Human Trafficking Survivors, Advocacy Groups Walk to Raise Awareness

By Yvee Tadeo Guevara
Published on January 14, 2014 in Balitang America

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Various organizations, students, and concerned citizens came together in the streets of Los Angeles and joined the Walk 4 Freedom to kick off National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Los Angeles is home to over 600,000 Filipinos, and is known as one of the top three points of entry for human trafficking the United States.

“We all want to work to raise awareness because each of us as human beings has a responsibility to end this,” Kathleen Bryant of Religious Sisters of Charity said. “It should be in the trash bins of history.”

Participants walked a two-mile route and distributed brochures and flyers of different languages containing information on human trafficking—the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

“The more we can talk about it freely and talk about ways the community can get involved, more victims are going to be rescued,” Kay Buck of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Human Trafficking said. “That’s why events like today are so important.”

Walk 4 Freedom, which began seven years ago targets a different neighborhood each year.

Buck adds that through the years their caseload has doubled—about 20 percent of the cases involve a Filipino victim.

“If anyone has witnessed or has a hunch that human trafficking is happening, they have to notify the right authorities,” JR Lee, a Walk 4 Freedom participant, said.

Traffic survivors were there not just to support but also to inspire others with their story.

“Right now I am working as a CNA,” human trafficking survivor Angela Guanzon said. “I got my green card. I can go home, visit my family. I’m free. I can do whatever I want.”

Guanzon who hails from Bacolod City, was trafficked in 2005. For two-and-a-half years, she worked as a caregiver working 18 hours, seven days a week, sleeping on the floor in the hallway, and eating table scraps until a neighbor notified the FBI.

“Here in the United States everyone has rights,” Guanzon said. “Fight for your rights.”

“Don’t give up,” another trafficking survivor, Ima Matul, added. “There is still hope and there is help out there.”

For many here, coming together, raising awareness that trafficking still exist and giving hope to all the victims, it is important and crucial step to ending modern day slavery.

For more information, to report a suspicious activity, or for help, contact the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.