In the past year, cases of sex trafficking have been reported in all 50 states in the U.S. So, for our #GivingTuesday campaign this year at ECPAT-USA, we wanted to focus on how we can stop these cases of sex trafficking from happening before they even start.

Our Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) program is our largest prevention program. We believe that through empowering our primary stakeholders, America’s children, we will be able to stop child sex trafficking before it starts. Our youth program trains students to be the foremost advocates in their communities, educating them on the facts, misconceptions and risks of trafficking. Where there is education, there is prevention, and through Y-ACT, youth are able to use their voice and knowledge to educate and empower others about the issue.

“I don’t know if I can stress how lucky I feel to have been a part of the Y-ACT program,” said Ryan Onodera, a Teaching Fellow at a New York school who implemented the Y-ACT program in his classroom last year. “I feel more aware and more appreciative of what I have.”

At the end of the 10-week program, Onodera’s students spent a few hours in a local park educating the public about the risks of sex trafficking in their community. He said that when the students approached an individual who didn’t speak English, they started translating what they had learned into Spanish.

“Some of my students, in class you see them and they can have shy tendencies: they don’t want to talk to people, they don’t want to engage,” he said. “But then you get them out in the real world in real situations, and they really shine in unexpected ways.”

All of the donations received by ECPAT-USA on #GivingTuesday will be used to expand and improve our Y-ACT program. We’re hoping to raise $7500-enough to educate and empower 100 more students.