I learned about the sex trafficking of minors in the United States while serving as an active duty military officer. I was heartbroken to learn that while I was serving my county, supporting peacetime and wartime operations overseas, another war was raging at home. The casualties – countless American children. Every day, American children are manipulated, groomed, and exploited, often while they are in the confines of where they feel the safest. Like so many others I have since encountered, I was aware of human trafficking overseas but completely naive to what was happening right in front of me within the borders of my own country. Anger, sadness, hopelessness, and even fear were some of the emotions that attacked my mind. So, what do I do now? What do I do with these profound emotions? How can I take all this raw emotion and put it somewhere that can make a difference? Who am I to think I can do anything anyway; this feels like it will crush me?
It starts with me and my sphere of influence. As I wrestled with my emotions, I realized that pretending the sex trafficking of American children was not happening was not an option. I had fought for so many other things in my life, if I was not willing to fight for our children, what was the point? I also quickly learned that I was certainly not alone in my hunger for education, restoration, and justice. Organizations, like Shared Hope International, are attacking this atrocity with a holistic approach that includes providing the support volunteers need to make a difference in their communities. As an Ambassador of Hope you are not alone. You are part of a bigger team and the tools and support are there to empower you to bring the fight to your own community.
For more information on becoming an Ambassador of Hope, visit: https://sharedhope.org/aoh/
Now you have the tools, but what do you do with them? Start small! For me, my fight began with carrying flyers in my bag. If I had the opportunity to talk to someone about sex trafficking, I had a flyer for them with more information. The lady in the grocery line, the girl working the register in my favorite clothing store, and even my doctor. A flyer for all of them. As I learned more, and became more confident, my timid beginning handing out flyers evolved into opportunities to provide training to military members, churches, and middle/high schools. I have had the opportunity to mentor high school students and set up educational tables. While stationed in Hawaii, I was able to volunteer with a phenomenal organization, Ho`ōla Nā Pua, a nonprofit located on Oahu committed to the prevention of child sex trafficking and providing care for children who have been exploited. It was through this organization that I discovered Shared Hope International. These two organizations changed my life in a profound way, and I will never stop fighting for our children.
My life has evolved and so has my sphere of influence. It is smaller, at least for now. I am no longer an active duty military officer but a stay at home mom with two young boys! Turns out being a parent really is the hardest job! I find myself having to start small again and slowly the doors are beginning to crack open. That’s okay. Life changes and the way we are able to fight, as individuals, changes too. Instead of providing training for a room packed full of active duty military members, now I might be having an intimate conversation with fellow members of a mom’s club. It can be difficult for me to lead training and participate in education events, but I can build presentations and send emails. That’s my sphere for now and I am learning to be okay with that. While my sphere has changed, perhaps the biggest change is the why I am committed to fighting sex trafficking. Having children of my own has brought the reality of what we are fighting against home in an even more powerful way. When I look at my sweet babies’ faces, I know there are people out there who would exploit and abuse them, and frankly, it brings me to my knees. But in that fear, I find the strength to keep supporting Shared Hope International and their commitment to “Invade the Darkness.” In the end, the fight starts with me and my commitment to fight within whatever sphere of influence I find myself.
Together we save lives!