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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | OCTOBER 2020 EDITION
Ending Exploitation Through Education
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Human trafficking is a reality in London, Ontario, and across the rest of Canada. Londoners tend to be unaware of the human trafficking issues that are faced along the 401 and 402, highways that many drive on regularly. Tawee Donchai is a volunteer Youth Education Coordinator with the London Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, where he works to prevent human trafficking through education. Tawee works to raise awareness and educate the vulnerable on the dangers of sex trafficking in London as well as partner with local churches to prevent sex trafficking in London.

Tawee is originally from Thailand. He grew up in a poor family, and he received education from a welfare program. His community was deeply affected by human trafficking, and he saw the ramifications as people suffered and died from HIV. By the grace of God, Tawee was able to get out of poverty, finish an undergraduate and master’s program, and begin a PhD in biochemistry, specifically researching HIV.

In 2007, Tawee was approached by a documentary crew who wanted to do a documentary on human trafficking. Tawee helped with the documentary production, and through this became interested in human trafficking prevention. Education changed the way that he saw the problem, and he understood that education played a part in finding a solution.

In Thailand, he ran The Freedom Story, an organization that is purely focused on holistic prevention. He did that for around eleven years before moving to London with his wife and children.

When Tawee came to London, he originally thought that he was leaving a high-risk community and moving to a safer community, but soon realized that this is not the case. After joining the London Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, Tawee learned that London is actually very high risk and has a lot of cases of human trafficking, but that people are mostly unaware of it. Right away, Tawee noticed the significant lack of education about human trafficking.



Canada as a whole has many issues with human trafficking, but the area around London is very easy for people to traffic into and out of using the 401 and 402. Since people can relocate along these highways it is very difficult to catch the perpetrators or reach out to the victims. The authorities tend to focus mostly on rescuing victims and catching the perpetrators, and much less on prevention and awareness. It is nearly impossible for organizations like the London Anti-Human Trafficking Committee to share information and raise awareness in schools, because parents or teachers might feel that the message will be seen as too mature. The police raise awareness in schools, but there is still a massive general lack of awareness about the serious of human trafficking in the region.

Tawee says that due to a lack of awareness, parents and children underestimate the dangers of traffickers. Parents and youth tend to believe that because they live in a good area or neighbourhood, they have a very low risk of being targeted by perpetrators. However, social media and the internet exert a very real influence in the lives of the vulnerable. Minors are connecting with strangers online and sharing photos and other information on websites, social media, dating apps, and online games, which makes it easy for traffickers to connect with them and groom them for exploitation.

There are simply not enough conversations about the dangers of connecting with strangers online, and Tawee says that sometimes a vulnerable person does not even realize that they are being exploited until after they have become a victim. Perpetrators often use false promises and psychological manipulation to lure vulnerable people into believing that being trafficked will lead to a better future, money, or that it is simply a form of work. Some trafficking cases are not immediately recognizable to the victim, such as a boyfriend exploiting his girlfriend because it is “just this one time” or “because they need the money.” It can be difficult for youth and vulnerable people to identify when someone is attempting to exploit them, especially when there is little education that helps them know what trafficking looks like, what their own rights are, and who to report trafficking to.

Tawee explains that right now, there is no way of knowing just how severe the problem of human trafficking in the London area has become, because during the COVID pandemic workers are unable to reach vulnerable communities. Even though there are virtual meetings, all physical meetings, including activities, fundraising, and awareness events are cancelled. There very likely are victims right now who cannot reach out for help because the resources that are usually available are unavailable due to COVID precautions.

However, there is a lot of potential for churches in London to become more involved in raising awareness and reaching those who might become victims of human trafficking or have been trafficked in the past. Though Tawee has met with some churches to help them get involved in human trafficking prevention, many people at the churches still have no idea that sex trafficking is happening in their own communities right now. Tawee says that people who are having problems or are feeling vulnerable often turn to the church for peace and safety in difficult times, and that churches can work to expand their capacities to help these people. The church needs to be the one that is prepared to meet with vulnerable people and families to raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and to be ready to help those who have been damaged by it. The trauma from being trafficked destroys people from the inside, and there is lots of potential for the church to be involved in supporting victims of human trafficking to heal from within. More Christians need to get involved in the fight against human trafficking to spread the peace of Christ to the most vulnerable of communities.

The London Anti-Human Trafficking (LAHT) Committee

To Report Anonymously:
Call Crimestoppers – 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)


LAHT MISSION STATEMENT

The London Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, established in 2006 is committed to the activities of Awareness & Education, Advocacy and Partnerships.

Awareness & Education

Seeks out and responds to opportunities to inform, educate and provide training to community groups, schools, universities, social service organizations , other professionals and the general public. Provides speakers for workshops, conferences, and public speaking engagements. Click HERE for a wide selection of videos and other resources.

Advocacy

The Committee supports and collaborates with national advocacy efforts on human trafficking.

Partnerships:

LAHT Collaborates with other community groups and service organizations, to assist in their efforts to eliminate human trafficking by providing support, planning of events and preparing materials.

CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING / PARTNERING WITH LAHT

LAHT is a grass-roots community group operated 100% by volunteers. As such we welcome new members and volunteers from all walks of life.

Volunteer opportunities include:
  • Fundraising
  • Special Events
  • Presentations
  • Seminars
  • Conferences
  • Public Speaking
  • Administration
  • Community Partnering
  • Education and Training
  • Publicity and Promotion

Click HERE to get more details on Volunteering with LAHT

Click HERE to obtain more information on becoming an LAHT Partner

To speak with a team member at LAHT, click HERE






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