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Pathways Project Coalition brings trafficking awareness and education

The Pathways Project Coalition met on Tuesday, April 16, at the offices of Local Insurance Advisors in Branson West. At the meeting, founder Veloris Juneman gave an update on recent activities and future plans for the Coalition, formed earlier this year with the goal of increasing awareness of human trafficking and prevention education in Taney and Stone County.

 

Pathways Project Coalition has received official 501(c)3 status through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, a major step in being able to raise funds for awareness and educational events. Juneman reported that several presentations have been given to area civic and community groups, and Russ Tuttle of the Stop Trafficking Project recently spoke at the College of the Ozarks.

 

Juneman and others have been attending educational and training events, as well as visiting Joplin and Springfield coalitions to observe successful practices and build partnerships. The Coalition also hopes to partner with area resource groups and nonprofits who may encounter victims while providing other services such as grocery assistance or recovery counseling. Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader has expressed interest in additional training for law enforcement personnel for identifying and responding to trafficking situations, and Coalition leadership is talking with schools about ways to educate students regarding the dangers of enticement via social media, along with possible staff training about signs to watch for.

 

Meeting attendees watched compelling video testimony of several survivors. One young woman, in spite of being a good student, active in sports, and having a supportive family, was enticed into drugs by a romantic interest and then into sex trafficking by way of texting and apps. “The customers were men you would never think about, just regular guy types, even churchgoers,” she said in sharing her story. “Victims are hiding in plain sight and not sure how to get out of ‘the life.’” This woman intentionally shoplifted, hoping to be arrested as a route out, and now directs a prevention nonprofit. “There’s not a county in my state and probably in the entire country, where this doesn’t happen,” she said.

 

Coalition members will be on hand with information at the Heart Health & Recovery Walk in Kimberling City on April 27. As events are planned in Taney and Stone County, bags are also being assembled containing basic clothing and hygiene items to be given to rescued victims. Donations for the bags are welcomed, or visit the Pathways Project Coalition page on Facebook for a scan code for the shopping list. Donations are also needed for giveaway items with the Coalition logo, rack cards and signage for events.

 

Pathways Project Coalition meetings are held the third Tuesday of each month; follow the Facebook page for meeting details and to stay updated on educational opportunities and special events. By working together, we can reduce this awful crime in southwest Missouri!

 

 

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