In August a friend of mine came across a 5k benefit called "The Lantern Walk." Knowing that I enjoy running and have participated in a handful of races she thought this would be right up my alley. Even better? The walk benefited Compassion First: a local nonprofit that's fighting human trafficking and offering support and care for those who have survived it. My friend started a team, we were dubbed the She-Nanigans, and we each started gearing up for the event.
On Saturday, September 27th we headed out to the Portland International Raceway to walk. A big part of the event focused on awareness. Awareness for the problem that is modern day slavery. I first became vaguely aware of human trafficking around 8 years ago when my younger sister mentioned it. Not long after that a former classmate of mine dug into researching human trafficking and got involved with the International Justice Mission. Last February, my church hosted a benefit concert for Abolition Now -- another local non-profit -- and my son and I participated in the "Shine a Light on Slavery" awareness campaign.
In the weeks leading up to that concert I read stories, saw statistics, and learned warning signs. Explaining to my then-4-year-old in terms that he would understand what the red X on our hands meant and why we were doing it was not an easy conversation. But you're never too young to learn about injustice in the world and he can still tell me what that X means all these months later.
Prior to the walk itself on Saturday there were a number of speakers and a handful of tables set up with even more information and ways to get involved: House of Engedi, Shared Hope, The Defenders, and more. About 250 people gathered to walk, including these lovely ladies.
The walk itself was gorgeous. I've done races at PIR complete with mud and foam and bubbles and bouncy-house-style obstacles and slime. This was very different. Each participant was given a lantern and candle and the entire path was lined with thousands of paper lanterns. As dusk turned to darkness it only grew more beautiful.
250 people carrying lanterns in support of those trapped in a horrible reality. 250 individuals with a hope that they can make a difference to end human trafficking and modern day slavery.
If you would like to learn more, check out any of the links provided in this post or check out Compassion First, Shared Hope, or Abolition Now on Facebook.