Galesburg was founded by abolitionists and it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Now anti-slavery forces are at work in the community again.
“People need to know that slavery is real and we all need to be abolitionists,” Tommy Colclasure said about modern human trafficking.
Colclasure is President and CEO of Asha for Life Community, a group formed three years ago because of concerns over the sale of children as sex slaves.
"We focus on sex slavery but there's an estimate by the CIA that there are 27 million people held in bondage in the world today. That's more than any other time in human history,” he said.
He said the national anti-slavery organization Polaris Project reports similar numbers.
Asha for Life Community initially focused on the sex trade in the Indian city of Mumbai, but Colclasure said the group came to realize human trafficking existed a lot closer to home – and in greater numbers than you might think.
It’s large enough of an issue that Saturday, May 10, will be declared “Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Awareness Day” in Galesburg. The proclamation will be issued by Mayor John Pritchard.
Asha for Life Community (Asha is the Hindi word for hope) will hold two fundraisers that day at 156 East (156 E. Main St). The first, from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, will feature Mediterranean cuisine, entertainment, and a silent auction that will include works by local artists. Tickets are $20.
The second event, from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm, will be a bit more formal and will feature Indian cuisine, traditional Indian dancing, and a continuation of the silent auction. Tickets are $50.
The money raised will help pay for establishment of a safe house in the region for those rescued from human trafficking. Colclasure said many of the women liberated during a national raid on the sex industry last year ended up in county jails because that was the only safe place available to them.
“That was a wakeup call for us as an organization,” said Colclasure.
He said the safe house will not be a large facility so that organizers can provide as much direct care and assistance as possible. For safety reasons, he declined to give its proposed location.