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placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Holy Family Sisters raise
awareness of human trafficking

Human trafficking — modern day slavery — is not a subject that most people want to talk about. One local police department denied there is any human trafficking going on its city limits. But tell people that it is a matter of their child’s safety, and you get their attention.

Keeping Our
Children Safe

Jan. 24, 7-8:30 p.m.

Washington Hospital
(Washington West Bldg., Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium,
Rooms A & B)
2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont

Jan. 25, 7-8:30 p.m.
Bethany Lutheran Church
1095 Cloud Ave., Menlo Park

Jan. 31, 7-8:30 p.m.
Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 1827 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland
That’s among the lessons learned by two Sisters of the Holy Family who have been presenting information sessions this month to highlight the importance of keeping children safe from human traffickers. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“Keeping our Children Safe” is an informational session for adults on how children can safely use the Internet. Funded by a federal grant, Sisters Elaine Sanchez and Caritas Foster have been visiting Bay Area communities to share information, endorsed by the FBI, on safety.

“While the Internet is used for social networking, education, information and commercial transactions,” the sisters note in their printed materials, “the Internet is also used for exploited purposes and is one of the greatest facilitators of human trafficking.”

Sessions are scheduled in Oakland, Menlo Park and Fremont through the end of the month.

Working with the federal grant, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and service providers, the sisters’ goal has been to raise awareness of human trafficking.

“We’re willing to go to faith organizations and communities to raise awareness,” said Sister Elaine. “We include ways they can identify and report suspected trafficking.”

They bring literature from the FBI, as well as from the Department of Health and Human Services, the source of the grant.

If they are speaking with a Catholic group, they make connections to Catholic Social Teaching and the support of bishops and Pope Benedict XVI.

“There is a bit of resistance when you want to broach the subject,” said Sister Elaine. “People think immediately of prostitution.”

But domestic labor and agricultural workers can also be victims of human trafficking, she said.

Young people are especially vulnerable, she said, noting the case of a Sacramento-area girl who was sold on Craigslist. She was found because the seller used the girl’s own phone number in the advertisement.

When the grant came to the sisters, they put together a teaching module and tested it with various groups. The question, said Sister Elaine, was, ‘’How do we get in the door?” The answer, they found, was “Children. Everybody wants to keep their children safe.”

Three or four nights a week, the sisters are out meeting with groups, in hopes of being approved to speak to larger assemblies.

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