Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Helping Victims of Sex Trafficking: The Porch Light and the #ShineALight Challenge

One cause that our family has become keenly aware of, and far more concerning than the loss of our natural ecosystems harboring native plants and animals, is the issue of human trafficking. Before not too long ago, we were not aware how prevalent this issue is, especially in central and southern Florida, which are major hubs for human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking. This is not a problem that occurs in faraway places like Thailand and Guyana, but one that occurs here in the United States. According to HumanTrafficking.org, "It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually."

The Porch Light (click to visit their website) is a ministry founded by the Florida Baptist Children's Homes to provide a safe haven for child victims of domestic sex trafficking here in central Florida. Quoting from their website:

Even at this moment, there is a young girl falling victim to the dark world of sex trade.

A predator is gaining her trust, maybe a “friend” she met online. Every year, there are as many as 300,000 children like her in the U.S. who are at risk of being sexually exploited. Many of these girls are being prostituted and face the threat of rape, STDs and even death. The Porch Light is helping these girls begin a new life. We are also working to prevent more innocent children from becoming victims while predators financially profit.

It’s simple, really. Our light will shine until every young girl who has been victimized by sex trafficking is rescued, restored and set free. Similar to parents who leave the porch light on waiting for their daughter to return, our faith-based program symbolizes the love of Christ – a light that shines so bright and a love and peace that transforms lives.

Now, lives are changing because of The Porch Light. Girls stay in the safe home for 9-12 months, depending on individual and specific needs. The safe home is at an undisclosed location for the protection and security of the victims and is staffed by a director, mental health counselor and female caregivers. Each girl has her own bedroom and bathroom within a residential suite.

In addition to providing necessary care to victims, The Porch Light also includes sex trafficking prevention and advocacy efforts. The Porch Light representatives partner with law enforcement to educate in schools, churches and community groups to prevent more girls from becoming victims of the growing sex trade.


I was made aware of The Porch Light by a post that former FSU (my alma mater) head coach Bobby Bowden had posted to Facebook, asking folks to consider donating to this worthy cause. I had noticed listed on their web site that one of the practical needs of the girls was nicely furnished rooms, including wall decor.



It just so happened that we had a number of our native orchid canvas prints left over from the last show. My wife, Joy, got in touch with Lynn Barna, administrative assistant at the Porch Light, with the intent to donate these canvases. They were more than grateful to receive our gift--it warms my heart to know that my photos might in some small way make a girl's room feel a little more like home as she recovers from the awful abuse of sexual exploitation.

Lynn Barna, Joy, and myself and one of the canvases we are donating to The Porch Light.


Now I would like to challenge you to Shine a Light on the darkness of child sexual exploitation. Follow this link: https://theporchlight.org/shine-a-light-challenge and consider how you can give (even a small gift of $5) to the cause of helping young victims of sexual exploitation in their process of recovery.
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