A group of 10 professionals from across the northeast gathered in Central Connecticut this month for training to teach youth how to protect themselves against human trafficking and exploitation.
Global human rights organization Love146’s Not a Number child trafficking and exploitation prevention curriculum was taught over the course of three days inside Casa Mia at the Hawthorne in Berlin. The program was sponsored by the Newington Rotary Club and its Stop the Traffik committee, which for the last several years has been involved in efforts against trafficking in the local region. Tony Guglielmi, owner of Casa Mia at the Hawthorne, provided the venue and use of audio-visual equipment free of charge and Anisul Islam at the Holiday Inn Express on the Berlin Turnpike provided Love146’s curriculum facilitator Tenisha Brown from Houston, TX a complimentary three-night stay.
“We have the evidence-informed curriculum and knowledge to share but we need someone to bring the right people together and to provide a training space for us to use and the Newington Rotary Club and the Berlin community really did an excellent job of being that host,” Love146 Prevention Training Program Manager Daniella Perez told the Herald Thursday. “It was all around a very joyous and very exciting experience for people over those three days.”
While the statistics of child trafficking in CT and around the world paint a dire picture and the reality of human slavery is horrific, the ‘Not a Number’ trainees were empowered and motivated by their experience.
New Britain resident Toshi Countryman-Bey was one of the participants. Her company My Sister’s Keeper United, LLC provides young women with basic life and social skills and she is planning on launching transitional housing in the near future.
“I travel between the inner city and suburban neighborhoods and everyone seems to think it’s somebody else’s problem,” Countryman-Bey said of the reality of child trafficking and exploitation. “A lot of young people can be in a situation and not realize it for what it is. They don’t have enough knowledge to know that something isn’t right.”
She and fellow participants gained more insight on teaching young people the difference between right and wrong, even when their expectations are low and their resources are very minimal.
“Love146’s training allows you to have the knowledge to go in and pull out those cases and be able to communicate with these children,” Countryman-Bey said. “I think they did an excellent job of communicating not only the information but the need to have the information.”
Newington Rotary Past President and Stop the Traffik founder Dave Tedeschi joined the group for a few hours each day to learn along with them.
“Newington Rotary and a number of others feel that we should have this type of training in the school system for children to know what to look out for to avoid being trafficked or exploited in any way,” Tedeschi said.
Rotarians paid for the group’s meals at Casa Mia and donated the required materials for the training.
Participants all shared professional backgrounds in child advocacy, whether they work in social services, the judicial sector or another type of agency. They travelled from as far away as Pennsylvania, Vermont and Delaware to take part.
“We were very fortunate to have the one participant from New Britain,” Tedeschi said of Countryman-Bey.
Stop the Traffik has several other projects in the works this year, including a program for parents and families at LifeWay Church in Newington.
“We’re also working with the Salvation Army’s Bloom Initiative and Perception Programs Inc. to call attention to human trafficking and substance abuse, because those two can be aligned very closely,” Tedeschi said.
Love146’s anti-trafficking outreach began in Southeast Asia before spreading worldwide. The Connecticut-based non-profit provides survivor care, prevention education, and employs a rapid response system for victims of trafficking. The organization has locations in Texas, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and elsewhere.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.