Our Charitable Choices column this week chats with Free-Them founder Shae Invidiata about her organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the trafficking of humans in Canada and abroad.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Free-Them is a Not-for-Profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds to fight Human Trafficking in Canada and abroad.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Free-Them focusing on preventive measures to fight and end Human Trafficking. We focus on bringing awareness and education to an issue that many people are not aware of and work towards changing / strengthening laws to fight the trafficking of humans.
When did you start/join it?
I founded Free-Them in 2010.
What made you want to get involved?
I saw human trafficking happening firsthand while I was living in Hawaii attending University. After learning more about this hidden crime, I realized it was happening here in Canada as well, but that very few people knew what Human Trafficking was, and even fewer knew that Human Trafficking was happening in Canada. I felt that it was imperative for Canadians and our government to learn and become educated on the issue if we were ever going to make any great changes to be able to address and fight Human Trafficking in our country.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I first founded Free-Them basically no one was talking about Human Trafficking, very few people could even explain what human trafficking was. And VERY few people believed and knew that Human Trafficking was happening in Canada. Even our own government didn’t believe that Human Trafficking was happening here in our country. It was challenging the first few years, literally trying to convince politicians and police that what they dismissed as a crime was actually exploitation and Human Trafficking that was happening.
We have made a lot of progress since we started. Free-Them has worked alongside all levels of government, law enforcement and helped fund the rescue and rehabilitation of many survivors. 10 years ago the trafficking of humans was something many people thought only happened in third world countries and now Canadians, law enforcement and politicians are recognizing and admitting that this is a homegrown problem, and that Human Trafficking is happening here.
How has it changed since?
Today we have media, politicians, government, communities, businesses, and students who are more aware and educated on what Human Trafficking is and that is it happening here. We have new laws in place to fight and lay charges on traffickers and pimps, we have a national strategy, and we have government funding in place.
What more needs to be done?
We still need more government funding, better support services to provide to survivors of trafficking and for girls who want to escape and exit the sex trade. We need more laws in place to protect survivors and crack down on the purchasers and pimps/traffickers. We need Human Trafficking to be taught in the education curriculum across the country. We need more safe houses – from immediate crisis housing to long term care. As you can see, a lot still needs to be done.
How can our readers help?
Follow Free-Them on our social platforms and sign up for our newsletter to keep in touch with what’s currently happening in our country. You can sign up on our website side under Contact at www.freethem.ca
Call your local Councillor, and your MPP and MP in your riding. Ask them what their office is doing to fight Human Trafficking, and ask them to do more – to help to push for Human Trafficking to be in curriculum. You can gather signatures to show the politician in your riding that citizens want more to be done to stop Human Trafficking in our country.
Just had the 6th Freedom Walk this past Saturday and hosted over 500 people from all over Ontario, including people flying in from Calgary and Los Angeles to attend.
This November 7th, Free-Them is supporting City Moguls in their 3rd annual Fashion Show event where all proceeds will go towards helping victims of trafficking in Toronto. Enjoy 10% off your ticket when using promo code: freethem at CITYMOGULS.COM
Where can we follow you?
Twitter: @free_them @ShaeInvidiata