GALVESTON - While many are focused on keeping kids safe "from" COVID, in this Positively Houston, one local group has launched a new campaign to protect children "during" the pandemic.
Some kids are continuing to learn virtually, all are supposed to still be social distancing. But limiting in-person contact means more time spent online where kids can fall prey, but not if one Houston group can help it.
"It doesn’t mean that you put on your Batman suit and go fight traffickers," smiles Unbound Houston Director or Educational Programs Christa Mayfield.
Area non-profit, Unbound Houston, is battling human trafficking by educating one of the largest groups in danger of falling victim to traffickers, students.
"The University of Texas is estimating there are 79,000 youth and minors that are being exploited for sex just in Texas alone," Mayfield explains.
Unbound Houston has created five videos that Texas middle and high school teachers can access for free and show in class. It’s to school youngsters on the tricks traffickers use to befriend and then isolate, so kids can recognize the red flags of when they are being recruited.
"It's empowering. It teaches them what to look out for, how to find a safe adult, how to know if a friend is really at risk," says Unbound Houston Executive Director Kerri Taylor.
"This is a grooming process that happens. The people that are trafficking our young people are people that our kids trust," Mayfield adds.
"They are talking to people their parents don’t know all the time and they’re talking to people they think they know," Taylor says.
"These predators are on social media, looking to build what looks like a safe, loving, cool friendship or relationship. They’re going to begin to ask you for pictures. They’re going to ask you to meet up and then begin to do things you’re not comfortable with and then these kids feel trapped," Mayfield explains.
The video curriculum complete with workbooks is called the Sentinels program.
"We chose the word Sentinels because Sentinels are guards that stand watch and we wanted young people to realize they have such an important part to play in the fight against trafficking," says Mayfield.
The group has a Light Up the Dark fundraising 5K and an afternoon of family events, including a ninja obstacle course at Moody Gardens on Saturday, October 16, 2021.
"The race starts right about sunset and so it’s just dusk and glowy, and then by the time you finish, it’s dark and the glow party starts," smiles Taylor.
Interested in running or walking the race or viewing the anti-sex trafficking videos? Click here for more information unboundhouston.org/sentinels.