powerful tool to fight with.”

Of course, it takes a village to equip communities with the power of knowledge. The club works closely with city and state law enforcement, as well as area groups that share a concern for childhood safety. Key among those is MAP, which has worked closely with the Kiwanians since the endeavor’s beginning.

“Our partnership is rooted in our shared concern to protect and enrich our community, especially our children and youth,” says Kathy Maitland, MAP’s executive director. “MAP provides experience in pulling together educational events and our influence in the anti-trafficking movement, and Kiwanis provides their experience and influence in the community. We continue to look for more opportunities to use our partnership as a means to reach more people, to increase our effectiveness and to continue to make an impact in Michigan.”

Looking forward, the club plans to build upon the momentum it has created and hopes to inspire other regions to tackle the issue.

This story originally appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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