When is the last time you heard a politician in Florida address the problem of human sex trafficking in the state? And yet, human sex trafficking is a huge industry in Miami, generating an estimated $235 million dollars a year; but one which, unfortunately, is rarely spoken about anywhere in our local media or political structures. Because of the lack of public awareness, funding to combat the problem is paltry at best, and there’s even less set aside to help the young women that are rescued from these harrowing situations. Enter Glory House of Miami, a non-profit organization that is seeking to turn this situation around.
According to Glory House of Miami’s Director Betty Lara, her team is actively focused on acquiring a “permanent, long-term safe house” for the female survivors of sex trafficking, a place where they would be able to find not only shelter and the basics, but also medical attention, psychological help, spiritual guidance, legal support, vocational training, and job and life skills training in order to reintegrate into the community as productive, and healed, members of society. It was to this end that Glory House hosted last night’s festive fundraiser at La Bodeguita in Coral Gables. “These women are totally abused,” said Maria Vadia, a self-proclaimed missionary and the backbone of Glory House’s efforts. “They need recovery, they need to be restored. At this moment we’re looking for the physical house…somebody with a big heart and a big wallet!”
MC’d by popular radio and television personality Rick Sanchez, the event not only entertained but informed; Betty Lara commanded the room with the stark facts concerning human sex trafficking in the state, imploring those present to spread the word and do what they can to contribute to her team’s worthy cause. Homeland Special Agent Victor Williams was also there with members of the Miami and Broward Police Departments, reminding the crowd that law enforcement can only be effective when there are social structures, such as Glory House, in place to support the victims once they are found. But the most compelling voice all night was that of Melissa, an actual sex trafficking survivor, who shared her story onstage. You could hear a pin drop as the crowd realized, perhaps for the first time, that these young women are real people – not just statistics. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room.
Commissioner Joe Martinez, aka “The People’s Commissioner,” graced the event with his exuberant personality, as Miami’s glittering philanthropic crowd enjoyed champagne, cocktails, and delicious Cuban bites to the smooth sounds of international jazz singer Louis Amanti (I SWEAR he sounds just like Michael Bublé!). Silent auctions were conducted and pictures were taken and all in all it was a huge success, but the efforts don’t stop there. This morning I got the following message from publicist extraordinaire, Ana Margarita Martinez:
“Today, Thursday, November 20th is Give Miami Day! What is Give Miami Day? Give Miami Day is a 24 hour, online only giving event hosted by The Miami Foundation. Glory House of Miami (GHM) is proud to partner with The Miami Foundation who help donations made on this day go further through awarding a percent match to organizations based on their total raised during Give Miami Day. In addition, organizations can compete for prizes to further increase giving. 100% of donations made to GHM are given to GHM with an emailed receipt sent to you from the foundation. See details at GiveMiamiDay.org.”
In this season of giving, let’s not forget those who need it most. What better gift to give than a second chance at life?