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Program calls attention to human trafficking

By Staff | Oct 29, 2010

An organization formed four years ago to help bring awareness to the community about human trafficking is hosting sessions to bring awareness to teenage girls.
Executive Director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. Nola Theiss said she began the organization in 2004 after a number of women got together on Sanibel and wanted to learn more about human trafficking. She later began a task force after a victim was discovered from Cape Coral. The girl was 11 years old when she became a victim of human trafficking, which took place for a year and a half.
Theiss said after the young girl received the help she needed, an interest in moving forward formed within the group to help other victims of human trafficking.
“We wanted to bring community awareness,” she said.
Julie Shematz, who has overcome a human trafficking situation and who is the CEO and founder of Beauty from Ashes, said human trafficking is taking place within the United States through “domestic” trafficking.
“They are our natural-born citizens… they are our people,” she said.
Shematz said she began her organization in 2005 because she wanted to help facilitate the resources needed to help girls and women get out of their situations. Often times, when victims are found, no one knows what to do with them, or how to provide them with the correct long term care.
She fled three times to get away from the human trafficking situation she found herself a part of when she was between the ages of 31 to 38.
“Victims of human trafficking are vulnerable because they want to be loved,” Shematz said. “You want to make the best out of what you got.”
Shematz said Florida is ranked No. 2 behind Texas as the most human trafficking states. California is ranked third and Ohio is the fourth highest state for human trafficking.
An average of 100,000 to 300,000 girls between the ages of 11 to 14 are approached and fall into human trafficking every year in the United States. Women consist of 80 percent of human trafficking and 50 percent are children. Once a minor is involved in human trafficking they have an average life expectancy of four years due to them being forced to serve between 100 to 1,500 clients a year.
“Money is usually why you do it,” Theiss said. “Big profit and low risk.”
Once Theiss found out how many children were affected by human trafficking in the United States, she introduced a program that brings art and awareness to local girls.
Ten girls participated in the four-week community information program that ended Thursday night in North Fort Myers.
One, 14-year-old Ellana Terrill, said she thought it was very interesting because it provided a good amount of information about the subject.
“It is a lot more common than we think,” she said. “It really is a shock of how quickly it can happen.”
The class, she said had a good mixture of backgrounds, age and perceptions that encouraged everyone to share their ideas and participate in discussions.
The four consecutive weekly meetings taught the girls to how to identify the various signs of human trafficking.
Some include children coming to school with material items, not showing up to school on a regular basis, enrolling in school in the middle of the year and leaving a few months later.
Genelle Grant also has began working with women and young girls on how to share their human trafficking stories through painting their feelings on canvas. She has worked with human trafficking survivors for two years.
“It helps them to get it (their feelings) to the exterior,” she said. “They can tell the world unanimously.”
Grant introduced the art concept to the teens taking part in the seminars as a way to let them share what they learned to help educate others.
She believes the painting had a huge impact on the girls because they are educated through the process as well.
“You breathe, sleep and eat it because the painting doesn’t leave you until you are done,” Grant said.
The girls spent four weeks working on a large canvas painting. Terrill said she came up with the idea of “In a Blink of an Eye,” which sheds some light on how quickly a young girl can be a victim. The picture also depicted a silhouette of a young girl in the middle of the painting laying down in a fetal position, crying, scared and trying to protect herself, along with dollar bills scattered on the exterior of the canvas.
“It’s intense,” Terrill said.
Organizer Beth Trent said the girls each received a $50 stipend for their artwork because it is important to show they are valued for their work.
The girls painted four canvas pictures that will be featured at the Alliance of the Arts on Jan. 20. The next four-week human trafficking session has been tentatively set for February.
On Thursday, Nov. 4, Shematz will provide a voices and faces of human trafficking presentation at Florida Gulf Coast University from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Reed Hall.
For more information about human trafficking visit www.humantraffickingawareness.org or www.beautyfromashes.org.

Program calls attention to human trafficking

By Staff | Oct 29, 2010

An organization formed four years ago to help bring awareness to the community about human trafficking is hosting sessions to bring awareness to teenage girls.
Executive Director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. Nola Theiss said she began the organization in 2004 after a number of women got together on Sanibel and wanted to learn more about human trafficking. She later began a task force after a victim was discovered from Cape Coral. The girl was 11 years old when she became a victim of human trafficking, which took place for a year and a half.
Theiss said after the young girl received the help she needed, an interest in moving forward formed within the group to help other victims of human trafficking.
“We wanted to bring community awareness,” she said.
Julie Shematz, who has overcome a human trafficking situation and who is the CEO and founder of Beauty from Ashes, said human trafficking is taking place within the United States through “domestic” trafficking.
“They are our natural-born citizens… they are our people,” she said.
Shematz said she began her organization in 2005 because she wanted to help facilitate the resources needed to help girls and women get out of their situations. Often times, when victims are found, no one knows what to do with them, or how to provide them with the correct long term care.
She fled three times to get away from the human trafficking situation she found herself a part of when she was between the ages of 31 to 38.
“Victims of human trafficking are vulnerable because they want to be loved,” Shematz said. “You want to make the best out of what you got.”
Shematz said Florida is ranked No. 2 behind Texas as the most human trafficking states. California is ranked third and Ohio is the fourth highest state for human trafficking.
An average of 100,000 to 300,000 girls between the ages of 11 to 14 are approached and fall into human trafficking every year in the United States. Women consist of 80 percent of human trafficking and 50 percent are children. Once a minor is involved in human trafficking they have an average life expectancy of four years due to them being forced to serve between 100 to 1,500 clients a year.
“Money is usually why you do it,” Theiss said. “Big profit and low risk.”
Once Theiss found out how many children were affected by human trafficking in the United States, she introduced a program that brought art and awareness to local girls.
Ellana Terrill was one of 10 girls who participated in the four-week information session that ended Thursday night in North Fort Myers. The 14-year-old said she thought it was very interesting because it provided a good amount of information about the subject.
“It is a lot more common than we think,” she said. “It really is a shock of how quickly it can happen.”
The class, Terrill said had a good mixture of backgrounds, age and perceptions that encouraged everyone to share their ideas and participate in discussions.
The four consecutive weekly meetings taught the girls to watch for the various signs of human trafficking.
Some of the signs that stuck with Terrill are children coming to school with material items, not showing up to school on a regular basis, enrolling in school in the middle of the year and leaving a few months later.
“We can teach the girls to sense when danger is coming because if they know what to look for they won’t fall in the trap,” Theiss said.
Genelle Grant began working with women and young girls on how to share their human trafficking stories through painting their feelings on canvas. She has worked with human trafficking survivors for two years.
“It helps them to get it (their feelings) to the exterior,” she said. “They can tell the world unanimously.”
Grant introduced it to teenage girls to educate others about human trafficking. She believes the painting has a huge impact on the girls because they are educated through the process.
“You breathe, sleep and eat it because the painting doesn’t leave you until you are done,” Grant said.
The girls spent four weeks working on a large canvas painting. Terrill said she came up with the idea of “In a Blink of an Eye,” which sheds some light on how quickly a young girl can be a victim. The picture also depicted a silhouette of a young girl in the middle of the painting laying down in a fetal position, crying, scared and trying to protect herself, along with dollar bills scattered on the exterior of the canvas.
“It’s intense,” Terrill said.
Organizer Beth Trent said the girls each received a $50 stipend for their artwork because it is important to show they are valued for their work.
The girls painted four canvas pictures that will be featured at the Alliance of the Arts on Jan. 20. The next four-week human trafficking session has been tentatively set for February.
On Thursday, Nov. 4, Shematz will provide a voices and faces of human trafficking presentation at Florida Gulf Coast University from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Reed Hall.
For more information about human trafficking visit www.humantraffickingawareness.org or www.beautyfromashes.org.