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‘Human trafficking is a huge problem’: Dozens turn out to sign wave, educate public

Dozens of people lined up on Kamehameha Avenue on Friday to wave signs and inform the public about ways to alleviate human trafficking in East Hawaii.

The Hawaii County Committee on the Status of Women, or CSW, brought community service organizations together at the Russell Carroll Bayfront Soccer Fields for an event to observe World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Kahea Lee put the event together after realizing CSW had not observed the day since 2016. Lee is involved in educating people about human trafficking and also has rescued kids from human trafficking situations.

“We came together, because I wanted to continue the dialogue related to human trafficking awareness,” Lee said. “My insight and perception of human trafficking is very real, and I wanted to educate CSW on how we can share this information.”

Mayor Mitch Roth was the first to speak to the crowd and presented some misconceptions about how children are trafficked.

“Human trafficking is a huge problem on this island,” Roth said. “We have a lot of kids that run away and get themselves into situations where they are trading themselves for a place to stay, something to eat, or for drugs, and they get into a spiral of trouble.”

CSW invited organizations that help children and families, so people are reminded of the services they can access before children decide to run away.

“Oftentimes, it doesn’t start with drugs. It’s what is going on inside the home,” Roth said. “Sometimes it’s drugs, domestic abuse or a whole bunch of things happening that would cause a child to run away.”

Bay Clinic, Child and Family Services, East Hawaii Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, Partners in Development Foundation, Volcano Friends Feeding Friends, Liliuokalani Trust and the Ma‘i Movement were some of the community service agencies involved in Friday’s event.

“All the service providers here are the ones that work hard for children as well as the whole community,” Lee said. “We wanted to bring resources together and share that we are all here, but it is up to individuals to want to come and seek help.”

Lee hopes the event and speeches from community leaders and organizations helped remind the community about the issue, so steps can be made before a child is trafficked.

“This whole event is meant to share and restart the conversation on how to prevent human trafficking,” Lee said. “We can find out why children are running away in the first place, and we can alleviate the issue by educating each other.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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