Local officials and nonprofits remind public of the dangers of human trafficking

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Monday is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In recognition of those who have suffered, local officials, along with non-profit advocacy organization Ho’ōla Nā Pua, gathered in front of the U.S. Immigrant Station to pour red sand into the gaps of the property’s sidewalks.

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The red sand is part of what Ho’ola Na Pua calls the Red Sand Project, an initiative that strives to raise awareness to the vulnerabilities that can lead to trafficking and exploitation.

“This vibrant red sand exposes the metaphorical cracks in the system that victims fall into,” explained Ho’ōla Nā Pua Founder and President Jessica Munoz. “As the light shines, the red sand catches your eye, our attention, and draws us into a place that we can no longer look away.”

Ho’ōla Nā Pua says the Red Sand Project is a participatory artwork effort that uses sidewalk interventions and earthwork installations to create opportunities for people to question, connect and take action against vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking and exploitation.

“Human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest-growing criminal activities in the world. Human trafficking is big business. It generates approximately $150 billion in global profits, said Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations John Tobon. “Human trafficking is not just sex. It is believed that over 24 million people are trapped in forced labor situations.”

Local nonprofit victim service provider Imua Alliance is also looking to help.

On Monday, the organization announced a new initiative to create Hawaii’s first virtual comprehensive sex trafficking and sexual violence prevention education program. Named the Reclamation Project, Imua Alliance says the venture will work to empower students to become first responders to their peers and enable schools to develop coordinated continuums of care on their campuses for victims of sexual violence. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have experienced a 300 percent increase in demand for our services,” said Kris Coffield, Executive Director of Imua Alliance. “To address our state’s surge in sexual exploitation, we need to develop modern tools that can be deployed at any time, including universally accessible prevention education and training programs.”

The nonprofit says The Reclamation Project will be made available to Hawaii schools by Jan. 31. It hopes more schools will adopt the curriculum.

“We’re hoping to triple the reach of our prevention education and training programming in 2021,” added Coffield. “Sexual exploitation has become an epidemic within the pandemic. It requires a response that is just as urgent as the public health emergency itself.”
The Reclamation Project will be ready for deployment in Hawai’i’s schools by January 31st, the end of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. 

For more information about the Red Sand Project, click here.

For more information about Imua Alliance, visit their website.

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