People gathered around the globe to walk in silence, rallying together to protest slavery and human trafficking, Saturday, Oct. 19.
Families, friends and children arrived at Vail Headquarters in Temecula as early as 7 a.m., huddled together in wait for the 3-mile walk that would take place later that morning.
According to A21, a nonprofit organization that organizes these walks around the world, human trafficking generates around $150 billion annually and doesn’t just take place in Third World countries, but is everywhere, including Temecula.
Jenni Sanchez set up the Temecula walk in partnership with A21 and Allysa Bassir, who has traveled for many years to Africa working to fight human trafficking.
“It started off with Allysa taking me to Africa,” Sanchez said. “I had already gotten involved with other nonprofits about human trafficking, and I had been at the prayer groups and doing things but I didn’t really think much about it.
“I didn’t have a face to put to all the stories, and going to Africa that really just changed my perspective,” she said.
In Africa, Sanchez was able to meet with survivors and pray with their families.
“I definitely was more motivated to do something about it,” she said.
The walk started at Vail Headquarters and progressed down Temecula Parkway to the corner of Jedediah Smith Road before looping back. In previous years, between 200 to 300 people attended, Sanchez said.
“It’s not just about raising awareness,” Sanchez said. “It’s about raising funds so that A21 can continue to do their work.”
Their fundraiser set a goal to raise $5,000 from Temecula, and they surpassed it, hitting $5,467, which can be found on A21’s website.
The “Calvary Freedom Walkers” is one of the groups that have participated for the past three years. Initially starting with three or four members, they now have 30 members.
“Our church’s heart is for justice,” Susan Wells, a member of Calvary Murrieta, said. “A21 has been an organization we’ve supported for years, people that are lost that don’t have a voice to speak, and we just want to help.”
Harley Smith is also a Calvary Murrieta member, and it was her first walk.
“We have this conference called ‘Justice Matters’ at our church,” Smith said. “It’s about human trafficking, and one of the girls came in and she was actually trafficked, and it really touched me in a deep way that it could happen to any of us.”
Young and old, people from all walks of life participate in the walk.
“We walk in silence, and the reason for that is to show that we’re all in solidarity with the millions who are currently enslaved and don’t have a voice, and so the people who are walking understand that,” Sanchez said. “This is a great opportunity for people to get their feet wet when it comes to getting involved with human trafficking.
“A lot of people want to do something, and they don’t know where to start because it seems like it’s such a big problem and they get overwhelmed with how much it’s happening and where it’s happening,” she said.
People come not just from Temecula, but other areas as well, some coming from Riverside or Oceanside.
“They don’t have help, and we can help, and so I’m trying to bring awareness,” Smith said. “We are in a time where we can change that; we can talk to anyone in the world now, we can connect and we can make a change.”
Lexington Howe can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.