Supporters seek to raise awareness of human trafficking

Over a hundred supporters walked a mile from City Hall to Independence Mall on Saturday to bring awareness to human trafficking around Philadelphia.

The Hope Bag Mission collaborated with the A21 Campaign for their 2nd Annual “Walk For Freedom” global event. This was the first time Philadelphia ever hosted an event for human trafficking at this capacity.

“Philadelphia is one of the top five major hubs for human trafficking in America … most people don’t know that our interstate transportationmakes us the most susceptible,” said Kelli Caldwell, associate director of The Hope Bag Mission, an organization that partners with nonprofits to provide emergency care items and products to groups housing rescued girls of human trafficking. “Human trafficking is the forced prostitution of young people – 98% of all prostitution isn’t by personal choice.”

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Numerous guests and participants were there also in there in light of the recent prostitution sting that led to multiple arrests in nearby Camden last week.

“There was a sting on the Main line this summer and one in Camden this week – it won’t end unless we do something about it,” said Lisa Robinson, 34, a local social work volunteer and #PhillyWalkForFreedom participant. “Our local officials need to step up to do more on this issue and stop being hypocrites.”

“We should not tolerate pornography being viewed and shared on government emails by our elected officials – we need to bring dignity back to the conversation, not boys laughing in the crowd,” Democratic City Council-at-Large candidate, Helen Gym, told the crowd at Independence Mall. “Restorative justice is what’s needed for victims, we can’t have a public official relationship based solely on fear.”

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“Philadelphians need to realize that human trafficking isn’t just the presumptive Cambodian girl but can be that Philly girl at truck stops looking for drugs,” said Arielle Curry, program manager of New Day Stop Trafficking. “Twelve to14 is the average age for victims of human trafficking … Super Bowl season during Atlantic City has one of the highest incidences of forced prostitution.”

Towards the end of the event, Sharon Hackney-Robinson, founder of The Hope Bag Mission, shed tears of joy.

“I’m so grateful that despite all of the hurdles we had in planning this event, so many came out and were receptive to helping change this cycle,” she said. “Hope Bag’s mission is to give a voice to the silenced that’s being afflicted in Philly and around the world.”