Women religious in the Dubuque, Iowa, area are the prime sponsors of a bus wrap featuring a photo of a young girl to drive home a growing reality: “Not for Sale: Stop Human Trafficking.”
The wrapped bus will spread this message for the next year as it travels all the city routes. It is a follow-up to human trafficking awareness training sessions given to approximately 70 local bus drivers at the Jule Transit Company.
The area’s Catholic Sisters founded the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking in 2014, and it has grown to include Associates and others dedicated to the elimination of trafficking. The coalition’s hope is that the awareness of and response to the message will prevent vulnerable young persons from becoming victims of this crime against humanity, and encourage people to contact the hotline if they see anything suspicious.
This same message was posted on a billboard on US Highway 20 between Dubuque and Dyersville in August. The timing was intentional. Large public events like athletic contests and fairs are a magnet for traffickers, and in Dubuque County none was bigger than the major league baseball game on Aug. 12 between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees at Dyersville’s iconic Field of Dreams. Eight thousand fans cheered on their teams, and ancillary events like concerts drew additional enthusiasts.
“We want to help people realize that no person is a commodity to be sold,” says BVM Sister Irene Lukefahr, a coalition member. “Each person is a beloved daughter or son of God, worthy of dignity and respect, not a tool for pleasure and profit.”
This is only one of the educational initiatives of the Coalition. In addition to presentations to faith and civic groups and students, they have trained hotel and motel staff on the signs of trafficking within their facilities. A news conference celebrating completion of the first such training caught the attention of a state legislator. He introduced a bill stipulating that all lodging facilities doing business with the state of Iowa complete this awareness training and be certified. The bill passed unanimously, and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.