By Michelle Colesanti

In 2006, World Relief Tampa received a grant from the Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime to provide services to victims of human trafficking. To meet the challenge of locating and assisting local victims, World Relief Tampa partners with the Clearwater Police Department. Services are provided directly or through local service partners. Since the needs of trafficking victims are often very extensive, the project is also supported by volunteer activity, church engagement, local donations, and pro bono professional services. Volunteer training provides invaluable information to empower those who feel called to joining in the fight against human trafficking.

Jennifer Marks encourages churchs to become involved. “Meet and discuss how your church can become empowered to serve the most vulnerable.” Please e-mail Marks at for more information.  Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women. They are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world and is the fastest growing. Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims are annually trafficked across international borders and annual revenues from sex trafficking are an estimated $7 billion. Between 14,500 and 17,500 victims annually are trafficked into the U.S.  As January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, two movies will be shown locally to educate and create awareness of the prevalence of Human Trafficking in the local area.

On Friday, January 10, the SCC Campaign Against Human Trafficking honors National Human Trafficking Awareness Month by showing a free movie, Abduction of Eden, in the Florida Room in the Sun City Center Atrium at 1 p.m. Speakers following the movie are Olga Barulli, Project Coordinator of World Relief Tampa, who provides direct services for victims of human trafficking, and Niki Cross, a survivor of the human trafficking trade.

WEDU Documentary Too Close To Home, a movie (free admission) will be shown on Sunday, January 12 at 2 p.m. at the Ruskin Firehouse Cultural Center, located at 101 1st Ave., NE (behind Ybor Grill, Shell Point Rd.) in Ruskin. Speakers following the movie are Misty Sherwood and Connie Rose.

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.