Last Saturday morning in Osceola County may have been a cool and breezy one, but in front of the Osceola County Courthouse there was a spirit of compassion, unity, and commitment to the goal of increasing awareness of the tragic reality of human trafficking in our world, and sadly, in our own community.

“The State of Florida continues to be ranked number three in the country for human trafficking cases, behind Texas and California. Human trafficking can happen to people of all ages, genders, any race, or religious background. Women are often used for exploitation, while men are often used for forced labor. It is believed that one-in-four trafficking victims are children. They’re exploited for begging, child pornography, or child labor,” St. Cloud Police Chief Douglas Goerke said to the crowd in front of the county courthouse.

The 2nd Annual Red Sand Project, an event presented by the Central Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, symbolized with red grains of sand, those individuals who tragically fall through the cracks of our social, economic, and political systems or those of our personal consciousness.

The event was emceed by James Kenney, Co-chair of CFHTTF and a member of the Osceola County Corrections Department, and featured Chaplain Ray Valentin, Monique Worrell, State Attorney, Ninth Judicial Circuit, Douglas George, St. Cloud Chief of Police, Ricky Booth, Osceola County Commissioner, District 5, Fred Hawkins, Florida State Representative, District 35, and Marcos Lopez, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

“Right here in our own community, our own state, our own nation, around the world, individuals are still being abused and still being robbed of their dignity, their liberty, and their happiness. It’s why we’re all joined here together today not to just make our community aware of human trafficking, but to put a dent in it, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do here today. It’s an honor to be here this morning standing alongside those who have decided that these girls, these boys, these adults, are worth it. I believe it, and I believe everybody sitting here believes that as well.” said Ricky Booth, Osceola County Commissioner for District 5.

Each speaker shared a similar message, that the hideous crime of human trafficking cannot be a story left untold, and that we all have a role to play in increasing awareness. Human trafficking is not something that only takes place in a far away land, it happens, and is happening, in our own community.

“It is estimated internationally that there are 10s of millions of people living in slavery today. Assessing the full scope of human trafficking is difficult because so many cases go undetected, and victims become the ‘hidden’ figure of crime. Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery,” Monique Worrell, State Attorney, Ninth Judicial Circuit shared during the event.

Human traffickers tend to look for victims who come from economic hardship, unstable and abusive homes, mental health issues, substance abuse, and other desperate situations and vulnerable backgrounds. Florida, sadly, ranks third in the nation in calls to the National Human Trafficking hotline. Only Texas and California have more.

“Our children are especially vulnerable, and as a father, I’m no stranger to the threat that human trafficking provides, constantly worrying for the safety of those around me. But, I say no, no more to this. No more to human trafficking, and no more to the people that take part in this. This problem has gone on far too long, and has impacted too many families and children,” State Representative from District 35 Fred Hawkins shared during the Red Sand Project event.

Co-chair with CFHTTF and emcee of the Red Sand Project event James Kenney said, “The mission of the Central Florida Human Trafficking Task Force is to prevent, reduce, and ultimately eliminate human trafficking. It’s a collaborative effort that includes improving public awareness and coordinating to streamline services for victims and survivors of human trafficking in Central Florida

There are many organizations that are fighting against human trafficking on an international scale but there is still much work to be done right here in the U.S., in Central Florida, and in Osceola County.  Despite  increased community awareness and legislative efforts, human trafficking remains a tragic reality. Please consider helping to continue to tell the story to others, get involved one of the organizations that are working to put an end to human trafficking, or pray for the victims to be found, rescued, and restored.

Here is a H

Upcoming Events

15th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Days

  • Student Day
    January 25, 2023
  • 12th Annual Polaris Star Awards Ceremony
    January 26, 2023
  • Professional Panels
    January 27, 2023
  • Red Sand – Orange County, Awareness Day & Film Festival
    January 28, 2023

For more information: