The faces of human trafficking are more familiar than one might think. It can happen to anybody in any place in any country.

Men, women, and children in the United States and throughout the world are exploited in what is recognized as one of the greatest human rights tragedies of our time. Who are they?

Children and teenagers lured from online chat rooms and groomed by teams of people who misidentify as friends and mentors. Adults misled into migrating to the United States in search of better lives, who are then enslaved and forced to work for little or no pay. Others are forced into drug addiction and prostitution.

Sisters and Associates of the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids have been engaged with this issue at the state and global level for four years. In 2016, we supported the founding of a Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force and the #STOPTHISTRAFFIC campaign. The Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force meets regularly at Dominican Center at Marywood.

The human trafficking machine is hiding in plain sight. Learning ways to recognize signs of human trafficking is society’s best defense. Which is why during Human Trafficking Awareness Month (every January), the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids share information about what human trafficking is and where it is happening. During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we also introduce you to organizations and resources that we partner with to help expose and end human trafficking in Kent County, Michigan, North America, and the world.

Faith and compassion can guide our responses to those who are victimized. In partnership with the Human Trafficking Committee of the Dominican Sisters, learn more about compassionate listening and response at our annual human trafficking awareness-raising programs, held every January at Dominican Center. The West Michigan community is also invited to join us for those who have been harmed and for those who are in harm's way due to human trafficking. We take time to pray for West Michigan and the world to face this challenge with courage, dignity, and compassion. Please wear blue as a sign of solidarity for all those who are suffering and for all who are working to end human trafficking. Prayer services are also held in January.

To be informed of upcoming Human Trafficking Awareness month programs and services, please send your name, email address, and home address to programs@dominicancenter.com and ask to be placed on our mailing list for our catalog of events.

You can learn more by visiting http://stopthistraffic.org/.