“Going to Spain had been a dream for me, but she was living out a nightmare as a victim of sex trafficking. It was eye-opening. I became passionate about using my privilege to help women feel empowered.”
The question was how to do it. In a social justice class, a classmate suggested GreenHouse would be a great place for Sara to start. GreenHouse has been especially helpful in helping the fourth year Honours Spanish student to focus her passion.
“When I first started at GreenHouse, I didn’t know where to start. I wanted to do something globally, but I didn’t realize this was a problem in our own community. How could I think of addressing this problem elsewhere if it’s going on here in my hometown?”
She discovered that the Waterloo Region, owing to its location along the 401 corridor, is actually facing its own sex trafficking crisis, and while there are many great local organizations working to support victims, she was dismayed to discover there is no region-wide strategy.
With the help of coaches and mentors, Sara began connecting with people engaged in work to stop trafficking. She thought about a variety of approaches but realized there was value and need in focusing on advocacy and prevention of human trafficking.
At the winter Social Impact Showcase, the People’s Choice award was presented to Sara Velasquez. She used her funding to host a series of stakeholder dialogues to discuss the issue and look for opportunities to develop coordinated responses and eliminate unnecessary duplication.
“A lot of people don’t even know human trafficking is a problem in our community,” she says. “I want to engage the community to know about the problem and do something about it.”
To that end, Sara’s venture, Chasah, was chosen by anti-trafficking organization A21 at their local representative for the Walk for Freedom, a global movement that drew awareness in hopes to eradicate human trafficking. The local Waterloo walk saw 75 people participate and brought awareness of how this issue is happening locally.
The awareness-raising march took place in Kitchener on October 20 through local spaces that are affected by human trafficking, although they may appear to be regular public and private spaces. She’s hoping to receive funding through GreenHouse’s Social Impact Fund to pay for insurance, licensing and a speaker for the march.
She has appreciated being at GreenHouse for a variety of reasons: as a local resident, she had never lived in residence before but she has particularly valued the supportive mentorship she has received from GreenHouse staff.
“If it weren’t for them mentoring me through hiccups and walls, I wouldn’t be in this place right now, and what I have now is better for what I’m passionate about.”