Thursday, April 11, 2013

Freedom Walk Buffalo 2013

This past Saturday
 the BASI Buffalo team held the first ever anti-human trafficking awareness walk at the University at Buffalo.  Approximately 170 people attended our seminar and 3km walk, which is a great turn out, being that it was our first walk. It's amazing to believe that just 4 months ago Christine and Dave sat down and decided to create an event where both the college and city community could come together to educate and raise funds to fight slavery!

We raised $321 which will be given to a local anti-trafficking coalitionP.A.T.H. of Western New York, and our spotlight charity, [FREE-THEM]. Although this is less than half of what the BASI Buffalo team raised for the [FREE-THEM] Freedom Walk, this is a great start. Next year we hope to raise $2000 USD to help pay for 1 year rehabilitation funds for 2 survivors of human trafficking.  We didn't push fundraising as much this year because we wanted to focus on raising awareness!  In order to make a difference, you have to first be aware of the problem!

I would love for you to join me  as I cover all the great things that took place at Freedom Walk Buffalo 2013!  If you were there I hope you re-experience the walk, and if you were not there, I hope you can now feel like you were! 

Written By: Christine, Founding Director of Bloggers Against Social Injustice
Photos By: Joyce Adiges and Nye's Photography

Let's Go!!!
6:30am Arrival at the University at Buffalo to begin set-up.  Myself, Susan and Jas were up all night with final food preparations and schedules.  Kingdom Ventures, a fair trade and made-by- survivor boutique also came early to set up!

7:00am  Volunteers arrived to help set up.

9:00am  Registration.  After arrival, attendees grabbed breakfast, chatted with numerous anti-trafficking organizations, checked out our human trafficking awareness art exhibit and shopped fair trade through Kingdom Ventures.  This was all done listening to live music! 

Volunteers working at the registration table.  BASI committee member, Dave, is on the right next to Jon, a volunteer from UB Students for Life.
Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Fadner for bringing Kingdom Ventures to Buffalo with products made by survivors! Don't worry, if you missed them, you can check out their online shop, just click Kingdom Ventures.
(Left to right) Walk committee member Susan, my friend Paige, myself, and master of acquiring food sponsorships, Eleni.
We had university clubs join us, including UB Students for Life, Circle K, Boxing Club, and Amnesty International.
Thank you for the live music!

10:15am  Amazing honored speakers seminar.  After a quick welcome from myself, Susan, Dave and Safra, we heard testimonies and talks from Randy Phipps, Renan Salgado, Kerry Battenfeld, and Anna Beard.  They all did so amazing!  I have a recap below for each speaker.

Here you can see the BASI committee members in our staple dip dyed BASI - Buffalo team shirts!
[For security purposes there was no multimedia coverage during the speaker seminar.]

Randy Phipps.  What a great way to start our seminar!  Randy is an executive committee member and the director of public relations for our spotlight charity, [FREE-THEM].  He joined us from Canada with a team of [FREE-THEM] freedom fighters.  Phipps was a very passionate speaker, through his passion we could tell that this is not just an issue he is fighting for, it is lives that he is fighting for.  He really grasped our attention when he told us, 
“Think about the First Niagara Center – the capacity
of that venue is 19,000 – fill that venue twice, and
add a couple thousand, and that’s the number of
people that are trafficked for the purposes of
forced labor and sexual exploitation.”
40,000 within the United States borders, this is the number of people trapped in the slave trade.  If you think about it, this is only the tip of the ice berg!  
Follow [FREE-THEM] on Facebook and Twitter!

Renan Salgado.  Salgado has been working as a human trafficking specialist, helping with the rescue and investigation for 13 years.  He told us he wanted to start by putting us in a certain perspective. Salgado specializes with agriculture human trafficking cases.  Agriculture slavery is the most prevalent form of human trafficking and in New York State there are thousands of farms with slaves working the agriculture.  He pointed out that every day, our economy relies on people trapped in the slave trade.  "Our economy is dependent on agriculture.  Our economy is dependent on slaves."  

Kerry Battenfeld.  Battenfeld told us more about P.A.T.H. and how we could become more involved with local anti-trafficking organizations.  She pointed out the importance of taking action and spreading awareness right within our communities. She also told us about the importance of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and current legislation regarding human trafficking. For more information on local activism feel free to contact us!

Anna Malika.  Dressed fashionably with a bubbly smile and demeanor, and with a slight valley girl accent (as she later put it) she began with, 
"I know you were all told that a victim or survivor
would be hear to talk to y'all and I hope y'all aren't
disappointed because I am not either
of those. I am an over-comer."  
Applause. Anna stressed how important it was to see former victims of human trafficking as over-comers instead of branding them with their pasts.  She told us how important it is for over-comers to define themselves by their talents and abilities.  Anna's testimony was different from any other story of human trafficking that I had seen on the news.  She was a young, vulnerable high school girl who was taken advantage of.  It wasn't until after the fact that she realized she had been trafficked.  She told us she first realized she was trafficked when she read an article on human trafficking a few years later.

"I read through the list... 'Hey this is my story...
hey, this is my story too'... oh my gosh!
I was trafficked! I started to FREAK OUT right there!"

Malika wanted us to realized how important it is to recognize the signs of human trafficking.  "The signs were all there.  From a distance it seemed like I was happy, but the signs were all there...It wasn't until this past Christmas, in December, that I felt joy for the first time."  She started to cry and the room went silent.  She shared with us the exciting news about her graduation from Mercy Ministries, and assured us with a glimmer in her eye, "I now love my life."  Ever since, Beard has been speaking and working with numerous organizations to help bring an end to human trafficking.  She is currently enrolled in college, on top of speaking around the nation and working with organizations, and would like to work with legislation to help increase punishments for those prosecuted with human trafficking. She encouraged us to take our talents and use them to raise awareness or funds, "If you are an artist, make bracelets and raise money to fund rescue and recovery."  She was an inspiration to us all! 
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

12:30pm  The Walk. Students and the community joined together to EXIT SLAVERY.  After I jumped onto a table to give directions we headed down the stairs, out the door, and onto the streets.  It is important that all people, especially college aged people who are the ages of those most susceptible to being trafficked, take a stand against trafficking. If we all do not take a stand, who will?  It is people that push for laws to change and for corruption to end.  People are the driving force causing human trafficking and people are the driving force to end human trafficking.  We can end slavery!

[FREE-THEM] brought postcard to hand out to people passing.  The postcards displayed facts about human trafficking and ways to get involved!

 Once we were out of the door and in the wonderful fresh air and sunlight I told my fellow BASI Buffalo member, "We need to start chants like they did at the [FREE-THEM] Freedom Walk!  Who wants to start it? Marc? Dave?"  

From there on we shouted chants in 2-part chants:


"Hey hey, ho ho, slavery has got to go!"

"What do we want?"


"When do we want it?"


A few times I stopped chanting just to hear the sound of the crowd.  It took words out of my mouth.  The sound of these chants give hope and tell people that slavery is real, happening, and needs to end.  The sound of the chants were beautiful.  I thought to myself, 
"I can not believe that in only 4 months I went
from sitting at a coffee table with Dave,
googling 'How to Organize A Walk', to
"I am standing here with over 170 people fighting to take a stand against slavery!  And it all started with that simple idea."  It showed me that everyday people like me... and you... can make a difference!  Through the seminar and the walk, people have become more aware of the signs and sphere of slavery today.  The people who leave the walk will have something to say to others.  Those others could be potential victims or potential buyers.  Of these people at the walk, a hand full will go on to start their own events to be change agents and even influence laws to be changed to increase punishments to traffickers and remove punishments for those victimized by slavery!

In the center of this picture you can see members of the domestic survivor safe house, United Hands of Hope, (left to right) Deputy Elizabeth Fildes, Mrs. New York (Karen O'Hara), and Senija Mehmedovic.

Freedom Walk Buffalo concluded on a hill on the University at Buffalo's North campus.  We took pictures as a group before everyone went their own ways.  Drops of inspiration were spread today.  I hope and pray that those drops of inspiration live on and spread throughout the region, nation and world.  This was not the end of the event to end slavery, this was the beginning of a new chapter of freedom fighters.

Most of our walk's committee members with Anna and the [FREE-THEM] freedom fighters!

Special Thanks to our committee members! I could not have done this alone!
Susan, Safra, Natalie, Cassie, Dave, Marc, Christine & Leslie

Humbled thank you to our honored guests who have dedicated their lives to fighting human trafficking!

Joanne Lorenzo, founder of Lighthouse Ministries

Deputy Elizabeth Fildes, Program Director of Human Trafficking for Erie County Sheriff's Office, and co-founder of United Hands of Hope House

Thank you to our photographers:
Joyce Adiges, Nye's Photo

Thank you to our artists and our live musician!

Thanks to our generous sponsors for providing breakfast!

The entire event went so well, and to my surprise every part of the day began on time or even early!  There was such positive feedback from the walkers and the organizations and I am so excited to plan for the 2nd annual Freedom Walk Buffalo to be held next year!  I am just an average girl with an idea to end slavery and inspiration from freedom fighters like Randy from [FREE-THEM].  I took a chance and initiative.  What will you do today, tomorrow, and in a week to fight slavery?

"It just begins with a simple idea and a motivation.  With that you can use your resources and take a stand to fight human trafficking with your talents, where you live!"
-- Christine, Founding Director of Bloggers Against Social Injustice

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nadia said...

WONDERFUL pictures and post Christine! So proud of you!!

Verla said...

This is cool!