To the Editor:
Six years ago, I had the opportunity to join a program that wanted to take serious action against a horrific issue — human trafficking — in Bucks County.
As a member of a professional women’s global service organization, Soroptimist International of Indian Rock (SIIR), I was already entrenched in the issue of human trafficking and its global impact. SIIR members supported the Soroptimist’s “Stop Trafficking” program by raising awareness through distribution of Soroptimist materials.
But it was when I heard that human trafficking was happening in my own backyard (Bensalem) that I, and members of SIIR, decided to take further action. As a representative of SIIR and a concerned Bucks County resident, I joined the Bucks Coalition Against Trafficking, a project of Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA). BCAT’s mission is to eradicate human trafficking in Bucks County through victim identification; community education; enhancement of arrests and prosecution of traffickers; legislative advocacy;and a coordinated response of survivor services.
After learning about the different BCAT subcommittees seeking volunteers, I felt my skills and passion would best serve the community outreach committee, whose goals are to educate the community on human trafficking in Bucks County and to empower the community to spread awareness, address demand and respond to potential trafficking situations. Six years later, I continue to serve on this committee and am also BCAT’s co-chair, along with Julie Dugery of NOVA.
BCAT has been successful in its efforts because it is composed of a dedicated, creative and determined team that encompasses social service agencies such as Worthwhile Wear/The Well, the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, the Synergy Project, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, local law enforcement, Children and Youth, church groups and concerned citizens, to name just a few.
Since its inception in 2013, BCAT has participated in a variety of activities to raise awareness. In January 2018, we conducted a one-day professional conference for advocates, law enforcement, anti-trafficking organizations, health care workers and other concerned partners. We’ve hosted human trafficking documentaries and participated in panel discussions and hosted awareness and fundraising events, all in an effort to educate the community about trafficking in Bucks County.
Volunteering on BCAT has afforded me opportunities to share my talents, enhance my skills, network and form new friendships. I am incredibly proud to be part of BCAT and its efforts to educate and raise awareness about human trafficking. My goal is to encourage more community groups and Bucks County citizens to join BCAT as we continue on our path to end human trafficking in Bucks County and beyond.
For more information about BCAT, how to take action and volunteer, please contact Deirdre Blackburn, human trafficking coordinator, NOVA, at 800-675-6900 or 215-343-6543.
— Patti Cullen, community co-chair, Bucks Coalition Against Trafficking (BCAT) at NOVA