Human trafficking is an increasingly important issue within The Junior League, with key initiatives taking place at the state level through the New York State Public Affairs Committee of the Junior Leagues of New York, Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee, and the Michigan State Council of Junior Leagues, which have advocated for legislation in their states to recognize victims of human trafficking and offer them support instead of treating them as criminals. And AJLI itself was honored by the United Nations Association of New York for League-based initiatives in fighting against human trafficking.
While those are group initiatives, with credit spread out among many Leagues and individuals, here’s how a single League member made a difference in her own hometown.
Sara Morley-LaCroix, a member of the Junior League of Kalamazoo, is just beginning her 10th year in The Junior League. Like her mother and her sister, both of whom have been active League members, making a difference in her community has always been important. She was first alerted to human trafficking in Michigan three years ago through her work with the Michigan State Council of Junior Leagues (MSC), which represent nine Leagues in Michigan, and its State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC).
Sara notes that, working with state legislators in Lansing, MSC has made progress in changing the language of the law to recognize human trafficking as a crime, while punishing perpetrators more harshly. The next step is to work with the Attorney General’s office to establish safe harbor laws to protect human trafficking’s 16- and 17-year-old victims.
But there was no organization in Kalamazoo dedicated to addressing the problem on a community-wide basis. So Sara started the Kalamazoo Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition (KZAHTC) to raise awareness about human trafficking and uncover resources for victims in the Kalamazoo area. KZAHTC’s first meeting in February attracted eight people, including Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller and an FBI Victim Specialist. Support has built since through monthly community meetings, and an awareness event is scheduled for September, with local, state, and federal representatives invited.
KZAHTC’s goals are nothing if not ambitious:
- Advocate for victims of human trafficking, both for sexual exploitation and labor exploitation, in the Kalamazoo area.
- Create community awareness of the problem through social media and training of police, teachers and medical personnel.
- Work with other organizations in the community to coordinate resources to offer assistance to the victims.
Is the problem of human trafficking in Kalamazoo over yet? No. But then Sara Morley-LaCroix and KZAHTC are just getting started!