Crossbridge hosts human trafficking forum

07/25/2014 3:40 AM

07/24/2014 2:40 PM

    Some startling facts about human trafficking were shared last Saturday at Crossbridge Church, 301 Westward Drive. Representatives of two organizations presented a hard-hitting program to enlighten and inform citizens about the scourge that affects countless women, young females and even young males.

    “The impetus of this workshop was an article I read in January about a man trafficking girls in one of the local hotels,” Pastor Sam Miranda said. “I’d had these workshops at our Pinecrest church and I thought the people of the Springs should be informed.”

    Miranda said the Miami area is among the top five in the nation for human trafficking and the exploitation of minors. That situation is partially attributed to the fact that Miami is a port city.

    “I invited a representative for SOL, which is an acronym for Sharing One Love, and Kristi House, a nonprofit organization that provides services for abused children and other victims of sex trafficking,” said Miranda.

    The program was presented by Maria Clara Rodriguez, project director for Kristi House’s Project Gold (Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams).

    “We want to educate people on the situation, how it happens and what can be done about it,” Rodriguez said. “We encourage people to get involved and help us.”

    Bethany Brimer is the program director for Life of Freedom, which is a project of SOL Media, with a goal of sharing information through the Internet and personal contact.

    “Life of Freedom provides restorative service from mentoring to boutiques and pantries to meet the immediate needs of victims from ages 12 to 24 in Miami-Dade County,” said Brimer.

    Brimer said her organization receives a lot of referrals from the State Attorney’s Office, various police departments and other agencies.

    “We’re the only organization in the county that serves adult victims,” Brimer said. “Our goal is to generate a huge movement and get various churches involved. That’s why we do regular presentations at churches to raise awareness.”

    To become educated on the human trafficking problem and get involved, Brimer said there are free online courses and information at sharingonelove.org.

    “So many people in Dade County are unaware of the problem,” Brimer said. “However, we provide countless ways for people to get involved. We welcome them.”

    Resident and longtime Crossbridge Church member Kalya Safreed introduced the program.

    “We wanted this program because the problem also impacts Miami Springs,” Safreed said. “The presenters will bring more awareness of sex trafficking, what the organizations are doing to address the problem and bring justice to the crime. Everything starts with awareness.” 

    “Kristi House was founded 17 years ago and named after a young, pregnant victim of sex trafficking,” Rodriguez said. “At the time there was no safe place for her and children like her. Kristi House was founded to provide help, investigation and prosecution of those involved in sex trafficking.

    “Most people assume that the girls want to do what they are doing, but that’s not true. They just need a means of getting out of the life.

    “We’re talking about children. They do not prostitute themselves by choice. They are sexually exploited. They’re victims.”

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