SULPHUR, La. — Bryttani MacNamara is passionate about ending human trafficking.
That’s because, she said, 27 million people are enslaved worldwide.
MacNamara, a 14-year-old Sulphur High School freshman, began to learn about the problem of human trafficking while researching a middle school social studies fair project.
She quickly became passionate about putting an end to stopping human trafficking and slavery — so much so that she is starting a nonprofit group, Operation Hope, to spread the message.
“It’s not just the Third World countries; it’s actually in the U.S., too,” MacNamara said. “What really hit was we found that two-thirds of the girls who run away from home between the ages of 13 and 17, within 48 hours they are captured and sold into sex trafficking. I was 13 at the time, so that really hit close to home.”
Modern human trafficking often revolves around sex trafficking and forced labor, according to information from the End It Movement. The issue came to light locally when a man and woman recently were arrested at a hotel and charged with human trafficking. Authorities said they were attempting to force a woman, who had traveled willingly with them to the area, into an escort service.
“As long as people don’t believe it’s here, we’re not going to stop it,” said Nicole MacNamara, Bryttani’s mother.
Rusty Havens, a local representative of International Justice Mission, has been reaching out to local motels and hotels offering instructions on signs of sex trafficking to look for. Some of those signs are abuse, dress that is provocative or not age appropriate, and a person who isn’t being allowed access to their own identification, Bryttani said.
“A lot of the trafficking goes through hotels and motels because people don’t ask questions,” she said.
As Bryttani’s interest in stopping human trafficking grew, she decided she wanted to take action.With the support of teacher Heather Mallett, Bryttani planned a walk to raise money for the cause. Fifty people showed up and $500 was raised.
“It’s just blossomed since then,” Bryttani said. “This summer I decided I wanted to make it a nonprofit organization.”
A lemonade stand raised $200, but Bryttani has a far bigger goal. Before she graduates from high school, she would like to open an area home for girls rescued from the sex trafficking trade.
She has passed out trafficking hotline posters at local truck stops, motels and hotels; plans to pass out trafficking information at her high school on Oct. 18; and is helping plan a 2.7-mile (representing the 27 million people enslaved worldwide) awareness walk and a seminar.
She’s gotten her family involved, too. “She continually educates me,” Nicole said. “There’s only one reason that people are involved in human trafficking and it’s the age-old reason that people are involved in everything. It’s greed.”