Humanitarian Social Innovations is thrilled to welcome Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Week to our network of social entrepreneurs.
Human trafficking can often seem like a tragedy that happens far from home, one that we occasionally hear about on the news but never come face-to-face with. However, the devastating truth is that modern-day slavery occurs right in our backyards, right under the community’s radar.
In the Lehigh Valley, concerned community members and social justice organizations banded together to spread awareness about human trafficking through a seven-day campaign called Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking (LVAT) Week. Held during the first week of November, the campaign provides an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities, and individuals to do what they can to address the problem. The first LVAT Week took place in 2019 and raised more than $14,000 to directly aid survivors of trafficking, said Dee Dee Foran, co-chair of LVAT Week and member of Bethlehem Rotary’s Action Group Against Sex Trafficking.
This year, the collaborative is comprised of seven social justice organizations dedicated to fighting trafficking: Aspire to Autonomy, Bethlehem Rotary, Bloom Bangor, Crime Victims Council, Lehigh Valley Health Network – Street Medicine, Marsy’s Law, Valley Against Sex Trafficking (VAST) and Truth For Women.
Foran said that LVAT Week began as a shared interest between multiple organizations in the Lehigh Valley.
“In 2019, Rotary wanted to bring a screening of the new documentary From Liberty to Captivity to the Lehigh Valley. After talking with the production company, we discovered that other organizations in the Lehigh Valley were also inquiring. This is what originally brought us all together. I knew that we would draw a larger audience and have a greater impact on the community if we worked together as a collaborative,” Foran said.
Shedding Light on Human Trafficking in the Lehigh Valley
Foran and LVAT Week co-chair Carol Andersen, founder and executive director of Bloom Bangor, are both very passionate about fighting human trafficking and making the issue known in their communities.
“I thought it only happened in third world countries or big cities. The more I learned about the issue, the more I became disturbed at the injustice,” Anderson said. “I want to be a voice for those who are not yet strong or brave enough to speak for themselves, and a cheerleader for those who feel confident to share their healing journey. The courageous women survivors of sex trafficking, prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation are the fuel behind my passion to help women heal. They give me hope that anyone can recover and move through horrific trauma when offered love and safety.”
For Foran, the call to action came during a moving seminar at the 2017 Rotary International Convention in Atlanta.
“Rotary Action Group Against Child Slavery (RAGAS) International had a breakout session that was an eye opener for me. I knew this atrocity was in third world countries, but I didn’t realize that it also happens in small town America,” Foran said. “I left the room crying and knew that I had to do something. I came back from that convention and started RAGAS at my Rotary Club in Bethlehem.”
Through LVAT Week, Andersen and Foran are able to channel their passion for fighting human trafficking into an event that will engage the community while shedding light on an important issue.
“When I learned about LVAT Week, I was thrilled for the opportunity to raise awareness regarding this injustice, and inspired to be part of creating a meaningful and beautiful way to share the stories and hope that are part of the women I work with every day,” Andersen said.
Foran added that she hopes the movement will grow each year and attract more and more passionate people to the cause.
“I think it is great that we can all support each other,” she said. “I am very proud to work with this dedicated group of individuals that are people of action in our community.
Unfortunately, due to challenges relating to the COVID-19 virus, this year’s events will be virtual. The LVAT collaborative hopes that the public will be receptive to participating in the event through virtual meetings. To support LVAT Week and the fight against human trafficking, click the button below.
Humanitarian Social Innovations is proud to sponsor and serve Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Week in order to maximize its impact on the local community.