Event seeks to raise awareness, stop human trafficking in the Triad

Jul. 28, 2014 @ 05:23 PM

Forced to work as a teenage prostitute, Chong Kim was trafficked for more than five years. A man who posed as her boyfriend sold her into sex trafficking after taking her from her home in Texas. She was held captive and taken across the U.S, making stops in Raleigh and Greensboro.
Brothels, farms, restaurants and factories are just a few places where human trafficking can be found, not just internationally, but right here at home. In a trade that produces an annual revenue of about $32 billion, there are more than 100,000 children who are forced into prostitution or pornography in the U.S.
According to World Relief High Point, a nonprofit that provides international relief and development, North Carolina ranks 8th in the country for the highest human trafficking rates.
And they seek to put an end to what they call the second most profitable criminal activity in the world and advance anti-trafficking efforts. On Aug. 9, the organization will host its third annual “Stand for Freedom” gala at The Lofts at Union Square located at 410 English Road. Kim, whose story inspired the 2012 movie “Eden” and written about in the book “Not in My Town: Exposing and Ending Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery,” will be the guest speaker. She is now an anti-human trafficking activist and will share her story at the gala.
In a semi-formal evening of hors d'oeuvres, live music performances and speakers who will share the personal human-trafficking experiences of survivors, the fund-raising event is aimed at spreading awareness of local human trafficking along with raising money to meet the growing needs of World Relief High Point’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program. The program provides victim advocacy and aftercare to survivors of human trafficking in North Carolina.
“We provide emergency services for immediate needs like safe housing, food, clothing, medical care, different things like that,” said Joe McCann, church engagement, volunteer coordinator and advocate for World Relief High Point. “From there, once we’ve kind of gone through the emergency phase, it’s a matter of figuring out long term solutions and helping with rehabilitation.”
Along with finding long-term housing for survivors, the program also assists with navigating the legal system, counselling, job training and “just trying to bring choice back into their life as well.”
The most common scenario the organization deals with are victims who have been trafficked into the U.S. after being promised a job and good money by someone who sees that they’re struggling financially. They are told that they will be charged thousands of dollars in fees and that they can pay it once they arrive to the U.S.
However, once they arrive, they are told by their captor that there’s a problem. It’s going to cost more money than expected and they take them to a place very different than what they promised.
“They’ll say, ‘you need to work until you pay off your debt, you’re going to work 18 hours a day and there’s no complaining. We’re going to charge you a rent, we’re going to charge you for your food, and charge enormous interest,’” McCann said. “So there’s really actually no way the person can ever pay back the money. It’s debt bondage.”
One woman describes a similar experience, sharing her story on the World Relief High Point’s website.
“I was transported to Florida and one of the bosses told me I would be working in a brothel as a prostitute. I told him he was mistaken and that I was going to be working in a restaurant. He said I owed him a smuggling debt, and the sooner I paid it off the sooner I could leave. I was constantly guarded and abused,” she said on the organization’s website. She was freed when police busted the illegal brothel.
“We really want to help people understand that this an issue here,” McCann said. “So a lot of what we’re going to do is really going to help people understand that human trafficking is happening in the United States, human trafficking is happening in North Carolina, it’s happening in the Triad, and really bring it home. Because that’s where it is, and we know it is because we’re serving the people who have been exploited and we know that we’re only serving a very small percentage of those who are currently being exploited.”

Stand For Freedom Gala
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 9
Where: The Lofts at Union Square, 410 English Road
Cost: $20
To purchase tickets visit www.worldreliefhighpoint.org, email jmccann@wr.org or call 887-9007