By: CASSIDI HINSON / Social Media Editor     Photograph by: HINSON

 

There are 3,287 people sold, kidnapped, and forced into slavery every day.

According to the head of the United Nations anti-crime agency, human trafficking is the fasted growing crime organization in the world.

A21 is one of the many nonprofit organizations that has dedicated itself to abolishing human trafficking.

Barton student and A21 volunteer Natalie Brooks hosted a live stream of a globally broadcasted freedom summit, organized by the A21 nonprofit organization at Barton College on center campus.

This global freedom summit was designed to connect thousands of people across the globe to empower, equip, and mobilize people around the world to act against human trafficking.

“Normally, in a traditional, non-COVID year, A21 hosts a walk for freedom event every year. It’s a walk-in silence to raise awareness for all the victims who have never escaped human trafficking,” said Brooks, “Only one percent of victims are ever saved from human trafficking. Due to COVID, A21 got creative and decided to host a global freedom summit. There are 50 countries registered as a part of the summit globally. A21 is doing a 24-hour live stream that teaches how to spot signs of human trafficking and how to become a part of the movement to end human trafficking.”

Nick and Christine Caine founded A21 12 years ago. Determined to canvas, advocate, and learn, the Caines took on human trafficking headfirst and haven’t looked back.

“A21 is a nonprofit that is based out of 12 countries across the globe, founded by a couple from Australia, in 2008. The focus of the organization is on educating people about human trafficking, as well as being an organization that actually goes out and rescues victims of human trafficking. A lot of times you see organizations that either are doing the advocacy side or the front-line work of rescuing victims. A21 is one of the ones that does rescuing, restoration, and advocacy. They advocate, they inform, and they teach others,” said Brooks.

There have never been more people enslaved than there are right now.

Brooks hopes to see human trafficking abolished in her lifetime. She currently does her part in the fight against human trafficking, by participating and volunteering in events hosted by A21 and other nonprofit organizations fighting human trafficking. One day she hopes to be a part of one of these organizations that have joined the fight against human trafficking.

“A21 is not something that I am a part of. It has just been an organization I support. I would love to work for them one day. That is one of my end goals, so if I end up working at a nonprofit, I would love to work for A21. They do have a North Carolina office in Charlotte, that you can volunteer through. I volunteer anytime A21 has a walk for freedom or a freedom summit like this. I just try to volunteer whenever I can, and for this summit, I signed up to host and tried to get it on the Barton campus. I am a member of the Wave church here in Wilson, and they partner a lot with A21 because the senior pastors are good friends with the Caines,” said Brooks.

There are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands in the U.S. A21 and organizations like it have been working together for years to end this global crisis.

“I have had a passion for A21 since middle school. I was first introduced to A21 in sixth grade through a ministry I did, where we made scarves for survivors of human trafficking, so that’s how I was first exposed to A21. Then my sophomore year of high school we had to do a project in world history, and you could pick anything out of the book we were reading. I read about human trafficking in Cambodia. That was the first time I was really exposed and made aware of how big of an issue that human trafficking real was,” said Brooks, “From there it kind of spiraled, I started researching into what human trafficking is and then realized it’s not just a far off issue. A lot of people dissociate and think ‘oh well, it’s not a us issue’ when really the issue is occurring right here in the U.S. Last spring, I did an internship with North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking, and that taught me how big of an issue human trafficking is in North Carolina, especially eastern North Carolina.”

Now more than ever it is the time of globalization. With access to the internet at the tips of one’s fingers, it is easier than ever to mobilize change across the world and gain support and followers for movements.

A21 has realized this and has begun using social media to promote the end of human trafficking.

“I think this movement is really important because it is something that can reach people easily. Social media is such an important aspect of our day and age. It is so easy to share, post, etc. It’s the easiest way to reach hundreds of people and raise awareness rapidly. If someone has 1000 followers and they average 400 views on a story, then just that one post is 400 people being made aware of the movement,” said Brooks, “This movement is all about sharing and passing on information to others to promote awareness. Just one person can create a small impact, but when we all come together, we can go from a statewide to a national to a global movement. I think this movement can genuinely help if they chose to act on the information shared with them through this movement.”

Brooks believes that anyone can be part of the solution. Ordinary people are the people making the change, according to Brooks. She believes that small actions taken against human trafficking are the seeds that can grow into a global movement.

“I think directly, here in Wilson speaking, who will benefit from this summit, is anyone who attends because now they are informed and equipped with tools to combat human trafficking. Beyond that, who benefits is going to be the girl you see at a rest stop and you think something isn’t right, so you call the hotline. It’s going to be the migrant workers out in the field, who you have a suspicion in your mind, so you call the hotline. It’s going to enable thousands, if not millions, to be equipped with the knowledge to stop human trafficking,” said Brooks.

The motto of A21 is “Abolish Slavery Everywhere, Forever,” Brooks is an avid believer in their cause and has high hopes for A21 and its fight against human trafficking.

“The ultimate goal of A21 is to end human trafficking. The whole idea is that through local change the movement will build globally. So, through small pockets of change happening over time, we can all come together to hopefully end human trafficking everywhere,” said Brooks.