Most people realize that human trafficking is one of the largest issues facing humanity today. However, many Americans believe human trafficking is something that mostly occurs in other countries. The stats show differently.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), 10,000 individual victims were reported with almost 5,000 potential traffickers, and more than 1,500 businesses involved in human trafficking in California. This was a 13 percent increase in cases compared to 2016. Keep in mind these are the ones that were reported.
It is estimated there are over 27 million slaves worldwide. Suffice it to say, human trafficking is an epidemic.
“Education and awareness are key to fighting human trafficking,” said Kara Rooney, Agape Movement.
Kara Rooney, a life-long resident of the High Desert serves as an anti-human trafficking advocate, community engagement coordinator, and heads the Agape Movement, a facet of the Love Initiative at Redeemer Church in Apple Valley, CA.
Working for two years as an anti-human trafficking advocate, Rooney has been on the front lines with law enforcement, the FBI, district attorney, CSS and probation throughout San Bernardino County where she has seen a lot of trafficking in the local schools and parks.
The Agape Movement is a new ministry at Redeemer Church in Apple Valley that provides life skills and job training to at-risk youth and juvenile victims of human trafficking. Redeemer recruits volunteers from the church who have been background checked and have taken human trafficking training.
The program helps girls ranging from ages 13-18 to find interests such as hobbies of art and photography. The girls are also introduced to different professionals who come in to speak and teach classes. A local cosmetology school helps at-risk youth to not only learn about the profession but provides scholarships so that those interested can attend tuition free. The monthly classes teach skills such as photography, insurance, and cooking. Culinary students have come in and prepared a meal while telling the girls how they got involved in the profession.
“Not only does the Agape Movement provide a chance to learn hobbies and skills, but we provide support, care, and love,” said Rooney.
The Agape Movement currently meets monthly but is in the process of launching two more meetings per month. Most of the youth come to Agape through the partnership with different county and nonprofit referrals that have identified them as victims of human trafficking. However, there are no houses for human trafficking victims in SB county. The girls get out of the juvenile hall and are shipped to Bakersfield or Nevada.
“Housing for the human trafficking victims is a great need. We would love to expand our ministry within the Agape Movement to partner with child protective services to provide housing,” said Rooney.
Redeemer Church hosted an event lead by Rooney called Human Trafficking Awareness Night on Sunday, 10/28 where attendees were educated in the following:
- What is human trafficking?
- How does it happen?
- How did it get recruited?
- Where is it happening?
- The psychology of human trafficking and how it happens.
- Risk factors
- Indicators and branding tattoos
- Recruitment in the High Desert
- Apps on the phone and how to find them
- How it looks in foster care
- How to engage these type of children
In addition, videos of actual victim testimonies were viewed.
“Human trafficking is in every city, in every state. Kids aren’t just taken and shipped out of the country. The kids are taken and sold right here in our backyard. Trafficking moves in a ring throughout the United States.”
Three years ago Kara Rooney was a struggling single mother working two waitressing jobs when two pastors approached her with the idea of running a church ministry to help human trafficking victims. Her initial response was no. But for a month she could not sleep because the Lord was impressing upon her that He wanted her involved. At this point, she became acquainted with Operation Underground Railroad a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking victims.
“This wasn’t a choice. I had to get involved. I was a nobody and the Lord raised me up to do this.”
Rooney quit her jobs, moved in with her mom and began volunteering. Since then, the Lord has opened the doors wide for her to make a living helping the victims of human trafficking.
Praise God for those who listen to the Lord’s call and get involved. Is God calling you to get involved?
For more information, reach out to The Love Initiative through Redeemer Church.