In between all of our training and education, we were able to do some interesting things to spread the word about human trafficking. One of the things we did one afternoon was to deliver S.O.A.P.
Here's the information from the FREE International website:
SOAP: Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution
SOAP is an Outreach that aims to distribute thousands of bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number and key identifying questions FREE to local motels. Volunteers talk to motel owners and managers and provide them with a quick overview of what is happening to young girls in their hotels.
SOAP OUTREACH Campaign
On her worse night, being auctioned off to nearly two dozen men in a dingy, dirty, inner city motel, Ms. Flores recalled the only item that would have reached out to her. A bar of soap to clean up.
The project’s goal are:
- To Educate Motel Owners and staff on human trafficking.
- To offer a way for motel owners, clientele and victims to reach out for help.
- To address the Demand side of trafficking through awareness.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Organize a SOAP Outreach in your community! FREE International has partnered with Theresa Flores of Traffick Free to help launch the SOAP project. To learn more about this project or to have Theresa or a representative from f.r.e.e. come and train your volunteers and help mobilize teams to approach potential high risk motels. Contact us at SOAP@freeinternational.org.
We broke up into 3 groups and went to an area of Las Vegas called Boulder Highway. It has a reputation for high drug and prostitution problems. It is basically a main thorough fare through the city that is lined on both sides with casinos and hotels. Most hotels offer weekly rates for a very inexpensive price.
We would be delivering soap and also handing out a missing person flier. A 16 year old girl went missing in October and still hasn't been found.
We wanted to use this opportunity to help look for her and possibly collect any tips from people who may have seen her, and distribute the soap to hotels that had taken it last year.
|Terra and Lisa discussing which hotels our groups will deliver SOAP to.|
|SOAP waiting for delivery|
This was the first time that FREE had delivered soap to the same hotels in the city. They want to see if they can build a relationship with the hotel managers and keep the soap labels in the hotel rooms more consistently. Almost everyone we talked to remembered the soap from the year before and were very enthusiastic about taking it again. That was really encouraging.
|One of the hotels that accepted our SOAP|
|Terra and Christina getting ready to take SOAP inside and our missing girl flier.|
Driving around the city is interesting. It is very diverse. However it is hard to identify much industry besides hotels, casinos, stores, and sex. In certain parts of the city, there are boxes like newspaper stands, with free advertisements about clubs you can go to or places where you can buy time with women. It's basically a booklet of free porn on the curb for anyone to grab as they walk by.
|These lovely fliers are all along the side of the road . They are free for the taking and advertise all of the businesses that sell girls. Basically it's porn for free straight off the public sidewalk.|
The hotel in the picture below is known as a crack hotel. I wouldn't have known it from looking at it. My kids would have loved to stay there, it had statues of alligators by the pool and moats next to the front door. The boys would have thought it is a pretty cool place (although the moats had no water in them and neither did the pool). When you got closer and went in the lobby you could tell the place was a little sketchy. These nice people didn't take our Soap, but they have a lot of rooms. We were able to make a contact for someone to follow up on and hopefully get soap into that hotel in the future.
The hotel below is one of those places that your husband drives up to late at night on a cross country road trip and you immediately make him drive away even if the next hotel is another 100 miles away. It was that sketchy. However, the manager loves to receive out soap and so we gave him a little extra.
There were a couple of women outside of one of the rooms petting the dog of a man that was just sitting in a chair outside his door enjoying the sunshine. Terra and Christina jumped out with one of our missing person fliers to show to them. They didn't have any information on the girl but the women did ask for more fliers to hand out to their friends.
We were able to discover that the two women actually lived in the end room of the little hotel. They are also 'working girls'. We saw them later, all dressed up, one walking down the road and one a building over getting her hair done by another woman. It made me wonder what there story was. How did these two women get to the place where the best they can do is share a really small, crumbly hotel room, and sell their body to make money. One of the ladies was definitely in her 40's, maybe 50's. The other would probably have been in her late 30's. We didn't have the opportunity to engage in a deeper conversation, unfortunately.
One of the most encouraging things on this outing was how kind people were, how willing they were to do what they could to help, and how they seemed to care that women were being taken advantage in their area of the city. Most of them have seen plenty of drug and prostitution activity in their jobs behind the desk of the hotel or as a cashier at the gas station. Many weren't aware of the signs of trafficking and we dropped off cards to post behind the desk so they would know what to look for. Some of them told us that they didn't see the young girls inside their hotels or stores, but often a 'john' will secure the hotel room, and the girl will stay outside, never being seen.
It was an interesting outing overall. It was a good way for Free to build relationships with more hotels in the area. I'm praying that our efforts may help locate the missing girl and return her home to her family, or a place of safety.
Delivering SOAP is something anyone can do in their home town. It would make a great outreach for a youth group. Go to the FREE International website for more information.
Deliver SOAP and you could save a life.