The Simi Valley Acorn Newspaper article below is a summary of how Sharon Porter got started and how each person can make a difference.
Child trafficking awareness event Jan. 11
The local P TA is sponsoring an event next month aimed at teaching how to identify, prevent and ultimately end child trafficking.
Set for Tues., Jan. 11, the antichild trafficking awareness event is open to and appropriate for students in sixth grade and up as well as adults. Royal High School will be the host. Sponsored by the Simi Valley PTA/PTSA Council, the event is the first of its kind, said chairperson Sharon Porter.
“This is the first ever of anything like this being done in a public school, so Simi Valley is the initiator of hopefully a movement that will begin,” said Porter, president of Vista Elementary PTA. “We’re going to be inviting neighboring school districts to come to . . . get an idea of what they can take home and do in the future.”
Often referred to as modernday slavery, child trafficking removes children from their home or family and transports them elsewhere to be put to use by others for labor, sexual and other forms of exploitation.
Trafficking is a concern in California because of its international border, harbors, airports and large immigrant population, Porter said. And because of the Internet, it is easier for children to fall into dangerous situations that can lead to trafficking, she said.
The PTA’s focus on child trafficking began last year.
In June 2009, the National PTA adopted a resolution supporting laws that will deter all aspects of child trafficking, including the recruitment, transportation or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation.
The association also resolved to advocate for victims’ rights and provide measures for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of child trafficking.
In addition, the National PTA called for its members as well as policy makers, school groups and community organizations to raise awareness and to address the conditions and situations that contribute to child trafficking.
As a result, the California State PTA at its convention this past May adopted a similar resolution, this time aimed at awareness, which was proposed by Simi Valley’s own Vista Elementary PTA.
After years of attending the state conference and seeing how one person can make a difference, Porter took on the task of crafting the resolution.
“When the topic of child trafficking came up, I thought, ‘Wow, that would be something that people don’t know about,” Porter said. “People in California don’t realize this happens in our state and it’s really a prolific issue.”
Porter’s resolution called for local PTAs, councils and districts to promote programs that increase awareness of the prevalence of child trafficking in California and to educate those responsible for the welfare of children on ways to identify, prevent and stop the practice.
January’s event is a step toward accomplishing that goal.
“If one of my children was subjected to this kind of treatment, even for five minutes, I would fight,” said Porter, a mother of four. “I would fight to protect my children from having their innocence and their whole life ruined. We as moms need to be aware that this is going on and not be naïve.”
According to UNICEF, as many as 1.2 million children globally are trafficked for both cheap labor and sexual abuse each year.
The U.S. is not immune, serving as both a source and destination country for human trafficking. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 American children are victims of commercial sexual trafficking and prostitution each year.
Porter said the event was scheduled for Jan. 11 because that day had already been designated National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Also, President Barack Obama designated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The event will include guest speakers from Project Exodus, a Los Angeles-based Christian organization that trains community members to actively participate in the fight against slavery.
In addition, there will be representatives from International Crisis Aid, the International Justice Mission, Forever Found, Cans 4 Kids, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Children of the Night and the Somaly Mam Foundation. Local law enforcement officials will be on hand, too.
An opportunity drawing will be held courtesy of The Body Shop, and pizza, bake sale items and water will be available for purchase.
The Jan. 11 event is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Royal High School MPR at 1402 Royal Ave.