Faith inspires woman to raise awareness against human trafficking (Video)

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

Nov. 2, 2013 at 6:02 a.m.
Updated Nov. 3, 2013 at 5:03 a.m.

Jade Manning doesn't consider herself a runner.

But when given the opportunity to bring awareness to a treacherous subject on the front section of the local newspaper, she laced up her cross-trainers and hit the ground running.

Manning, her husband and two children all participated in the Reason to Run 5K, a fundraiser sponsored by Faith Family Church designed to foster awareness of human trafficking.

"No one thinks this is happening here," Manning said. "It's here."

A Victoria spa was one of four locations simultaneously served with a search warrant Tuesday afternoon, following an investigation into a suspected prostitution and international human trafficking ring.

The spa owner was arrested on a warrant charging him with aggravated promotion of prostitution, and four women were taken into custody.

"I don't believe it's an accident that happened days before the run," Manning said.

In July, when event planner Jamie Stoilis brought the idea of ministering to people locally about human trafficking, Manning said she was concerned about taking on the project.

"How are we going to shed light?" she worried.

At first, Manning said the magnitude of the problem seemed too large for "little Victoria" to handle, but, "in the Bible, it talks about how there are people who are hurting," she said.

"We as Christians are supposed to step up and be their light."

Manning said faith inspired her to make a difference.

Data gathered between January 2008 and June 2010 showed 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking were recorded, according to the Human Trafficking Reporting System.

The system captures information on investigations that are conducted by state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States.

The data also shows that 82 percent of the captured incidents were classified as sex trafficking and that one in 10 of the incidents were classified as labor trafficking.

Dennis Mark, executive director for Houston-based Redeemed Ministries, said slavery is very real today, "but it can be stopped," he said.

Redeemed Ministries' focus is to meet the needs of those affected by commercial sexual exploitation. Since 2010, Mark has assisted 50 women and housed 22.

The problem is that human trafficking is being swept under the rug, Mark said.

"We haven't made it our problem," he said. "It's easier to put it on someone else's back: No woman wakes up in the morning wanting to be a prostitute," he said, "and no man wakes up thinking, 'How bad can I abuse someone?' Instead, he thinks, 'How much money can I make off this person?'"

Between January and June of this year, 188 potential trafficking cases in Texas were phoned in to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Mark said his ministry took him all over the world, and no matter where he goes, nothing changes when it comes to human trafficking.

"Language is the only thing that varies," he said.

Victoria isn't any different, he said. "Human trafficking is a problem in Victoria - not as big as it is in other cities but still a problem."

Manning, who teaches second grade at Faith Academy and has two children, ages 7 and 9, said it's heart-wrenching to know the problem is so close to home.

"I can hardly talk about it without crying," she said. "But seeing the people come out to support the cause was inspiring."

"It makes you really realize that people still come together for each other."

On Saturday, 227 people showed up to the 5K, Stoilis said.

Money raised will benefit the Restoration House Ministries in Victoria, Redeemed Ministries in Houston and the House of Palms, a home Faith Family Church is building in India.

"I'm overwhelmed," Stoilis said about the outpour of support from the community. "I just want them to walk away knowing they can do something to help end human trafficking. I want them to have awareness."

Stoilis said using the smartphone application Free2Work is an easy place to start.

The app allows users to look up their favorite brands and see how they relate to human trafficking.

According to the app's website, it uses a grading system that looks at the "prevalence of child and forced labor in the industries and locations in which a company operates," and then weighs it against "the company's action to prevent and to address child and forced labor."

"If we're aware," Stoilis said, "we know what to look for."



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