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Art Against Trafficking

Empowering Survivors during Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Article by Paige Candee

Photography by Nicole Wessendorf and The Tote Project

Originally published in Red Rock City Lifestyle

In the fight against human trafficking, The Salvation Army Southern Nevada unveils a powerful initiative during January's Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Nicole Wessendorf, the organization's Public Relations & Community Engagement Manager, shares the profound impact of their anti-trafficking program, SEEDS of Hope. The focus is on raising awareness and funds through unique products crafted by Survivors.

Wessendorf explains the inspiration behind their innovative approach. Survivors in the program express their hopes and aspirations through painted flowers, symbolizing their journey toward a brighter future. The transformative process involves mental and physical health care, educational and career planning, housing support, and therapeutic interventions.

One Survivor, Miriam, reflects on her experience, stating, "With all the help I get, I can actually say I am happy and loving life. I feel like I'm finally living, and it's not so dark anymore." Miriam's sentiments echo the resilience and optimism cultivated within the SEEDS of Hope program.

The Salvation Army has collaborated with The Tote Project and Hope Co. Global to bring these stories to life. The Tote Project transforms Survivors' floral artworks into an ethically made "Hope" design available on pouches and totes. Crafted by Survivors of exploitation, these products feature upcycled sari fabric linings and tassels, showcasing the unique patterns and colors of each Survivor's journey. Hope Co. Global showcases the art on plantable greeting and note cards, offering a visually striking and environmentally conscious way to share the survivors' stories.

Wessendorf emphasizes the charitable aspect of these products, stating, "A portion of the sales from each product mentioned will be donated back to the program. It's beautiful that the art created by our current survivors will be able to assist future survivors."

The products are available at The Tote Project website (www.thetoteproject.com) for the tote and pouches and Hope Co. Global website (www.hopecoglobal.com) for the greeting and note cards.

In addressing the severity of human trafficking in Nevada, Wessendorf underscores the alarming statistics. Nevada ranks second in the country for human trafficking, with a rate of approximately 6 cases per 100,000 residents. The state's vulnerability is heightened by having the highest rate of unsheltered youth nationwide.

Wessendorf highlights the urgency, stating, "Nevada is especially vulnerable to higher rates of human trafficking due to having the highest rate of unsheltered youth in the nation."

The community is urged to report suspicions or seek help through the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or by texting 233733. The Salvation Army welcomes volunteers and donations, providing opportunities to support Survivors on their path to recovery.

As January unfolds, The Salvation Army Southern Nevada stands resilient, planting SEEDS of Hope to transform lives and eradicate human trafficking. The community is invited to join this positive growth by supporting Survivors through the purchase of these empowering products or by volunteering time and resources. Together, we can nurture a future where every individual's potential can bloom.

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