Local ministry seeks to educate children on dangers of trafficking

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Summer Love, Born2Fly teacher, speaks about sex trafficking education at a recent community meeting at James E. Short Park in Loyalsock Township. Sitting behind is Carrie Tassell, teen participant.

Born2Fly Summer Day Camp is kicking off for the first time in the Lycoming County area to help educate children with age appropriate information in order to stop child sex trafficking.

“I started a ministry two and a half years ago called Mission Possible to help end trafficking,” said Pastor Angelique Labadie-Cihanowyz, Mission Possible founder and director of Lycoming County Born2Fly. “The purpose of that is specifically to inform, educate, raise awareness and also to do whatever we can as far as prevention, as far as trafficking.”

The group will hold two separate free camps in Montoursville and Loyalsock Township.

The Montoursville, elementary age, camp will be from 1 to 4 p.m. July 24 to 28 at the pavilion at Faith Church, 700 Fairview Ave.

The Loyalsock Township camps will be teens from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 7 to 12 and elementary from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 to 18 at the Light and Life Chapel, 1680 Four Mile Drive.

Graduation ceremonies take place at 7 p.m. Saturday after each week.

Labadie-Cihanowyz said that she is passionate about protecting others, and this project came about as a ministry through her church, Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church.

“It’s been on my heart for some time,” she said.

Through using Born2Fly curriculum, they are able to use age appropriate materials and stories to help educate children to be aware of “tricky” people in their lives. According to Labadie-Cihanowyz, research shows that most children are abducted by acquaintances or people they actually know in their life. She said that while the “stranger danger” method of warning used to be seen as more effective, now certain behaviors are important to recognize. These are traits young children might not know to avoid being trafficked.

In order to educate children about those behaviors, the curriculum uses storytelling about “tricky” friends who might be manipulative so that children can understand those behaviors are wrong.

Summer Love, a Born2Fly teacher, said she teaches through a wordless book about Blossom, a caterpillar who eventually turns into a butterfly.

“Along the way she ends up meeting dream thieves that end up stealing her dreams, which represent goals and values,” she said.

When Blossom overcomes her troubles, the book turns from black and white to color as she manages to finish school after hardships and becomes a colorful butterfly.

“We’re teaching second through fifth grade, so this would be a less evasive, nonthreatening type to

reinforce their values and goals to let them know who their true friends are,” Love said. “Hopefully, … if they’re approached, they would know what to do. Traffickers have a very slick way of grooming a little bit at a time. By them realizing if they are talking against their values and goals, that’s not a true friend.”

The Born2Fly program is an international curriculum written by Diana Scimone and has been translated into multiple languages. The concept is the same, despite the locations changing around the world. “Wherever kids and parents receive awareness training, the rate of child sex trafficking plummets,” states the website born2fly.org. “Unfortunately there’s not enough training — nor is it available to those who are most at risk. That’s why we created a global campaign called the Born2Fly Project to create awareness about child trafficking – with the ultimate goal of ending it.”

Derecia Kelly, a survivor of sex trafficking, said that having education and awareness about trafficking is so important in order to prevent it from happening. She said in her case, she went on what she thought was going to be a date, and the next thing she knew, she was sold into prostitution. However, she had contact with the man who had tricked her prior to the date and knew of him.

“To even have women or girls, girls especially because I was very young, it’s so important to pay attention to your surroundings and where you’re at,” she said. “This is more making them aware of men and little signs. As I look back, there were signs that let you know that he was actually no good … but I just didn’t pay attention.”

She said if she had the knowledge before hand, maybe it could have been prevented for her.

“If I had paid attention to the different signs and had been smart, not naive and falling for just any guy,” she said. “I thought he was the nicest guy.”

She said she believes that God helped her get through it so that she was able to help other people get through it and hopefully prevent it from happening to others.

Labadie-Cihanowyz said the camps will help teach participants to have the skills to protect themselves and each other.

“One of the things we ask kids to do is look out for other kids, be willing to stand up for other kids and be assertive,” she said.

Love said that this is a pilot program coming to the area, so they hope to expand on it to have more events next year.

“Ideally, we would have trainings where different churches or groups in the community can go to the training, take ownership and it’s theirs to do,” Labadie-Cihanowyz said.

For more information about the event, visit facebook.com/borntoflylycomingpa/ or contact Love at 570-560-9725.