VAN WERT — January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and as part of its mission the YWCA of Van Wert County will be conducting several events to bring awareness to this horrific crime and bring assistance to victims of human trafficking in our area.

There are many sobering statistics that surround human trafficking and its victims. There are a few types of trafficking that occur, the most prevalent being sex trafficking (73 percent) followed by forced labor (14 percent). Many people believe human trafficking is an international problem when the reality is that 80 % of trafficking victims in 2011 were American citizens. Nationally, Ohio ranks fourth in Human Trafficking incidences. In 2017, an estimated 1 out of 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims and average age of girls who are forced into sex trafficking is 12-17 years of age. (Statistics from Polaris and National Human Trafficking hotline.)

The YWCA of Van Wert County’s mission is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Human Trafficking, at its core, strips people of their dignity and freedom, treats victims as commodities for purchase to the highest bidder and subjects them to abuse by their captors and others who exploit them.

In its crusade to bring awareness to this issue, the YWCA has several events planned for the community to participate in to become educated about this topic as well as to help victims move from victimhood to survivorship. All funds raised from the events will be used to provide services for human trafficking victims housed at the YWCA.

All month long, white cord bracelets will be available for purchase at the front desk of the YWCA and at all the human trafficking awareness events. White is the awareness color for human trafficking and these stylish white bracelets are handmade by players on the Van Wert Lady Cougars and the Lincolnview Lady Lancer Basketball Programs. The bracelets will feature silver beads on nylon cord and have an adjustable slip knot closure. Adult and child sizes are available.

Both the Lady Lancers and Lady Cougars have been doing their own fundraising activities this month and the winner of this competition will be announced at the basketball game between these two county opponents. A traveling trophy will be presented to the winning squad between the JV and Varsity game on Saturday January 12th. JV tips off at 1:00 pm at Lincolnview High School.

A free screening of the feature film, “Priceless”, will be shown at noon on Sunday at Van Wert Cinemas. Joel Smallbone, singer with the popular Christian group For King and Country, stars in this feature film rated PG-13. In this drama inspired by true events, Smallbone’s character unknowingly delivers two women into the hands of traffickers and then vows to save them.

A family friendly event, GLOW BOWL 2019, is planned from 1-5 p.m. on Jan. 20 at Olympic Lanes. There will be door prizes, a silent auction and items for raffle as well as a 50/50 drawing. Silent auction ends at 3:00 and a full list of auction packages can be found on the YWCA website and on the YWCA facebook page.

A new event this year is Pound and Pour at the Van Wert Elks at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24. Pound is a rockout workout that is taking the country by storm and is the first cardio jam session inspired by the sweat dripping fun of playing the drums. For $25, participants will get a drink ticket to exchange for the drink of their choice after the 45-minute Pound workout and those attending are invited to stay and enjoy additional drinks and food in the Elks lounge. This workout is suitable for all fitness levels and it is highly modifiable for joint/back issues. Registration for this event is going on now and space is limited.

For questions about any of these events or YWCA services please, contact Julie Schaufelberger (julies@ywcavanwertcounty.org) or call 419.238.6639.Additonal information can also be found on the new YWCA website www.ywcavanwert.org.

The YWCA is part of the Northwest Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, a 16-county coalition whose mission is to unite the community to respond to human trafficking through increased awareness for educators, health care providers, social service providers, law enforcement, and the general community while developing collaborative protocols and procedures to respond to victims, target demand, and prevent future victimization and exploitation. The YWCA is partially funded by the Van Wert County Foundation and the United Way of Van Wert County.