Our ministry has long advocated for greater protections of human trafficking victims.
As health care providers, we understand we play an important role in the identification and treatment of this vulnerable population. We train our team members on their role in identifying potential victims: from the waiting room to patient rooms, as well as within the communities we serve. As part of our Catholic social teachings, we support a culture of non-violence through our work in patient care as well as advocating for greater protections for those vulnerable to trafficking.
Each spring, we host an annual human trafficking seminar at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena and livestream it for those unable to attend in person.
This past year’s seminar had the theme of “Responding Together,” which aimed at educating the nearly 350 in-person and 150 online attendees on the necessity of community collaboration in the effort to stop human trafficking.
Because of this need for collaboration, we have partnered with other community groups on this issue. Our ministry has worked with Jasmine Road in Greenville, a two-year residential restoration program for survivors of human trafficking. Additionally, Bon Secours St. Francis provides comprehensive medical and behavioral health services to the women in this program.
“We’ve partnered with area churches and helped fund a second house for survivors of human trafficking that offers comprehensive services and resources for their (Jasmine Road’s) transitional support program for survivors,” Joseph Mazzawi, vice president of mission for Bon Secours St. Francis, shares.
Other partnerships help us in planning our annual seminar, which features guest lecturers and experts as well as victims of human trafficking who wish to share their experiences. Fostering Great Ideas, an organization that advocates for children and teens struggling in foster care, took part in our most recent seminar by providing insights into the types of children who can be vulnerable to trafficking situations.
One common misconception with human trafficking is that it is synonymous with sex trafficking.
“We need to be aware of the signs of sex trafficking to help those victims,” Joseph says. “But it’s just as important to realize there are other forms of trafficking, with forced labor trafficking being a more common occurrence, especially in our state because of South Carolina’s agricultural industries.”
Jessica Weingartner, director of mission for Bon Secours St. Francis, has represented Bon Secours on the Upstate Human Trafficking Task Force for the past two years and is serving as the chair of the force’s health care subcommittee.
“At Bon Secours St. Francis, we know the complex issue of human trafficking requires multiple ways of addressing, which is why we partner with others and why we host our annual seminar,” Jessica shares. “I have great admiration for the work being done at St. Francis. From our clinical staff who have been trained to spot signs of trafficking and who care for those affected, to our community health team members on the front lines who work with victims of labor trafficking, they are all fighting the good and just fight on behalf of vulnerable populations.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a resource available for both victims of human trafficking as well as those who suspect human trafficking. Call 1-888-373-7888 and report your information to the trained representative. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.