Dave McCleary, former president of Roswell Rotary addressed an audience of over 800 north and south Fulton Country bus drivers gathered at Mount Zion Baptist Church on July 31 to increase awareness of human trafficking.
“Our goal is to build awareness to the fact that human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children is our problem because it happens in our backyards every day,” said Dave. He said he became aware of the issue in 2012 at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, learning that human trafficking is not only happening worldwide in impoverished, Third World countries, but also in his hometown community. Research has found that over 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked in the U.S. annually and not all victims are homeless or runaways. With two teenage daughters of his own, he said the reality of the issue became real and awareness led to action.
McCleary said he recognized the opportunity for Rotary “to be a conduit for public awareness and education on prevention, outreach and restoration as well as legislative efforts, all pointed at stopping human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children” during his tenure as president.
Roswell Rotary President Lisa Carlisle conceived the idea of training bus drivers while she was planning for her year of service.The club reached out to local Fulton County School Board officials and the Director of Transportation who in turn, arranged for Dave to speak at their opening meeting of the school year. The club is collaborating with Fulton County Schools to develop an educational video on ways to identify trafficking.Drivers were asked to be aware of who is meeting students at the bus stop:older friends, both male and female, can be a concern or warning sign.School bus drivers were also advised to look for visible signs of physical abuse like black eyes, cuts, marks and bruises, branding or tattoos.Lack of eye contact and inappropriate dress by a child is also a potential source of concern. Pocket cards were provided to each driver with a contact address should they suspect something.
“You are the eyes,” McCleary said. According to him, “our mission doesn’t end with awareness.We will become advocates for changes to the laws that govern human trafficking and support the victims by helping them escape “the life”.
Representatives from Roswell Rotary recognized that Rotary is uniquely positioned to change “everything”.This is the kickoff to a pilot program that we hope will expand statewide and around the world.“We hope that the state Legislature makes it mandatory that school bus drivers be trained on how to spot the signs of sex trafficking.We also think it should be taught in our schools in Georgia”, according to McCleary.
For more information, contact Dave McCleary, Founder End HT Now, 770-480-2620, www.endhtnow.com, or connect with the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery at www.ragas.onlinewww.endhtnow.com