Mississippi, SOAP Up to help end human trafficking at this event
Published 11:28 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Members of the Coalition Against Human Trafficking student group and The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Center for Human Trafficking Research and Training (CHRT) will host “SOAP Up Hattiesburg,” a volunteer-driven event set for Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Trent Lott National Center on the Hattiesburg campus.
The program will offer participants training on the signs of human trafficking and the opportunity to assist with a community impact project.
“With January being Human Trafficking Prevention Month, it’s a great time to educate the public about the worldwide issue of human trafficking and the role they can play in preventing and responding to the crime locally. We invite USM faculty, staff, students and Hattiesburg community members to join us for The SOAP Project in Hattiesburg,” said Dymond Frost, USM student and president of the Coalition Against Human Trafficking. “This event will be a wonderful opportunity to learn more and connect with others working to end this crime.”
Social worker and survivor Theresa Flores will share her life-changing story during the event and invite attendees to join The SOAP Project in their mission to end human trafficking by mobilizing communities, providing prevention education and advocacy, and facilitating restorative experiences for survivors.
“Theresa is an American survivor of and campaigner against sex trafficking. She is also the creator of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP), a nonprofit that works to help prevent sex trafficking,” said Dr. Kimberly Hogan, CHRT co-director. “We look forward to partnering with Southern Miss and greater Hattiesburg community members to make a difference through this event and efforts beyond!”
Based in Worthington, Ohio, Flores educates the public on human trafficking in the U.S. and shows how a person can endure horrific conditions and not only survive but thrive. On her worst night, after becoming a victim of sex trafficking, Flores recalled the only item that could have discreetly linked her to help was a bar of soap.
With that realization in mind, The SOAP Project was founded to help reach out to other victims. Flores’ book “The Slave Across the Street,” a New York Times bestseller, will be available for purchase at the SOAP Up Hattiesburg event.
During SOAP Up Hattiesburg, participants will receive training on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and help apply informational stickers labeled with the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-3737-888) to bars of soaps and makeup remover wipes. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to help deliver the materials and crucial missing teen posters to hotels and motels around Hattiesburg.
Beginning at 9 a.m. in the Trent Lott National Center, attendees can register and take part in applying the informational labels to provided hygiene products. Volunteers of all ages can participate in this introductory portion of the event. From 10 to 11 a.m. training will begin with content appropriate for participants who are middle school aged or older. At 11:30 a.m., teams will hit the road to distribute the prepared materials to local hotels. Participants must be 16 years of age or older to participate in the final delivery portion of the event under adult supervision.
Alongside CHRT and The SOAP Project, this event is also co-sponsored by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Forrest County Board of Supervisors, Pinebelt Foundation, Domestic Abuse Family Shelter, and USM Coalition Against Human Trafficking.