SANDY SPRINGS — A Rotary sponsored conference on human trafficking Saturday was given in Sandy Springs for high school age students.
Roughly 90 students from Interact clubs from several high schools took part in the daylong event.
Interact clubs are Rotary-sponsored high school student organizations that are involved in local and international service projects. Through their dedicated commitment to their schools and communities, their own and others, these clubs are given both national and international recognition. The students who were present at Saturday’s conference gave the presenters their full attention and were supportive of the Rotary’s decision to bring the problem of human trafficking to the public’s attention.
Sid Disher, the District 6900 chair of Interact for this area, was responsible for organizing the day’s agenda, arranging for the program’s speakers and registration of the participants for this conference. The speakers all gave powerful messages to individuals who knew little or nothing on the topic, but who definitely wanted to part of its solution.
Rotary has been one of the driving forces that have polio nearly eradicated worldwide. Although there is still a bit of work to do to reach that final goal, Rotary now can afford to direct attention to another worldwide atrocity, human trafficking.
Dave McCleary, past president of Roswell Rotary club, is spearheading this initiative to educate the youth of Georgia and how he is also working to make anti-human trafficking a focal point for Rotary International. Before the conference started McCleary spoke of the process that was needed to have Rotary International become officially involved in this program’s support.
“To be sanctioned by Rotary International an action committee must be established which has to be made up of 25 members from five different countries. We are working towards that goal now,” explained McCleary. “It is important to understand that human trafficking is a worldwide problem but it is also happening right here in Georgia,” he said.
Members of the Rotary are working with individuals from Street GRACE, an Atlanta based organization that is dedicated to eradicating the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), and the Georgia Department of Education to put together curricula that will increase teacher, parent and student awareness of this problem. Speakers from these organizations and A21, an international organization that is working against human trafficking here in America and in other countries, presented the students with facts and sound advice in a very well prepared and appropriate manner.
Joel Thornton, chief of staff for the Georgia Department of Education, gave the program’s introductory remarks to the students. He said, “this is not the best topic to be talking about but this topic must be talked about openly. It is important for you to know what it looks like, what it involves, how to stay safe and to protect your friends.”
KoForte-Sonubi, a representative of Street GRACE told the students that human trafficking is a billion dollar business. “Human trafficking brings in more money than the combined profits of McDonalds, Walmart and Google,” said Forte-Sonubi.
She also told the Interacters how children, mostly adolescent girls but boys also, are brought into the exploitation of human trafficking. She listed the Internet as being the most popular avenue that individuals are recruited.
Retired Atlanta judge and now lawyer, Bill Riley spoke on the exploitation of children and the Georgia law. He explained how committed he is to helping the young victims, he said, “I didn’t go out looking for a cause, I didn’t find a cause, the cause came to me.” Riley has been responsible for creating programs that help victims of CSEC in the Atlanta area.
The last speaker, before the students were divided into breakout sessions, was Kristin Morse, from the A21 Campaign. Morse spoke on “The Role of Students in Abolishing Injustice”.
“Education is needed to enable you, and give you the skills that you need, to make a difference with this issue. Success is not measured by how many clubs there are; success is measured by not having young boys and young girls involved in trafficking in and around Atlanta,” Morse said.
During each presentation, each speaker conveyed a similar message. The cycle of human trafficking, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, will only be broken by educating and making people more aware of the problem. The students were encouraged to go back to their schools and share with their peers what they have learned.
The Governor’s Office for Children and Families and the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy are presenting the Stewards of Children training program. Stewards of Children, is a prevention training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program is designed for organizations that serve youth and for individuals concerned about the safety of children.
This training program is being offered from 1p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, in the Fellowship hall at the First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange.
Registration is free and can be made online at georgiacenterforchildadvocacy.org/governor-stewards, by contacting Willa Boswell at email@example.com, or call (678) 904-2880 for more information.
Additional information may be found online at https:/www.streetgrace.org, https:/www.theA21campaign.org and georgiacenterforchildadvocacy.org.