By Andrea Dempsey, youthSpark Intern and Community Ambassador
As I walked into my first Community Ambassador Training at Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Roswell, I had no idea what to expect. I had an interest in the topic of child sex trafficking ever since I heard Atlanta was a major hub for the industry, but I had no idea the forms it took or what it looked like. I was clueless as to the laws on the books that addressed the issue. I did not know who were the buyers, the pimps, or the girls. Where did they live? How old were they? I also was unaware of how I could make a difference. How could I, just one person, tackle the billion dollar sex trade industry? Attending this training answered many of these questions, and of course it sparked even more questions in my mind. I now am more educated about the issue, and I also feel inspired to do all I can to help.
One of the best aspects of the training was how we started the session. By going around the room and introducing ourselves, I learned how this issue affects such a diverse group of people. I was inspired by listening to the forty-some people in that church basement, from a young high-school student to a grandparent, men and women, teachers and business people- they all wanted to help. This issue is not just a women’s issue, or an inner-city issue. It is an issue that impacts everyone in our community because it happens in every community.
Not only did I enjoy connecting with my community about a topic that we all were passionate about, but I also learned so much from just three short hours. I was not very knowledgeable about this issue before attending, but even Allison Hood, a program coordinator at youthSpark, said she always learns something new from these sessions. This industry is constantly changing, with online activity from websites like Backpage, to seasonal events like the Super Bowl. The child sex industry changes with its environment, so there will always be a new angle from which we can look at this topic.
When the training session came to an end, I did not feel hopeless or discouraged because Jennifer (Swain) gave our group the tools we need to help stop child sex trafficking. If you attended, ask yourself: what is my call to action? As a marketing student and youthSpark intern, I plan to work with the branding and business end of youthSpark. But no matter who you are, you have a special skill or talent that is unique, and you can use it to help children who are at risk of being exploited or have already been exploited. This training will spark those connections.
It is amazing what Jennifer can teach in just three hours. Myself and other members of the community had the opportunity to network with one another, understand more about an issue we were interested in, and learn how we can make a difference. Whether you know nothing or everything about commercial sex trafficking, I highly encourage you to attend one of these trainings. It is the best way you can spend your Saturday morning!
For more information on our next Community Ambassador Training, email email@example.com.