By Joan Leggitt, Community Action Committee – United Church in Tallahassee
A tube of lip balm is a very small thing, until the efforts of committed volunteers make it a big thing.
United Church in Tallahassee is a dedicated partner in the effort to bring services to survivors of human trafficking. We provided seed money for Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center when the agency was just getting started and have been actively engaged in the issue of human trafficking ever since. As with all the social justice issues our congregation works to address, people soon began to ask: “What else can we do?” The answer was STAC’s Freedom Outreach Project, a monthly street outreach program designed to provide resource information to survivors of labor and sex trafficking. The delivery mechanism for providing resource information: lip balms.
Our first activity in support of the Freedom Outreach Project was to purchase lip balms, then hold a “labeling party” for the purpose of applying labels that contain the National Human Trafficking Hotline number: 1 (888) 373-7888. At our first party, we had so many volunteer participants that we applied labels to 1,000 lip balms in just over 20 minutes.
The labels are small and appear to be part of the lip balm’s packaging, making it possible for a sex or labor trafficking survivor to pick one up and slip it discreetly into his or her pocket.
Next we began the really interesting part: distribution. Once a month, a team of UCT volunteers hits the streets to deliver baskets of lip balms, along with information cards, to businesses identified by local law enforcement as possible locations for human trafficking activity.
Some of these businesses welcome us enthusiastically. We had one manager who gratefully accepted a basket, then pointed out other businesses on the same street where she had seen activity that she considered suspicious and urged us to go there too. We did. After a bit of conversation, we convinced two of these businesses to participate. Other managers were initially reluctant, thinking that we were asking them to engage in some type of enforcement activity and agreed only after we assured them that all we were asking was that they make the lip balms available. We will continue to expand as we’re able and place baskets of lip balms in as many locations as we can reach.
Everyone on our team would love to know how many of the lip balms we deliver make it into the hands of human trafficking victims, but that isn’t possible. Callers to the Human Trafficking Hotline are not asked where they got the number. That’s OK though because we know we’re a part of spreading awareness, and that there is a chance that, because of our efforts, this critical information will be in the right place at the right time to help save someone’s life.
If You Suspect Sex Or Labor Trafficking: