On January 16th, the RC of D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking sponsored the Los Angeles leg of the California Rotary Human Trafficking Prevention Campaign. Approximately 25 Rotarians participated in a noncompetitive 5K walk to raise awareness about the very serious issue of human trafficking, both labor and sexual exploitation of people of all ages and genders, as well as all socio and economic groups, within the Los Angeles region. Rotarians from the D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking Rotary Club were joined by other Rotarians from Playa Venice Rotary, Rancho Park Rotary, Westchester Rotary, Manhattan Beach Rotary, South Bay Sunrise Rotary and Santa Monica Rotary. The walkers were led by Rob DeCou, Ultra Athlete and Rotarian. Thanks to the generosity of the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, District Governor Guity Javid presented $1000 checks to each of the keynote speakers from Journey Out and In Our Backyard, nonprofits assisting victims and survivors of human trafficking, as well as providing the site for the start and finish of the walk.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized each year on January 11. In recognition of this important day, the Rotary Club of Downey by going blue. Every single person in the club wore something blue, ranging from a blue sports coat with blue and white striped shirt and a blue pocket square, to blue flowered blouses for the women, and assorted blue polo shirts and occasionally blue jeans for the men. It was only a small gesture, but each person took the time to find something blue, and that meant they were thinking of the purpose for doing so. That means the consciousness of each member was raised on the subject, for that day.
Above, Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik and Eastvale Mayor Clint Lorimore pose with philanthropist Gail Moore at Rotary District 5330's Community Fundraising Dinner to Fight Against Human Trafficking on Jan. 29, 2022.
On January 25th, Thai CDC was awarded the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. This prestigious award from President Biden was presented online instead of in-person at our nation's capital due to COVID.
The presentation of the award typically takes place during the annual Cabinet-level meeting of the Presidential Inter-agency Task Force which coordinates the US government's effort to combat all forms of human trafficking.
President Biden's cabinet member, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, appeared on the screen alongside Thai CDC's live feed and presented the award.
For the video of the presentation of the Presidential Award by US Secretary of State Blinken to Thai CDC, please go to the minute mark 33:42: https://www.state.gov/the-presidents-interagency-task-force/
The Thai CDC staff, volunteers, and interns who have worked diligently and tirelessly to serve trafficked victims and combat human trafficking over the years are truly grateful for being uplifted in such an auspicious and high-level way. Thai CDC has been at the forefront of fighting this violation of fundamental human rights for almost three decades.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels as our work to bring justice, redress and restitution to victims and survivors and make them whole again continues as sadly, this scourge known as human trafficking continues unabated.
We dedicate this recognition and honor at our country's highest level to the survivors whose resilience is awe-inspiring and to our family, friends, donors, community partners, and past and present staff, interns, and board whose support keeps us going.
An Op-Ed piece that we wrote on human trafficking was also released following our being awarded. The link to the piece is here: https://citywatchla.com/index.php/375-voices/23700-strong-community-ties-can-curb-one-of-l-a-s-biggest-growth-industries-human-trafficking
On October 19, 2021, the Las Vegas Summerlin Rotary Club sponsored the Child Sex Trafficking: Are Your Kids at Risk? Grassroots Forum. The panelists were: Lt. Bill Matchko, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department VicSex Traffickine &g Investigations Section; Judge William Voy, Clark County Specialty Court for Sexually Exploited Youth; Kathleen Khal, Director, HUB - affiliated with Hope Church; and Dr. Christina Vela, CEO, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.
The 90-minute forum begins the process of educating the public about children sex trafficking in Southern Nevada and the physical and emotional abuse these victims suffer. Although there are judicial, law enforcement and social service programs in place to deal with the issue, they are overwhemled and underbudget and barely scrape off the tip of the iceberg. More needs to be done to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, children.
Las Vegas Summerlin Rotary Club and District 5300 is partnering to extend our grassroots a campaign into the Southern California area of the district. The club has been closely working with DG-elect Roger Gutiérrez and PDG Tom Novotny on the project.
Here is a link to the October 19 forum. The forum was the opening story of Channel 8's 11 p.m. News on October 19, 2021. Here is a link to the story. There was a story published in News Break. Here's the link.
The forum is the opening salvo for our grasssroots movement and creates a model for other clubs in the district to follow. I know some clubs have already taken steps to move forward on addressing child sex trafficking in their communities and others are waiting in the wings. I'm available to consult with other clubs to assist them in developing similar programs in their respective communities.
Thank you for you support of Child Sex Trafficking: Are Your Kids at Risk? Grassroots Movement in Southern Nevada and Southern California.
Left to right: Moderator Michael Turner, president of the Las Vegas Summerlin Rotary Club; Lt. William Matcho, Vice and Sex Trafficking Section, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Dr. Christina Vela, CEO, St. Jude's Ranch for Children; Judge William Voy, Clark County Specialty Court for Sexually Exploited Youth; and Kathleen Khal, director HUB Las Vegas, Hope Church.
UCLA students under the guidance of Lucy Tseng, President-Elect of D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking Club, composed over 80 letters to survivors of human trafficking.
Rotarians, family and friends attended Book Signing Event at The Book Jewel in Westchester. Journalist, poet and photographer, Ferne Saltzman, shared the story behind her book, Facets of My Soul, also reciting three of her poems. Guests purchased books for Ferne to autograph. Ferne is a member of the Rotary Club of D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking. She is donating all of the proceeds, through the collaboration with her Rotary Club, to nonprofits assisting victims and survivors in their journey out of the life.“
You may visit Rotarian Ferne’s website at https://leadingwithmyheart.org/. You may “Order Today” from the homepage.
A 12-month calendar with beautiful full-color images are representative of a backstory in the lives of 12 empowered people whose story can be found on the back cover of the calendar.
Proceeds from pre-sales of the calendar through September 2021 will go directly to support Rotary International projects to end human trafficking.
Calendars include inspirational stories of empowerment, overcoming obstacles and human trafficking. They can be preordered through September 30, 2021 at https://bit.ly/3qeBEEB for $12.25, a discount of 25%, plus tax and shipping. The calendars will ship in November. A full description and thumbnail of the calendar is on the website.
A substantial sum from each presale calendar is being donated to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International projects for the prevention and elimination of labor and sex trafficking. Funds donated may be matched by TRF depending upon grant use conditions.
Pasadena Rotarian James Nash, far right in the back row, joins Professor Kelly Gallegos of Chapman College as she previewed her International Anti-Human Tracking Film to community organizations in Murrieta, California. Professor Gallegos is second from the left in the front row.
Nearly 1,400 packages of 80 sanitized wipes per bag were procured by LA5 Immediate Past President Matt Ball. District 5280 Rotarians, coordinated by the lead clubs Rotary Clubs of South Bay Sunrise (David Henseler) and Hawthorne/LAX Lennox (Larry Bender), and assisted in distribution by D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking (Vanessa Galvin Reddix), Westchester (Richard Moon and Cozette Vergari), and Manhattan Beach (Kathleen Terry), took action to distribute the items to 10 nonprofits assisting at risk students, victims and survivors of human trafficking, food pantries, homeless and others in need in the Los Angeles region.
I conceived the notion of a speaking cycle ride the length of Great Britain (about 1000 miles) from Lands End to John O’Groats as a homage to Thomas Clarkson the founder of 180 year old Anti-slavery International. The cycling element was the focus for some fundraising.
Thomas Clarkson rode the length and breadth of the country on horseback on many occasions. Starting in about 1787, he would ride from his home near mine, to London Bristol or Liverpool to research conditions on the slave ships and collect implements of enslavement as evidence.
On his journeys he would stop and speak to groups of people about the horrors of Transatlantic Slavery and show them the evidence.
When I began to implement my plan earlier this year the UK’s second COVID-19 lockdown was in place. Rapidly the prospect grew dim of people assembling anywhere. At the same time meeting virtually was becoming the norm.
This led to a disassociation between my planned route and the location of potential audiences. If I was going to be talking to people on zoom, their proximity to my route was of no relevance.
Fair weather is helpful to a long cycle ride and I miscalculated that late April was a good start time, and that lockdown by then would be sufficiently eased. I offered to give talks from that time.
It transpired that the government had another date in mind - one month later. That delayed my starting time but extended the window for my talks.
Happily all these forced changes worked in my favour. Although I rode up the West of England, I also spoke to schools, faith groups and clubs on the South Coast the South East and Eastern Counties and even to a club in Colorado, US.
By the end of June I had spoken to over 130 groups or classes of students: 3-4000 people in all. If I’d had to do all that as originally planned during the three weeks of the ride, progress would have been slow.
Although I started in a 65mph gale at Lands End, the wind was at my back. That evening I wrote off my bike. It took me most of the next day, a Saturday to find a suitable replacement in Cornwall and when I did start a navigational error made for a 12 mile detour back to my day’s starting point - and a late supper. On Sunday I nearly drowned in a Devon deluge.
I knew things were looking up on Monday because every time it began to rain heavily, I happened to be passing a “pub” or other place of shelter..
The only live talk I gave was at a school in Whitchurch Shropshire. I usually managed to meet up with my campervan support vehicle to give daytime talks in places with good Internet coverage.
My visit to the Liverpool International Slavery Museum was a sobering highlight. It focuses on transatlantic slavery but is cleverly related to present, modern day slavery.
The only challenges after the first three days were in the later ascents. Shap summit in the Pennines and the Drumochter Summit (1500 feet) in the Scottish Cairngorms were the longest but those on the last day in far North Eastern Scotland, south of Wick were surprisingly and repetitively steep.
To date I have raised just short of £11,000 for Anti-slavery International towards the project in West Nepal helping the Haliya people and their descendants out of indentured slavery. That is a UK fund but I’m also raising funds for US 501 (C) (3) Voices4Freedom and their amazing Schools4Freedom project and for them I need a big boost because I’ve only raised $3,566.50 10% of my target.
As you will see from the website it is a very powerful project. Local personnel, trained for the purpose, set up a school in a slave village in NW India’s Uttar Pradesh state. The children are taught that we all have a right to freedom. They go home and tell their parents. Within three years the whole village is free-just imagine freeing an entire village! It has worked 36 times so far. Please make a generous contribution at
I was particularly struck by the kindness of complete strangers: when completely lost or when they waived campsite fees or just randomly donated in favour of the fund.
Although it was something of a logistical challenge, the mere cycling, for anybody of average fitness was not, even at the age of 75, an insurmountable hurdle but it has taken a toll on me. The scenery was glorious and for the most part enjoyed in near perfect weather for cycling.
I only hope those who heard from me, of the plight of our downtrodden brothers and sisters not only heard the words but act upon it. When we are all aware of what we can do to end Modern Slavery/Human Trafficking, less people will be enslaved to satisfy our c onsumer demands; more slaves will be freed as we are able to identify them.”
The Greater Van Nuys Rotary Club recently donated security cameras to the Rudy Ortega Park in San Fernando . The park was named in memory of Rudy Ortega, Sr., tribal leader of the Fernandeno Tataviam Mission Indians. The Club donated to Rudy Ortega, Jr. and the Tribal Center a painting with the Rotary logo painted by Marie Valencia, a Pueblo Indian and a member of the Greater Van Nuys Rotary Club. The painting represents murdered and missing indigenous women. Valencia is working hard to raise awareness of the issue of native women being trafficked.
A group of Rotarians from the club, D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking, participated in a project to bring much need supplies to survivors of human trafficking, served by nonprofit Saving Innocence.
The newly chartered RI District 5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking Rotary Club helped make the holidays a little happier for 50 survivors of human trafficking, with a donation of 50 potted holiday trees, one for each survivor’s room at a confidential site operated by nonprofit Coalition Against Slave Trafficking. (CAST). Club President Vanessa Galvin-Reddix, receiving an anonymous donation, arranged for the purchase of the trees on behalf of the newly chartered Rotary Club.
When Kay Buck, CEO of CAST, reported the donation to the Board of Directors, one board member was excited by the donation and inspired to arrange for holiday ornaments to be added to the activity, so the survivors would have decorations for their trees. Arrangements were made with the owner of Zizi Showroom, Dale Zizi, who generously donated the ornaments.
The D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking Club also donated several items to fulfill essential needs of those survivors being served by the two nonprofits Journey Out, Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services and Free to Thrive.
See photos below.
On October 8th through 16th, Playa Venice Sunrise Rotarian, Rob DeCou, took on Uberman, “the World’s Toughest Ultra-Triathlon”, in partnership with Rotary International District 5280 (Los Angeles Region), swimming 21-miles from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes Peninsula, biking 400-miles to Death Valley, then running 135 miles through Death Valley before ascending 8,360 feet to the portal at Mt. Whitney with the dedicated purpose of raising awareness and funds in the fight against human trafficking.
Los Angeles is among the top three high-intensity child sex-trafficking regions in the nation. Many people believe this to be an issue “somewhere else” in the world, and it is. But, what many do not realize, it is also an issue right here, right in our own neighborhoods. According to the U.S. State Department, ”dollar-for-dollar, human trafficking in America is far worse than it is overseas. It is an underground epidemic that is growing exponentially and is happening in our own backyards.”
And, again, yes right here in our neighborhoods. It is estimated that 150,000 victims are currently held as commercial sex slaves in the U.S., and 50% of these trafficked victims are minor children, with an average age of just 12 years old. Children are being lured in and “groomed,” through social media and the internet, from all socio-economic populations.
So, Rob DeCou, took on the 556-mile Uberman course to bring attention to this issue. “I was gifted with an ability to persevere through extremely long endeavors and this race aligned with the way I have been nurturing that gift for over half my life,” shares DeCou. “This fight against human trafficking is dear to my heart and it continues to touch my soul as one of the greatest injustices we face as a society, with millions enslaved by human trafficking around the world today.”
Rob almost didn’t finish the race. He ended the 21-mile Catalina swim a few miles shy of land due to a health scare. On Friday, October 16th, he returned to the same location to finish the final 4-mile stretch. Rob received a hero’s welcome as he reached Terranea Beach at 10:14am, surrounded by his family, friends and fellow Rotarians as the 7th ever Uberman finisher since the race was founded in 2016.
Rob’s efforts, in partnership with Rotary International District 5280, helped raise over $50,000 to support advocacy, prevention and rescue programs benefiting HOPE61, IN OUR BACKYARD and Los Angeles-based 1736 Family Crisis Center. His triumphant story is an example of how all of us, at every level, can make extraordinary achievements in the fight for what we believe in.
Visit www.RotariansFightingHumanTrafficking.org to learn more about how Rotary is collaborating with Law Enforcement, Governmental Agencies and Nonprofits to work towards rescuing and protecting children from their predators, as well as providing assistance in their recovery.
Additionally, District 5280 is excited to announce a new Rotary Club has been charted as the 60th Rotary Club in the Los Angeles region, the Rotary Club of D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking, with the focus of tackling head on this human injustice, together.