Runners take off at the start of a Break Free Run. This year’s event takes place Oct. 7 in Folsom. Courtesy photo

News

3Strands aims to ‘turn ship’ on human trafficking

By From page A1 | September 27, 2017

When an El Dorado Hills teenager was taken from Safeway in 2008 and sold for sex on Craigslist for eight days before being rescued by the FBI, 15 local mothers created a non-profit to show that human trafficking doesn’t just happen abroad; it’s a crime that occurs in every region of the United States.

The eighth annual Break Free Run in Folsom will take place on Oct. 7, with proceeds benefiting the non-profit 3Strands Global Foundation.

3Strands Global was established to combat human trafficking through education, reintegration and engagement initiatives. Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry annually and in the United States alone a $9.8 billion industry, according to the International Labor Organization. In the United States approximately 200,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the country each year.

Three initiatives
Besides public engagement initiatives, including the annual run, 3Strands Global Foundation includes sustainable employment opportunities for survivors of human trafficking and those most at-risk. Hundreds of young women in Cambodia, Haiti and Nepal who are either survivors of human trafficking or at high risk because of their poverty level make bracelets, which are sold in Apricot Lane stores and online at 3sgf.org. Be sure to enter referral code “3” at check-out so that 50 percent of proceeds go back to the non-profit.

3Strands has also recently partnered with non-profit Juma Ventures and the Sacramento Kings to create a reintegration program, which employs human trafficking survivors and at-risk youth in the greater Sacramento region and Bay Area.

A cornerstone of 3Strands Global is its education component, which 100 percent of this year’s race proceeds will benefit. Co-founder and president of the 3Strands Global Foundation and El Dorado Hills mother Ashlie Bryant and a volunteer team first began talking with students about how to keep themselves safe from being victims of human trafficking, as well as how not to be perpetrators in it, by visiting health classes at Oak Ridge High School in 2011. By 2015 certified education trainers, including Bryant, had reached more than 10,000 students in middle school, high school and college across 13 California counties.

“By late 2014 we were asked by the attorney general to create a scalable and systematic program for the state of California,” Bryant said. They created PROTECT (Prevention Organized To Educate Children on Trafficking), a program that works with county stakeholders, including the sheriff’s departments and offices of education, to have protocols in place if (a human trafficking situation) is identified.

“PROTECT’s mission is to increase the protective factors of our youth, including social and physical boundaries, as well as reducing the vulnerability of our youth so that they are not exploited,” Bryant explained. “The program empowers them to listen to that small voice, because the realities of human trafficking are everywhere.”

There are 6.2 million students in California’s public schools, far more than one volunteer education team can visit. “We now train teachers because we can’t clone that many volunteer educators,” Bryant said. Teachers log in and are trained in Human Trafficking 101, 102 and 103, which covers overview, trauma and protocol. The curriculum aligns to state standards and is meant to be weaved in where a teacher sees a good fit.

“It’s not meant to be a burden to teachers, but to give breadth and depth to their curriculum,” Bryant continued.

PROTECT is currently offered at most area high schools, including Oak Ridge, Ponderosa and Union Mine and it is currently being rolled out at El Dorado High School.

“I can’t say enough about the El Dorado and Sacramento county leadership, including law enforcement, DAs, judges and probation directors,” Bryant said. “Protocols have been set.”

Bryant said the goal is to have the PROTECT program in all 35 rural California counties by 2019 and it looks like it may reach more California school children than that. Assembly Bill 1227 mandates PROTECT training for teachers and education for students. “It passed the state Senate and state Assembly unanimously,” she continued. “It just has to be signed by the governor.”

State leaders from Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Arizona have all inquired about getting the PROTECT program in their states as well, Bryant said.

“From that little non-profit that started in 2010, it’s mind boggling,” she added.

Making a difference
Bryant said she has seen the difference that human trafficking education has made. Most recently two children at Sacramento Airport were rescued by TSA agents, “agents who recognized trafficking signs and stopped it,” to “a recent sting operation that spanned to Folsom where 39 buyers were nabbed.”

People do themselves a disservice when they say, ‘That would never happen to my kid,’ Bryant added. “We know it happens in our town. It’s not just an El Dorado Hills issue —it’s just as much a problem in any other city in the state. Still, there is a pride that our work started in El Dorado Hills. We are an example to the rest of the state of California for how to make a change. If we can help this generation see what human trafficking is, we can turn this ship around.”

For more information about the Break Free Run, to purchase bracelets and more visit 3sgf.org.

Julie Samrick

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