Wonder Women—The Women's Group of the Greens

By Julie Lim

 

While I have yet to watch the summer blockbuster, Wonder Woman, I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of wonder women on July 14, 2017. Armed with a passion for education, dedication to children’s rights, and commitment to justice, The Women’s Group of the Greens stood against child slavery by supporting Y-ACT.

Just like the warriors of Themyscira, The Women’s Group of the Greens is a community of empowering women that have continuously devoted themselves to the welfare of communities and philanthropy. When Janai Smith, the Outreach Manager of ECPAT invited me to talk about my Y-ACT experience, I was not sure what to expect. The excited conversations between friends and a fuzzy warmth courtesy of the genuine exchange of “hellos” and “how are yous”, vanquished my nerves.

Being a proud and lucky graduate of an all women’s high school, I know what sisterhood and community look like, and the Women of the Greens definitely epitomized girl power.  I discussed how the Y-ACT program aims to educate young people and provide them the information and skills they need to become effective advocates in their communities. The women listened with rapt attention as I proceeded to explain how Y-ACT debunks myths that often surround human trafficking, while also giving teens the tools they need to ensure their safety in both the real and virtual world. Their commitment to ECPAT’s mission, specifically the Y-ACT program was evident, as members asked insightful questions and brainstormed ways to expand youth awareness, engagement, and leadership.

Surrounded by Wonder Woman themed centerpieces, I realized that despite the amazing reviews the film has gotten, I doubt that the movie experience will come close to the memorable opportunity of being surrounded by real-life wonder women. The help of The Women’s Group of the Greens will enable ECPAT to continue fostering awareness and leadership, as we aspire to educate, train, and support more young superheroes.

A Vacation With a Purpose: Fighting Trafficking in Thailand

Journalist Daniela Petrova joined ECPAT-USA in Thailand to experience our Advocacy Journey firsthand for the New York Times Travel section. “[U]nlike regular tourists,” she said, “we knew the hardships these women faced, and I left the village grateful that I had contributed — however minimally — to the work of Ecpat-USA and the Thai groups we had met. Months later, the smiles on the Akha women’s faces shine brighter in my memories of Thailand than its gilded temples.”

Read the full story at The New York Times .

HRS Encourages Business Travel Industry to Combat Child Trafficking

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On April 24th, during the travel industry conference, ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives), HRS Global Hotel Solutions launched a joint campaign to focus on how the travel industry can combat trafficking. This is the second consecutive year HRS used space at their trade show booth to shine a light on ECPAT-USA's work to create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex.

ECPAT-USA's executive director, Carol Smolenski, spoke on the main stage of ACTE, where she highlighted the growth of ECPAT-USA's partnerships with the travel industry since ACTE first got involved 4 years ago.

In the trade show portion of ACTE, HRS collected 200 business cards in a “card harvest” for ECPAT-USA.  Corporate travel industry members enthusiastically supported the campaign by “Giving up a Card for ECPAT,”  where conference attendees showed their support for ECPAT by posting their cards up for all attendees to see. HRS then made a donation of $1,000 that was presented directly to ECPAT’s executive director Carol Smolenski.

To learn more about ECPAT-USA's work with private sector engagement, click here.

Hotel Association of NYC Highlights Human Trafficking

ECPAT-USA was proud to present to the Hotel Association of New York City’s Security/ Safety Seminar on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The seminar, which was attended by over 80 travel professionals highlighted the important role of hotels employees in identify and reporting human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

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NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill and other top ranking officials from the New York City Police Department, the United States Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Department of Homeland Security and New York City Emergency Management were also in attendance.

ECPAT-USA’s director of private sector engagement, Michelle Guelbart, discussed recently introduced New York State legislation that will require hotels to train on the issue. “If the hospitality industry does not train on this issue, hotels will continue to remain an anonymous and risk-free location for traffickers to run their businesses,” Guelbart said. “We are happy HANYC continues to keep this issue on their agenda.”

The presentation gave an overview of the issue, went over the indicators of human trafficking and child exploitation for hotels, and outlined protocols for front-line employees and managers. Position specific indicators and tools were also made available to attendees.

To learn more about our work with private sector engagement, click here

Launch of ECPAT-USA Cause Vision Comic Book to Prevent Child Sex Trafficking

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Where Is Dylan? is an innovative new tool for preventing the sex trafficking of children in the form of an educational comic book. It was launched last week in New York City by ECPAT-USA in partnership with the Administration for Children’s ServicesCauseVision and JCCA. Fifteen thousand copies will be distributed to at-risk youth throughout the City.

The comic book focuses on the stories of two young people, a boy named Dylan and a girl named Ashley. It delivers a trafficking prevention message to them in a child-friendly format of pictures and simple vocabulary to capture their attention and make the material accessible to a wide range of reading levels. It is a compelling mechanism for the engagement of NYC youth with a tough topic, and in a way that is empowering, thoughtful and educational.

Executive Director Carol Smolesnki speaking at the Where Is Dylan? launch event.

Executive Director Carol Smolesnki speaking at the Where Is Dylan? launch event.

An educated child is the most practical and immediate deterrent to child sex trafficking. By providing preventive information in this format, the comic book can teach children and youth how to identify traffickers, identify recruitment techniques, and where they can get help. Most of the distribution will take place through New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. But copies are also available through ECPAT-USA. Contact ECPAT-USA at info@ecpatusa.org to inquire about how to receive copies.

Vision Hospitality Featured in Human Trafficking Awareness Video

Tennessee Valley PBS recently released the human trafficking awareness video Close to You that displays strong partnerships across all sectors in Tennessee that are banning together to fight against trafficking in their state. Vision Hospitality was featured because of the role that Vision’s DoubleTree by Hilton Chattanooga/Downtown hotel has played in raising awareness and acting in the community. Vision Hospitality is a valued partner of ECPAT-USA and has been a Code Member since 2013.

The DoubleTree’s general manager, Patty Martinez, and the President and CEO of Vision Hospitality, Mitch Patel, were both interviewed in the video and spoke about the responsibility that hotels have to fight against human trafficking. When Mitch Patel became aware of the human trafficking scene in the U.S. he did not sit back, but took initiative to implement training when onboarding new employees.  

“Our efforts to fight this crime need to be united.  As a hotel management company, Vision Hospitality Group has established training to raise awareness and policies to impede the traffickers in our communities that we call home,” said President and CEO of Vision Hospitality Group Mitch Patel. “As we continue to work together as a cohesive front, we know that every individual that is educated with the knowledge of this battle could potentially change the lives of so many that are imprisoned by this corruption. We are dedicated to ending human trafficking, and proud to stand with ECPAT.”

ECPAT-USA supports partners such as Vision Hospitality who join The Code and commit to taking six essential steps to help protect children. The steps that companies take are to:

  1. Establish a Policy and Procedures
  2. Train Employees
  3. Include a Clause in Contracts
  4. Provide information to travelers
  5. Support, Collaborate and Engage Stakeholders
  6. Report Annually

To learn more about ECPAT-USA’s work with Private Sector Engagement, click here.

ECPAT-USA Supporters: Cyclist Dorothea Calabrese Puts Her Helmet Back On To Ride With ECPAT-USA In The Five Boro Bike Tour

This is part of a series of blog posts about individuals, families, and corporations who use their time and talents to benefit of ECPAT-USA and to raise awareness about the issue of child sex trafficking. These people have taken it upon themselves to educate others in their own ways and have allowed us to grow our network more than we could on our own. We do not take credit for their actions, but we are endlessly thankful for their support.


After a break from a life that used to include cycling regularly, Dorothea Calabrese is hopping back on the bike as a member of the ECPAT-USA charity team in this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour. A travel buyer for Maritz Travel - a Maritz Global Events company, who is also sponsoring her slot on the team, Calabrese is slightly nervous (but excited) about the 40-mile ride, and she has an unrivaled cheering section in her two kids.

We talked to Calabrese about her 25 years in the travel and tourism industry, how she’s seen the awareness of sex trafficking increase over time and why her training is a family affair.

How long have you been cycling?

I used to be a big cyclist and then I had kids. I jumped on anything with anyone who was cycling. Now, though, I’m older so this is going to be interesting. In the past couple days, I’ve ridden 26 miles. I’m trying to get myself back in gear - no pun intended.

Why did you chose to join the ECPAT-USA charity team?

It was a good opportunity. It was an amazing cause. There was a little lightbulb that said, this is one of your passions now.  I’m excited. It’s lit a little fire.

Why do you think sex trafficking is an important issue?

I’ve been on the hotel side for over 25 years. It’s only recently been in the past few years that it’s really gotten a name and recognition. Having the information of the statistics of where things are happening where people can no longer say, “it’s not in my backyard.” it really hit home in an industry that I’ve been in all my life.

And then, your kids come to a certain age. You’re like oh my gosh, if that ever happened to my kids. Now you’re passionate because it hits so close to home.

How have you seen the discussion around the issue change in the past 25 years?

Once you name it, you can create a path of awareness and all things that go for that. This now has a name. This now has a program. This is now how we can help. No one can just only volunteer. To add something else, you have to be able to take off enough bites that you can chew and still be helpful.

You have two kids. Have they been helping at all with your training?

My 13-year-old daughter said, “I’m going to start going on a treadmill and let’s do that side-by-side. Last night, we went to the gym at 7:30 and she was on the treadmill and I was next to her on the bike. At one point, I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore, and I reached over and held her hand. It’s actually creating a great bonding experience.

How has your training been going?

My daughter asked when the ride was and I told her May 7th. And she said, May 7th! You have plenty of time. I told her that she didn’t realize how old her mom is. I told her I should have started training in December.

To learn more about upcoming ECPAT-USA's athletes events, click here.

Youth Action to End Sexual Violence

On Tuesday March 21st, ECPAT-USA hosted our 3rd Annual Youth Panel as a side event to the United Nations' 61st Commission on the Status of Women. Close to one hundred people came out to support our young people as they shared the stories of their involvement in the movement to end child sex trafficking.

In fulfillment of the panel's title, Youth Action to End Sexual Violence, students from two schools showcased their projects. The audience was nothing less than impressed. Our youngest panelist Awa Haidara, a middle schooler from the Academy of Future Leaders, created a Public Service Announcement with her peers. The PSA was directed, filmed, and edited by youth and demonstrated that victims of child sex trafficking are often silenced. The first part of the 2-minute piece showed students with tape over their mouths, asking for help, while the second part showed young people raising awareness about the issue demonstrating that while children can be the most vulnerable to child sex trafficking, they can also be the leaders in the movement to end it. Awa hopes to to start a girls’ group at her school which will provide a safe space for young women to come and talk about their experiences with these issues.

Our high school students, Julia Zeng and Rumana Khan from Brooklyn Technical High School, shared their experiences as co-Secretaries of the Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) Club. They emphasized the importance of providing diverse platforms for youth to use to raise awareness about the issue. Their Y-ACT club created a website that provides facts about child sex trafficking, resources for victims, and updates on what members are doing to help end this human rights abuse. In addition, they participated in an international art exhibit through a non-profit organization in India named Guria who garnered beautiful artwork from the Brooklyn Tech students. These artists were both members and non-members who used their talent to create powerful works of art with the message: people are not for sale.

Iryna Makuruk, courageously shared her story of being lured into domestic sex trafficking by her former boyfriend and the pain and /challenges she endured during that time. She challenged the audience to rethink what “victims” look like and to provide a judgement-free space for people to share their experiences because one never knows what’s going on with others. She passionately told the audience—especially the young women—that they are beautiful and do not need to depend on anyone to let them know it. Iryna’s message is that our youth can and will make a difference if they truly want to.