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St. Irenaeus’ Bridge of Light: Human Trafficking to Human Triumph Ministry booth at Cypress Festival increased community awareness of human trafficking

St. Irenaeus’ Bridge of Light: Human Trafficking to Human Triumph Ministry had a successful booth at the Cypress Festival on October 9th that increased community awareness about the global problem of human trafficking. This ministry is part of Health Ministry at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Cypress. The Stop Human Trafficking booth focused on three different aspects of human trafficking.

First, did you know that some container ships from 3rd World countries such as Liberia, Panama, Mongolia and Burma use labor trafficking to exploit their seafarers? In these countries, seafarers pay an agent to find them a job, then must pay two to three months wages in advance to keep the job. This creates debt bondage. Seafarers are forced to work long hours with no overtime or wages even though they must pay back their debt. Wages are very low and seafarers are tied to the vessel for long periods. According to Christine Commerce, Ministry of Catholic Charities, most seafarers have been on the ship unable to go ashore for over a year. Ship owners often abandon the ship, leaving no food or wages. Seafarers often have to deal with piracy. Since the United States has not signed the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, it cannot be enforced at our ports. Seafarers who complain are often blacklisted in the industry and government.

The second focus was on online safety tips to keep kids safe from online predators. Information was shared from ecpatusa.org that offered teens, parents, and educators protective guides, including specific directions on how to set privacy settings on devices, such as computers, cell phones, and iPads, to protect kids.

Third, volunteers suggested that when purchasing Halloween goodies, buy only Fair Trade items with a Fair Trade symbol verification. Fair Trade goods ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and prohibit forced child labor. Fair Trade chocolate, tea, sugar and coffees were displayed that can be found locally.

St. Irenaeus’ Bridge of Light: Human Trafficking to Human Triumph Ministry is very active in helping foster community youth ages 18 – 24 throughout the year by making and delivering 100 lunches each month to the Orangewood Foundation, a center for Foster and Community Youth Services. Youth in Foster Care who age out of the system are most at risk for human trafficking.

Human trafficking has been called “modern-day slavery.” It is estimated that 100,000 kids under age 18 are victimized each year. If you see something that may be human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 so that professionals can investigate the situation.

Kudos to Faith Community Nurse and Health Ministry Co-Chair, Jennifer Dagarag, Monica Kovach, Chair of Bridge of Light Ministry, Ron Kovach, Donna Kriesel, Terry Arenz, Carol Reed, Joe Tucciarone, Alice Aniyondagara and all volunteers who helped set up and man this booth.

If you would like information on how to be a part of Bridge of Light Ministry, supporting youth at risk of human trafficking, or donating to this ministry, please contact Monica Kovach, Bridge of Light Chair at 310-490-6113 or send an email to [email protected]