Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and Human Trafficking Awareness

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Frederick Douglass - Photo: www.fdfi.org

ATLANTA, GA, April 17, 2013 – Building working relationships with other advocates and organizations is important in any field of advocacy, including anti-human trafficking.  Listening to and learning from others increases personal growth and perspective. Over the next few weeks, several advocates and organizations will share their ideas, efforts, and achievements. Readers are encouraged to reach out to them in order to learn more about their philosophies, goals, and strategies.

This week’s featured organization is Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (formerly Frederick Douglass Family Foundation):

What is your organization’s mission statement?

To stop human trafficking in our communities by educating students and empowering them to take action.

What inspired the creation of your anti-human trafficking organization or program?

Two things: the recognition of the need — a National Geographic magazine cover story called “21st Century Slaves” — and our connection to the legacies of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.

Are your efforts geared towards advocacy, prevention, education, awareness, victim services, legislation, etc.?  Please describe. We are excited to learn more about you.

We believe that education, in the form of service-learning projects, is the very foundation for positively affecting human trafficking in many different ways. Providing children with practical knowledge about modern slavery can help prevent them from becoming involved as victims, perpetrators or perpetuators of this crime. Having children identify other children that may be vulnerable to being trafficked is the earliest form of intervention.

As part of the service portion of these projects, students will raise public awareness, do training, effect legislation and become more informed global citizens. Creating change on such a large issue empowers these young people and makes them believe they can do great things in their own lives.

Is your organization currently working on any project(s)?

We’re getting ready to introduce the New York City Human Trafficking Education Program. In association with the NYC Mayor’s office and the NYC Department of Education, we’re bringing our service-learning projects into classrooms, starting with students that are most vulnerable to being trafficked. In the fall, we will launch a full menu of service-learning curricula that is free to download.

Where are your headquarters based and where are your efforts based?

We’re based in Atlanta, Georgia but spread out. Our reach is national.

Please share any recent awards, accomplishments or experiences associated with your organization.

A recent project called 100 Days to Freedom received national attention. It focused on the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Schools from across the country utilized the curriculum and nine selected schools helped create the New Proclamation of Freedom. The Proclamation identified the various forms of human trafficking around the world and asked the U.S. Department of Education to help facilitate a national human trafficking education effort. An online petition was also created.

Please share any upcoming events or honors.

The greatest honor we can receive is to be invited into NYC public schools to implement our anti-slavery message and strategies.

What has been the greatest achievement or most meaningful recognition or experience for your organization?

There have been many great achievements, most having to do with the individuals or organizations with whom we’ve partnered including: Yale University, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the National Park Service, the National Youth Leadership Council, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, UNICEF, Sanctuary for Families, and many others. We consider collaboration one of our highest priorities.

Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?

We’d like to lead a Frederick Douglass-inspired national human trafficking education program and have it in place by 2015. This is how we must address the issue of contemporary slavery in both the short term and the long-term at the lowest possible cost to society.

What do you want the public to know about human trafficking, or specifically about your anti-human trafficking organization/program?

There is a tremendous urgency to initiating prevention programs. Yes, we’ve got to help the victims of human trafficking, but at the same time we must commit a small portion of funding to permanently stop the flow of new victims. Education is the best way to do it.

How can the public help you with your plight?

Funding is our biggest challenge. In order to expand our reach into more schools, we need to expand the resources on hand to do it.

How can people reach you or your organization for questions or more information?

Robert Benz can be reached at rbenz@fdfi.org

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