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HTAP achieves Platinum Level status

By Staff | Jul 12, 2017

Human Trafficking Awareness Partnership empowers youngsters to share their interpretation of human trafficking through a canvas painting during ARTREACH, a program the organization provides. MEGHAN MCCOY

Human Trafficking Awareness Partnership recently achieved Platinum Level through GuideStar, a public charity that provides information about nonprofit organizations to help individuals learn more about a specific group.

According to GuideStar they “provide as much information as we can about each nonprofit’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and so much more.”

There are four levels an organization can achieve, with platinum being the highest.

The bronze level focuses on basic information about the organization. The silver level displays quantitative information, which includes financial needs. The gold level shares the organization’s impact through qualitative information and the platinum level showcases how the organization measures their progress through quantitative program results.

Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. Executive Director Nola Theiss said they were at the gold level for a long time, which motivated them to reach for the next level. She said their latest achievement showed how many people they have reached, as well as how many kids grasped what they learned and used that knowledge to motivate others.

One of the metric systems HTAP used was a survey given to the kids at the beginning of an ARTREACH program, as well as at the end. Theiss said the survey asks the same questions, so they can see the growth after the 10 hours.

“We are trying to be attentive of keeping our statistics up-to-date,” she said.

Theiss said they have a mission that is clear, to educate and empower people to prevent a child from becoming a victim of human trafficking. She said preventing the crime is the better approach because once a victim gets into the “terrible fix” it’s harder for them to heal.

“Prevention makes much more sense,” Theiss said.

One of the prevention measures HTAP takes is through their ARTREACH program, a 10-hour program that takes place over five days. The first ARTREACH program was conducted in 2010. Since then more than 150 paintings have been created by youth.

In 2010 45 youth attended an ARTREACH program; 2011 there were 39 youth; 2012 attracted 115 youth; 155 youth attended in 2013; 163 youth in 2014; in 2015 178 youth attended and last year 206 attended.

“The first year we did two programs. We stayed at three or four (programs) for three years,” Theiss said, adding that the program started “booming” in 2015.

Now HTAP averages 10 programs a year.

The program is offered for youth 9 to 12 years old, as well as for 13 to 16 years old.

The first day of the program is complete with a presentation informing the youth about human trafficking. From there the participants start coming up with ideas for their painted canvas, depicting their interpretation of human trafficking.

Theiss said from the beginning they ask the youth to identify themselves as a painter, thinker, writer or photographer, so they can be split into separate groups.

“The painter has to tell a story. The writer has to think of what they are going to say,” she said. “They have to identify and fulfill it.”

By the second day, the attendee’s ideas are sketched on a piece of paper before they are transferred on a canvas and painted. The third to fifth day, the bulk of the two hours during the program is spent painting.

“When looking at the art, you are looking inside of their head,” Theiss said.

Once the paintings are completed, they are processed by HTAP staff and hung with a number and description of the painting, an interpretation of the kids thoughts.

This summer, Theiss said they will reach more than 200 kids through the program.

Since they cannot predict how many programs are needed every year, she said the Pay It Forward concept was introduced to the community after a donor came forward. Those interested in contributing funds to Pay It Forward can email info@humantraffickingawareness.org.

The fund will help HTAP pay for such areas as the ARTREACH program. Since there is a cost to providing the program, and some groups share an interest in having ARTREACH after deadline passes, the fund will give HTAP the opportunity to offer that for the interested group.

There are currently 12 paintings on display at the BIG ARTS Founder’s Gallery through the end of July. She said they have a big push to exhibit the paintings because they have a responsibility to teach others about human trafficking.

“Having them on display is crucial,” Theiss said of the paintings.

Anyone interested in displaying the canvas, can reach Theiss at (239) 415-2635.

Staff are always looking for new ways to educate the community about human trafficking, which recently ignited a new idea, publishing a 64 page book complete with an introduction, pictures of the paintings and youth, as well as descriptions. Theiss said two donors came forward to fund the project, so they will be able to print 1,000 copies.

“We are hoping to have it done by early fall,” she said, adding that they hope to make the books available at doctor’s offices.

Another idea surfaced for the Dunbar area to enrich the lives of women and young girls. Theiss said they want to build a bridge between women and girls because often times the women have already lived through what the girl is struggling with.

“We know we want to do it and start it in October,” she said, adding the program is another way to Pay It Forward.

Unfortunately the program cannot go forward without funding.

For more information about Human Trafficking Awareness Partnership, visit humantraffickingawareness.org.