Summer camp using art to teach children about sex trafficking
FORT MYERS, Fla.- Seventy-percent of human trafficking cases in Lee County involve children, typically between the ages of 12 and 14.
A kids summer camp program called ArtReach is now empowering children and possibly saving lives by teaching them about sex trafficking through art.
Nola Theiss, the executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, started the program in 2010. She talks to the students and then has them come up with a painting to portray what they learned.
“After working in area for about five years, I realized kids, American kids were the ones who were actually being targeted,” Theiss said. “If we can train them to be aware of what trafficking is and convince them that it could happen to them. Then it might allow them to keep themselves safe.”
Theiss visits different summer camps, but Thursday she worked with children at AFCAAM, African Caribbean American Catholic Center. The organization offers mentoring for students in Southwest Florida. The mentoring coordinator, Veronica Barber, said she heard about the program and immediately asked Theiss to speak with her students.
“There aren’t many adults talking to young people about the dangers of human trafficking,” Barber said.
But after the ArtReach program she said her students, “get it, they get it. They understand and they’re learning to be vigilant.”
In this session, students painted pictures of girls at the mall being trafficked by a friend, and another group painted a picture of a girl being recruited at a party.
The paintings are hung every year in different places. Theiss does not know where this year’s paintings will go, but if you would like to display the artwork, you can contact her here.