By Tiffany Ervin: Hendersonville-Four Seasons Rotary Club
Human Trafficking Awareness Week is recognized in the United States from July 24-30, and two local Rotary Clubs want to make sure the issue doesn’t “slip through the cracks.”
The Rotary Clubs of Hendersonville and Four Seasons are partnering with the Henderson County Sheriffs Department, the City of Hendersonville Police Department, Safelight, Life 107, One Voice and other local non-profits to bring awareness to Human Trafficking locally and around the globe.
Rotarians will sponsor the area’s first “Red Sand Project” on Saturday, July 30, 2022, from 9-11 a.m. at the Historic Henderson County Courthouse on Main Street in Hendersonville, and the public is invited to attend and participate.
District Governor Tammy Mosteller (Rotary Club of Lincolnton Sunrise) has asked every club in Western North Carolina to help bring this issue to the forefront. Mosteller plans to attend the event in Hendersonville and will speak about the importance of Rotarians’ involvement in this cause.
Molly Gochman first launched Red Sand Project in 2014 after realizing the depths to which slavery continues to be a contemporary reality. Globally, an estimated 40.3 million individuals live in slavery, whether in forced marriages, forced labor, or for sexual exploitation. She recognized that to begin finding a solution to such a widespread challenge, increased public awareness and engagement would be essential.
Laura Phipps, President of Hendersonville Rotary, and Gene Carr, President of Four Seasons Rotary, are excited that the two clubs can work together to raise awareness about such an important issue and agree this is an excellent opportunity for local Rotarians to create lasting change in their community.
“We’ve invited our local partners who deal with this issue on a daily basis to join us for this special event,” said Phipps. There will be display tables with information on local resources, and presentations by survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. “What we really hope is that community members of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs will join us for this event to learn more about how they can get involved in making Henderson County a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Gochman initiated the first Red Sand Project action in Miami, where she filled the cracks of sidewalks in and around the Art Basel Miami Beach pavilion with red sand. The approach was symbolic, with the grains of sand representing those individuals who fall through the cracks—whether the cracks of our social, economic, and political systems or those of our personal consciousness.
“We will provide free red sand to anyone who shows up and wants to learn more or help us fill the sidewalk cracks at the Courthouse,” said Carr. “Human trafficking is a serious crime and violation of human rights, and one that many people believe isn’t even prevalent in the United States. We hope to open people’s eyes to that it can and does happen, right here in our community, and more importantly to make sure everyone knows there are resources to help those who are victims.”
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for reported cases, with 260 cases in 2020. Hotel-based commercial sex is the most prevalent form in North Carolina, with agriculture and illicit activities the most common venue for labor trafficking in the state.
Both nationally and statewide, adult women made up the majority of the victims; however, men, gender minorities and minor children are also victims of both sex and labor trafficking.
A website organized by Gochman provides free “red sand project toolkits” giving participants a way to physically engage with the cause and to build discussions around the action. To date, Red Sand Project actions have been done in all 50 states and in 70 countries, with more than one million participants.