Area group aims to prevent trafficking through child education
Human trafficking is happening — possibly closer to home than some might think. But there are ways for children to be more self-aware and help keep themselves safe without tarnishing their innocent world view, according to Dawn Blanchard and Ann Judd.
The two head up a local group of Born 2 Fly, an international organization which educates children, primarily young girls, with age-appropriate information in order to help stop child trafficking.
“We are available to talk, we want to do presentations, we want to educate people,” said Judd. “We can set up a Born 2 Fly (event) in a neighborhood at somebody’s house. Just do it for your daughter and her 10 friends. In the schools or in the churches, we’re up for anything like that.”
The curriculum for their program primarily stems from the book “Song of Songs” in the Bible.
Though they don’t always bring the Christian component to the table, depending on their audience, Blanchard and Judd usually teach that God created everyone with unique abilities.
“He knew way before the beginning of time what you were going to look like … and you have something to give the world. We talk a lot about that,” she said.
Blanchard quoted Diana Scimone, a former journalist who founded Born 2 Fly International, as saying:
“Once a girl understands how much Jesus loves them, what He thinks of them and how perfect they are in His eyes, once they really get that in their hearts, the traffickers can’t offer them anything.”
The two have conducted five-day camps in the past, and Judd has even taught the course in Milawi, an East African country. The program stresses the importance of such things as staying in school and self-esteem in order to arm young girls and teens with the tools to protect themselves from traffickers.
It is set up to ideally be done over a five-day period, with a core principle discussed each day. On day one, the young girls are introduced to a caterpillar named Blossom who illustrates that choices have consequences.
The young bug’s fellow villagers, who survived off trees that provided their food, find themselves forced to eat sticks after making poor choices such as burning the trees.
“You get to talk about all the choices and what happened to the caterpillars because of the choices,” Blanchard said.
Blossom learns of a tree still alive and, despite her Pappy’s warnings to stay in school and not wander off alone, she decides to sneak away and find the tree, Judd said.
On the way, the little caterpillar encounters dream thieves who steal things from her — at first, physical things. Then, one day, they capture her.
Blossom regrets her decision to disobey, which led to her capture. Eventually she turns into a butterfly and is able to escape through a crack she couldn’t get through when she was a caterpillar. In the end, Blossom makes it home, goes back to school and equips herself with the knowledge to resist the dream thieves.
“One thing we try to teach during that week is how to handle yourself so that you would be too much trouble for a trafficker, because there is a certain type of girl that traffickers want,” Blanchard said.
“The girls that they want don’t have any self-esteem, they look down, they can be manipulated, they can be bought with expensive gifts. This is in the story about Blossom — she falls for all of that,” she continued.
Blanchard and Judd said they teach the girls how to respond confidently when someone gives them a compliment, instead of being self-deprecating.
Knowing who your true friends are is the second day’s focus, they said.
“Traffickers will pretend to be your friends. They go wherever kids are, the malls, parks, schools. They’ll hang out and wait for you after school. The big thing now is internet — they will pretend that they are somebody else. You need to be very wise in choosing your friends,” Judd said.
“We give them hints on how you can know who a true friend is,” Blanchard added.
Judd noted that traffickers tend to target girls who are loners.
“They are very perceptive. They watch and they know who they can go for,” she said.
The third day centers on helping the girls discover how they are unique, valuable and worth loving.
The next day stresses patience, hard work and waiting for the right time. The last day finishes up with, “You were born to fly, don’t settle for less.”
“Stick to your plan. God gave you a dream,” Judd said. “Follow that dream. Don’t let anything that looks too good to be true stop you.”
Although Judd has taught the curriculum in Malawi and is headed to Thailand and Haiti over the next few months, the response locally has not been as enthusiastic as the two had hoped. They stressed that the information is delivered in a kid-friendly way and is tailored to the setting where they are presenting, such as churches and schools.
To contact the local Born 2 Fly group visit their Facebook page at: https://www.Facebook.com/Born2FlyRailway.