More people are being bought and sold in human trafficking now than at any point in human history—over 40 million people worldwide. Hope for Justice is a nonprofit organization that trains people on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and how to respond.

With offices in over 30 locations around the world, it focuses on the prevention, rescue, restoration and reform in human trafficking. Florida is consistently one of the top three states in the U.S. for trafficking cases, and the Tampa Bay area is one of the hotspots.

David Lord, partnership manager at Hope for Justice, recently spoke at FishHawk Fellowship Church and knows firsthand the impact the local community can have.

“From law enforcement to a local mom’s club, we know the power of awareness,” said Lord. “Many of our tips actually come from people we have trained.”

Hope for Justice has professional investigators who are able to respond to a tip and conduct investigations worldwide to rescue someone from an exploitative situation.

“We’ve rescued children as young as 3 months old to people in their mid-70s,” said Lord. “We operate 11 lighthouses, what we call our residential centers, where children rescued from exploitative situations are provided an education, medical care, counseling, housing and assistance to see their traffickers brought to justice.”

When it is safe to do so, children are reunited with their families. Hope for Justice reached 102,803 children over 12 months.

“Our team travels across the country speaking at churches, businesses and other organizations that want to join the fight against human trafficking,” said Lord. “FishHawk Fellowship Church was kind enough to allow us to preach to their church and will be sending hundreds of runners to be on our Running for Freedom team.”

More than a decade ago, a small group of local people came together to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking. This is when Running for Freedom was born. The group has grown and now has hundreds of participants.

By creating a team as part of the Gasparilla Distance Classic, runners and walkers of all abilities—from a family pushing a stroller to someone running 40 miles—are able to take part. Each participant commits to raising $250, with 100 percent of the proceeds directly funding anti-trafficking work.

According to Lord, volunteers are vital to the organization. “We are always looking for nurses, teachers and former law enforcement who can provide training to other frontline workers,” said Lord. “We need individuals who are willing to reach out to community leaders, businesses and churches to raise awareness and challenge more people to get informed and involved.”

Lord invites more people, businesses, clinics, schools and police forces to join with Hope for Justice during Running for Freedom and as everyday advocates in the fight against human trafficking. For more information, visit www.hopeforjustice.org.