FAIRMONT — Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are kidnapped, sold and transported to other people in the dark, criminal world of human trafficking.
Entrepreneur Stephanie LaDeaux, of Fairmont, said she thinks if more people knew about the human trafficking, that number would decrease.
“About 800,000 children every year go missing, and we can’t account for where they go,” LaDeaux said. “Most of probably where they’re going is into human trafficking. That’s not something that I think people would ignore if they knew about it.”
LaDeaux was part of an event Thursday that promoted the fight against human trafficking, because July 30 is annual World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Hermosilla’s Deli in East Side hosted made a donation to the cause while also providing educational information. The goal was to raise money for the organization Operation Underground Railroad, which helps to save people who have been sold into human trafficking.
“We have education here, we’re going to talk to all our customers about it, try to get them to donate a dollar or two,” said Ali Gross, who is part of the family that owns Hermosilla’s. “There’s over 2 million children in child trafficking, so it’s a lot. In the United States, they estimate about 50 kids a day get sold into child trafficking, child labor. It’s just a billion dollar industry of illegal money.”
Volunteers sat outside Hermosilla’s Thursday to collect donations, and also spread information about human trafficking to customers and community members. Gross said she asked several other local businesses to donate money to the cause, and she also said the deli would donate a portion of its profits for the day toward Operation Underground Railroad.
Gross said 33 businesses from around the area pitched to help raise $1,230 to donate to Operation Underground Railroad. She said although people in West Virginia may not believe they are affected by the illegal trade of human trafficking, people who deal in crime travel through different states to make trades.
“They definitely are passing through,” Gross said. “They operate a lot at airports, different transportation hubs, trains and bus stops because they can just get a child and be away really quickly.”
LaDeaux — a representative for the essential oils company doTerra — said doTerra created an oil to promote information about human trafficking, which is also used on rescued victims to help them recover from the mental trauma they experienced. Profits made from sale of the oil, called Hope, are all donated to Healing Hands, she said.
“Part of what they have decided to do is fight human trafficking,” LaDeaux said. “They have partnered with Operation Underground Railroad, and they created an oil called Hope. It was specifically created to help them move through the emotions of trauma.”
LaDeaux said she hopes people become more aware of human trafficking, and take notice of the activity going on at transportation stations across the country.
“Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world,” LaDeaux said. “The only way that it can continue to grow at the rate that it is is ignorance. If we bring this to light, there’s no way that people will let it continue to grow the way that it is.”
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center can be reached by calling 1-888-373-7888, which will provide information or statistics on the crime.