When you contribute your knitting to Backpack Rescue, you can offer comfort and hope for healing to a survivor of human trafficking
Have you heard of human trafficking? Do you know what it is?
Human trafficking involves the movement (illegally, usually through coercion and/or deception) of a person for the purposes of forced labor and/or sexual exploitation, either through prostitution or sexual slavery.
If you’ve never seen a single statistic about this horrible crime, then the ones I’m about to show you may shock you. Here is just a sampling.
- Human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing crime, and the second-largest criminal enterprise in the world (second only to drugs).
- The fastest-growing sex crime in the world is the trafficking of minors.
- 21 million people around the world are victims of sex trafficking.
- Less than 1% of these victims are identified.
- 300,000 U.S. teenagers are victims of sex trafficking every year.
- The average age of victimization: 12 through 14.
- 4 out of 5 are female.
- Half are children.
- 1 out of 3 runaways are approached by sex traffickers within 48 hours of life on the streets.
It is tempting to think of human trafficking as rare horror stories that certainly never happen in the United States, or in any other civilized country. Unfortunately, the above statistics show otherwise. Human trafficking is a devastating crime that leaves many young lives deeply traumatized in its wake.
Mary Singer saw the statistics. She felt the horror of knowing this was happening in her own region as well as those around the country. She read the news stories.
But rather than drown in despair and horror, Mary chose to take action. She founded an organization she calls Backpack Rescue.
The Birth of Backpack Rescue
I’ll let Mary herself tell the story of how she started Backpack Rescue.
I came across an article reporting that, over a 2-day sting, 82 children had been rescued from child trafficking. (Source: http://abc13.com/news/fbi-rescues-82-children-in-sex-trafficking-sting/1577121/)
I couldn’t fathom how 82 kids were in forced sex labor and was pretty upset by it.
I started following FBI, local nonprofits, and child abuse centers, and quickly I learned that both kids and young people all the way up to early 20s are in desperate need of basic necessities upon their rescue from trafficking.
A local psychiatrist in Baltimore told me that making these small backpacks with toiletries, socks, and a stuffed bear for small children is really helpful.
While working in corporate America for many years, I also volunteered and acted as a liaison with the USO for the company I work for. I helped manage hundreds of people making backpacks for soldiers fighting in the war against terrorism after 9/11. With that experience, I knew I could help pull these items together and make backpacks. It was something easy I could do to help give back to these victims, as well as young children pulled out of exploitative homes in my Baltimore area.
In January of 2017, Backpack Rescue was born.
Helping Survivors Heal, One Backpack at a Time
Mary’s mission is simple: collect items to go into backpacks that would then go to survivors of human trafficking and children rescued from abusive homes. Included in these backpacks are toiletries, school supplies, art supplies, clothing, and other items that could help offer comfort, healing, and even a sense of hope.
As Mary states on her Backpack Rescue Facebook page:
Many victims who are rescued from captivity are brought by their local FBI or Homeland Security offices to nonprofit organizations which then provide them a list of shelters or detox centers to be admitted to. Unfortunately, the time between when these victims are rescued until they find shelter could be days apart.”
This is why Backpack Rescue offers such a needed service. It offers these survivors the opportunity to engage in personal hygiene, have warm and comfortable clothing, and receive other items that can help the process of comforting and healing.
More from Mary:
Middle and high school-aged kids help me decorate therapy binders for the backpacks we make for teenagers and young adults. Therapy binders are something that I came up with. These are a way to help put pencils, paper, and a 12-month calendar in one place for them.
One of the reasons having a 12-month calendar is so important to the older teenagers is because usually, by the time that they are rescued, they have become addicts and do not have a clear state of mind. They don’t have phones or access to calendars. Consequently they miss their therapy classes and other classes that help them study for their GED so they can get a job.
How You Can Help Survivors of Human Trafficking
If you want to help provide a touch of comfort and healing to these survivors, here’s what you can do.
You can knit or crochet any one of a number of comfort items that would help make a survivor feel warm and loved. These could include blankets, lap afghans, shawls, hats, scarves, soap covers, washcloths, and plush toys.
No need to worry about size or color; just knit something that you enjoy and that you can put all kinds of healing vibes and prayers into.
That’s it! When you’re ready to send your contributions, just email Mary at Mary.Sue.Singer@gmail.com. Mary and her Backpack Rescue crew will take care of the rest.
Want more information? Check out Mary’s Backpack Rescue Facebook page.
Mary’s group and mission are an amazing way to move from despair and helplessness to helping, healing, and hope. I hope you’ll consider knitting or crocheting for Backpack Rescue and help survivors of human trafficking!