Solidarity Walk to Honor Victims of Human Trafficking

Group Photo, left to right--Rita Caira, Terry Arenz, Ashley Coa, Carol Reed, Monica Kovach, Fr. Aaron Galvizo, Senator Ling Ling Chang, CypressCouncilwoman Stacy Berry, & Lourdes Dominguez

By Rosemary Lewallen

Health Ministry’s Bridge of Light: Human Trafficking to Human Triumph Ministry held a Solidarity Walk and Prayer Vigil to honor victims of human trafficking on the evening of Feb. 8 at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Cypress.

About 65 people attended, including Senator Ling Ling Chang and current Cypress City Councilwoman and former Mayor Stacy Berry.

Solidarity Walk honors victims of human trafficking. Photo by Dave Peeters

Jarring statistics printed on poster board and displayed on easels were noticeable in the church. One stated, “Human trafficking generates an estimated $150 million USD annually.” Another read, “1% of victims are ever rescued.” A third sign stated that, “Every 30 seconds someone becomes a slave.”

The theme was to shine a light on the human suffering caused by human trafficking by informing the public about the reality of this heinous crime that is often hidden in our midst. The goal was for us to become the light of hope to victims to help them find healing and a new life. To exemplify this, lighted candles and lanterns adorned the steps up to the altar in the church.

The solidarity walk started in the church with Taize prayer and then the candle-lit walkers, led by Fr. Aaron Galvizo, proceeded outside with prayers and song to several prayer stations where true stories of human trafficking victims were told. We ended the procession in the Education Building, where resources were available and a table of Fair Trade items was on display.

Representatives from Orangewood Foundation spoke to the group about their mission to assist foster and community youth, who are most vulnerable to human trafficking, to reach their greatest potential in life. We learned that in Orange County 415 human trafficking victims were assisted in 2017 and 2018; 359 of these were victims of sex trafficking; 302 were new victims.

The Orangewood Foundation offers Project Choice to youth ages 11 – 21 years of age to regain their power of choice. It is a safe drop-in center that is non-judgemental where youth can receive basic necessities, such as, hot meals, a shower, clothing and hygiene items, as well as individual therapy, workshops, yoga, a young mom’s group, survivor leadership and peer mentors. Support also includes case management, medical, mental health and substance use support, education and employment assistance, court support and advocacy.

The Orangewood Foundation also has transitional housing for women survivors of sex trafficking ages 18 – 22 in Orange County. This is a home in a confidential location that provides safety, intensive case management, connections to programs, services and community resources. It is a two-year program to help victims heal and gain independence.

Cypress Councilwoman and former Mayor, Stacy Berry, praised the efforts of the Bridge of Light:  Human Trafficking to Human Triumph Ministry and told us that Cypress City Council declared the month of January “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in both 2019 and in 2020.

Senator Ling Ling Chang from the 29th District said that she sponsored a bill that reinstated $10 million to help human trafficking victims. She is seeking to reclassify human trafficking as a violent felony. Senator Chang presented a Certificate of Recognition to St. Irenaeus Church for its efforts to combat human trafficking through increased public awareness and support of vulnerable youth.

Later, everyone was invited to prepare and send letters to their Senators and Congressional Representative, asking them to author or sponsor legislation that fights sex trafficking and other modern forms of slavery. Letters were handed out to be completed by the attendees and mailed to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and to The Honorable Alan Lowenthal.

The date, Feb. 8, was also the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of human trafficking, as well as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.  We were encouraged to report suspicion of human trafficking so that professionals can investigate it.  If you have any questions, contact Monica Kovach, Health Ministry Facilitator at 310-490-6113.

Photos attached by Rosemary Lewallen


Solidarity Walk to Honor Victims of Human Trafficking