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Polaris Project: Disrupting Human Trafficking

There is a famous song escaping slaves used to sing during the times of the Civil War called “Follow The Drinking Gourd.” The song goes, “Follow the drinking gourd, for the old man is awaiting for, to carry you to freedom. If you follow the drinking gourd, I thought I heard the angels say. Follow the drinking gourd. The stars in the heavens gonna show you the way, follow the drinking gourd.” The drinking gourd, of course, refers to the big dipper, which is said to point directly to Polaris – the North Star. Slaves traveled by night with only the guidance of the North Star to help them find where they needed to go in order to be free. The Polaris Project is a non-profit organization that hopes to put an end to human trafficking, and to help guide survivors to freedom, just like the North Star.

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that affects over 20 million people from all around the world. 55 percent of those people are women forced into prostitution or labor. According to their website, “No matter where you live, chances are [human trafficking is] happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.”

The Polaris Project follows a three-step model in order to help disrupt networks of human trafficking. First, they immediately respond to victims of human trafficking so they can help victims and take charge of the situation. Then, they equip “key stakeholders and communities” with the tools and ideas to address and ultimately prevent trafficking. Finally, the Polaris Project finds a way to systematically disrupt networks in the trafficking industry.

Polaris helps to operate the Human Trafficking Hotline and the BeFree Textline in order to help survivors find the help they need, and to connect them with resources to keep them safe. Both hotlines have responded to 25,000 reports of human trafficking across the United States, since 2007. They have also “reported more than 6,500 cases of human trafficking to law enforcement.” The organization provides services in the Washington D.C. area that help with crisis intervention, case management, and counseling.

Polaris has programs that help develop policies and build government support to prevent human trafficking. This program is also meant to help protect the survivors of trafficking. The organization has trained around “77,000 service providers, law enforcement, and corporate leaders to identify and stop human trafficking.”

In order to become involved with the Polaris Project you can donate to the cause, join the fight and receive alerts/updates about human trafficking, or learn more about how to recognize the signs of someone who is being trafficked. You can join and apply to the fellowship or internship program or apply for a career with the Polaris Project.

Visit the website to learn more about what the Polaris Project is doing to stop human trafficking.

Featured Image by Ira Gelb on Flickr

Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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