As we end our Independence Day celebrations, we at Spice For Life thought it would be appropriate to focus on a group of people who do not have any independence… people who are human trafficked. A very serious human issue, which was a prime motivation for creating Spice For Life. We are a spice store; however, we are a social enterprise, which means we give all our profits to nonprofits in the Cleveland area who are working to combat human trafficking. When people walk into our store and see the sign that states, “Profits donated to prevent human trafficking” or read those words on our website, they ask why? And our response is, “Did you know that Ohio has the 4th largest recorded cases of human trafficking in the U.S., and most cases are not reported? But what does that actually mean?
Human trafficking is a modern-day practice of slavery that involves involuntary servitude, exploiting people through commercial sex and forced labor for another person’s financial enrichment. Victims include children, women, and men of all ages and backgrounds, some of whom are U.S. citizens and others foreign born. With Ohio being geographically centrally located in the U.S. and having multiple interstate highways crisscrossing the state with truck stops, it unfortunately makes Ohio a perfect location for human trafficking. As the Ohio governor’s human trafficking task force says, “Human trafficking is Ohio’s tragic reality.”
So, what can we all do to help? Foremost, we need to become more educated and create more awareness about the problem. As the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking states, “Victims don't often self-identify because of fear, shame, or not understanding that what is happening to them is a crime. Each of us, therefore, has the potential to help identify a victim of trafficking if we understand the warning signs and report suspicious situations when we see them.” For information about warning signs, there are two organizations, with whom Spice For Life has been working, which provide stellar information, the Renee Jones Empowerment Center (www.rjecempower.org) and the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking (https://www.collabtoendht.org) .
So, with the conclusion of the Independence Day holiday, perhaps we can all put aside a little time to help raise awareness about human trafficking in our community.