UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking will hold 1.2-mile walk this week for awareness

Elizabeth Golden

The UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking will hold a 1.2-mile walk this Friday to draw local attention to a growing international problem.

Human trafficking, the illegal trade of humans for the purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor, claims an estimated 27 million victims worldwide.

This figure, according to The Stop Trafficking Project (TSTP), is higher than it has ever been.

TSTP, in partnership with the UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking, attempts to create awareness of the situation and provide safe homes for those in need.

“[TSTP] focuses on five main areas in our efforts to combat human trafficking: awareness, education, prevention, rescue, and restoration projects in India, Thailand, the U.S., and specifically in Kansas City,” said founder Russ Tuttle.

Tuttle continues to explain how without awareness, people won’t know there’s a problem and, therefore, cant stop it. Education happens after someone is aware of the problem and looks for solutions. Prevention is the necessary next step in order to stop someone from being a victim.

“It’s always better to keep someone from becoming a victim than having to rescue and restore them,” Tuttle said.

If one is a victim of human trafficking, rescue and restoration is necessary in order to restore victims back to their normal lives.

In collaboration with Professor Gene Brown’s marketing class at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, Tuttle helps recruit student ambassadors.

Junior business major Kory McEnaney stepped up to the challenge as president of the UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking.

“Once I was aware of the situation, I knew I had to do something,” McEnaney said. “I feel lucky to live where I do. The whole situation is awful. It’s not right, and I’ve always been interested in leadership so I knew I had to be involved.”

Tuttle launched his organization in June 2009 as “Best Days Now” and focused his efforts on India, where he grew up as a child.

“I got involved by choice,” Tuttle said. “I grew up for much of my life in India and saw human trafficking before the term was even used.”

He contacted trusted friends in the fight against human trafficking in January 2009, and launched his organization in June 2009 as “Best Days Now.”

“As our efforts grew from India to Thailand, I became increasingly aware of the very real problem of trafficking in America,” he said. “When I realized that Kansas City is No. 5 in the nation for the commercial sexual exploitation of children, it really changed my perspective, and we started The Stop Trafficking Project.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, each year more than 4,000 American children fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation in Missouri. Nearly 1,700 are victimized in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The main purpose of the UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking is to raise awareness through the “ONLY 12” campaign and the Stop

Trafficking Project.

“ONLY12 is a practical activity anyone can participate in,” Tuttle said. “It is called ONLY12 because the average age a girl is forced to be raped for profit is only 12. Here are the action steps: Pause 12 times a month for 12 minutes to pray and engage in social media, give $12 per month to TSTP projects, recruit 12 others to join ONLY12.”

Funds raised through the ONLY12 campaign and other events go directly toward prevention and educating those involved in unsafe situations.

“Our money is used primarily for safe homes within areas of high Human Trafficking,” McEnaney said. “It’s hard to really educate people in third world countries, so these safe homes serve as prevention efforts. We just really hope to stop the situations.”

Tuttle elaborated:

“Prevention funds sent to India and Thailand cover the costs for a child to be fed, clothed, receive an education, receive medical care, cover orphanage costs, provide holiday and birthday parties, and generally cover every expense necessary for a child to grow up without a family that is able to provide for them. We do not currently allocate any prevention funds in the USA and don’t plan to until there is a facility in Kansas City dedicated to providing a safe place for children who have been sexually exploited for profit.”

The UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking will hold a 1.2-mile walk at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9. Cost is $12 and all donations will go directly to the Stop Trafficking Project. For more information, visit www.stoptraffickingproject.com

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