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Jan 18

2017

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New Beginnings

Written by Eryn Hawks, SLC Volunteer

 

Last week, my friend and I sat down at the beginning of the New Year and wrote out our “2017 Bucket List.” Some of the things on our lists were silly and others were more serious goals and aspirations…but when we were done, we found ourselves excited and hopeful for what 2017 may bring. We felt rejuvenated and motivated.

Most of us can relate with this feeling of hopefulness of a New Year. January marks the time when we hit the gym again or start eating better (however long it lasts). But it occurs to me as I write this that not everyone is able to hope for new beginnings.

I am blessed to have the freedom to dream, hope, and create aspirations for my year. Even if I fall off the bandwagon with some of my resolutions, (Let’s be honest…I have yet to hit the gym!) it is because I made the decision not to continue. I have the freedom of choice.

I am struck by the fact that National Human Trafficking Awareness month lands in the month of new beginnings. What better time for us to bring awareness and take action for those who don’t have the hope or freedom of choice that we often take for granted?

In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness month, Second Life is holding its 6th annual “Unite. Wear White.” event. We invite you to join us and hear the story of Margeaux Gray, a survivor of trafficking who has experienced this second life firsthand, and is now an advocate and speaker. This event will be held at 9:45 a.m. on January 27, at the Double Tree in downtown Chattanooga.

As you continue to make decisions about what you want for yourself in 2017, take a moment to come out and celebrate one survivor’s story. You may leave with a new resolve to help others find their own freedom this year.

We hope to see you there! And don’t forget to wear something white!

Apr 13

2016

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Chattanooga: Top City

Coffee_blog

 

Over the past couple years, Chattanooga has received different accolades claiming it as a top city for many things:

• Outdoor Magazine’s Best City [1]
• First U.S. city to have a community-wide fiber optic network: “Gig City” [2]
• Best city for startup companies [3]
• #1 for social well being [4]

It’s no doubt that Chattanooga is a wonderful city. We are innovative; we have beautiful scenery, hiking, climbing, and let’s be real…we have fantastic coffee shops. As a whole, we are forward thinkers and we love our city.

Although Chattanooga has countless outdoor opportunities, yoga studios, amazing coffee shops, technology, and startup companies, there is also a darker side to Chattanooga of which many are unaware, or choose to ignore. No matter where your activities take you in Chattanooga, it’s possible that you are only blocks away from women who don’t have the same opportunities to enjoy this city. Day after day, these women – and children – are being unwillingly bought and sold for sex by their traffickers. They are modern-day slaves.

This is not a distant issue happening only in some third-world country. This is happening right here – in Chattanooga – in our backyard.

How is that possible?

Most of these transactions are set up online. In February, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation teamed up to conduct an operation aimed at catching those purchasing illicit sex from women and minors being exploited online. Of the 168 men who made contact, 35 were arrested. [5] Where there is demand, there will be supply. It has been shown that there is a demand for these services in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.

So what can you do? For one, speak up. Second Life Chattanooga aims to raise awareness that will drive action. In order to tackle this issue, we must be aware that this is happening in our community. Educate yourself, and from there decide how you can be involved. Maybe you’re willing to give through your time, or monetarily. Or maybe you can simply help educate others through conversations about this issue. Please, don’t make silence an option.

I am proud that my city is known for so many wonderful things. But my hope is that Chattanooga will soon become known as a top city joining the fight against human trafficking. I hope that we, as a city, will come together as individuals from various organizations, faith communities, and businesses to say as one voice that these injustices will not continue here.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

[1]http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/jun/05/chattanooga-wins-outside-magazines-best-town-title/308038/
[2]https://www.chattanoogachamber.com/news-media/news/2015/10/chattanooga-implements-worlds
[3]http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8432-cheapest-expensive-cities.html
[4] http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2015/apr/09/chattanoogranks-no-1-social-well-being/297718/
[5]https://www.tn.gov/tbi/news/24063

Apr 22

2015

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Danger in Paradise?

Written by Kim Ford, Intern, Second Life Chattanooga

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Over spring break I had the opportunity to go on a cruise with my best friend. We were to leave on Monday afternoon and return on Friday morning. Sailing from Miami Florida through two Bahaman Islands almost sounded too good to be true. As my friend and I explored the ship after we had set sail, we noticed that most of the staff was from different countries and their work seemed endless. There were also some questionable people who made me feel uneasy and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why.

My friend and I could not help but wonder what kinds of things occurred on cruise ships in regard to human trafficking. Could something so devastatingly evil have a place in paradise? In situations like this it is easy to second-guess ourselves when we witness scenes or behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable or that seem to look out of place. Questioning our thoughts can cause us to never voice our concerns, which could cause more harm than good. Once I arrived back in the States and had access to the Internet I began to search for stories that would answer the questions I had been struggling with. I was somewhat shocked to see how prevalent this issue was.

The most popular story is that of Amy Bradley, a 24 year-old woman who went missing while vacationing with her family on the Royal Caribbean cruise line in 1998. Although her family searched relentlessly for years, Amy was never found. Many believed that human trafficking may have played a role in her disappearance, but it was never confirmed. Unfortunately, the cruise line did not provide much help to the family and the little help they did offer seemed to be designed to protect the cruise line’s image and legal interests.[1]

Since this unfortunate occurrence, followed by many others, the security on these cruise ships has become more efficient. Airlines have also increased their security and awareness regarding this issue.[2]  This does not mean, however, that the problem has disappeared. While vacationing, whether it is on a cruise ship, airplane, or somewhere on land, it is important to maintain awareness of your surroundings and never venture off alone. It is important to take care of your own well being, but it is also important to look out for the well being of others.

Signs to watch for may include; evidence of being controlled, signs of drug addiction, unfamiliar with surroundings, substance abuse, submissive or fearful behavior, avoidance of eye contact, emotional distress, brandings or tattoos, etc. [3] If you see any of these signs or have concerns, please call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). You can also call the Tennessee Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.

 

[1] http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2011/01/articles/disappearances-1/mystery-of-missing-royal-caribbean-passenger-amy-bradley-returns-to-the-news/

[2] http://inpublicsafety.com/2014/12/airline-trafficking-signs-for-spotting-human-trafficking-in-transportation/

[3] Rescue & Restore