Today there are an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide, more than there were back in the 1800s.
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This includes child laborers, sex slaves, domestic servants and forced laborers. In the United States the average age of a girl who enters the sex trade is 13 years old.
Human trafficking is even happening in the Sacramento region and the foothill communities. Because of its structure and the accessibility of major freeways in the area, Sacramento has been described as one of the worst cities in the nation for human trafficking.
Even the affluent communities of El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park and Shingle Springs are not immune to this problem.
Four years ago, Vicki Zito’s daughter was taken from the Safeway parking lot in El Dorado Hills. She was sex trafficked for eight days and was saved after a diligent FBI agent found her in an ad on Craig’s List.
In an effort to help prevent human trafficking, seniors Kelsey Nager and Jesslyn Lane, and the Do Something Club at Oak Ridge High School, are partnering with Run For Courage Inc., a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to help combat human trafficking, to host the third annual Trafficking Awareness and Self Defense Day event.
Started by Nager as her Girl Scout Gold Award project two years ago, this event is structured to inform the community about human trafficking and teach females how to protect themselves.
“After having 300 people attend last year’s event, it would be great if we could fill up the Oak Ridge gym this year,” said Nager.
This year the event will be on Saturday, April 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. in the Oak Ridge High School gym, 1120 Harvard Way in El Dorado Hills.
The first 1 ½ hours will be devoted to various speakers who will discuss prevention, awareness and how to get involved in combating human trafficking.
Leah, a rescued victim, will discuss the non-profit she started called Bridge’s Dream and highlight the risks teens face in becoming caught in this tragic crime.
Chris Stambaugh is the founder and director of The Grace Network, a faith-based anti-trafficking network that exists “to mobilize, train and assimilate passionate people into all spheres of the anti-trafficking fight, and to identify, share, and celebrate viable resources that meet the specific needs of exploited youth.”
He will speak about his experiences and how one can get involved in fighting human trafficking.
Lastly, Carol Webster, supervisory special agent of Sacramento Homeland Security Investigations, will speak about what human trafficking is and provide excerpts of an interview with a teenaged human trafficking victim from Sacramento and her mother.
The last 2 ½ hours will be for self defense instruction, taught by Gary Merlo from West Coast Martial Arts.
Merlo has more than 30 years of martial arts experience and is currently a fifth degree black belt.
Girls are strongly encouraged to participate in the self defense portion of this event (a waiver must be signed by a parent or legal guardian). Waivers can be picked up at the Oak Ridge High School Career Center or at the event.
The organizations encourage everyone to attend this important event. The information you collect will not only build your awareness of a growing problem and need right here in El Dorado County but could also save your life.
For more information about the event or to request a waiver for the self defense training session e-mail DoSomethingClubORHS@gmail.com or visit the ORHS Career Center.