Place of Hope, Palm Beach County’s largest children’s organization; the Boca West Children’s Foundation; and other partners are fighting to interrupt the recruitment of more young people into the human trafficking system with another weapon – face-to-face education. With a $25,000 grant from the Foundation’s Dream Maker Society, Place of Hope added a Human Trafficking Prevention and Education Coordinator to its staff. Laura MacFarland’s job is to talk directly to youth about how to avoid becoming a statistic.
Additionally, MacFarland is educating and training Palm Beach County residents, Place of Hope volunteers, corporate partners and other nonprofit agencies on what they can do to make South Florida less hospitable to human traffickers. Lastly, she is implementing ways to reach youth already in danger, giving them access to the hotline when no one else may be able to help.
“One aim of the program is to talk directly to girls, ages 12-18, in small groups of five to eight people, using the ‘My Life My Choice’ curriculum. These girls have either been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked,” MacFarland said. “I talk with them about how low self-esteem, drugs and predators operate in human trafficking, so they can spot when it’s being done to them. Most of the time, this information is something that kids can relate to or something they’ve been through before, and they want to talk about it.” For information, visit www.placeofhope.com.