Crossing the Bridge Projects Make Amazing Progress

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Editor’s Note: Dr. Janice Crouse, Project Director, and Brenda Zurita, Project Coordinator, recently traveled to Mexico City to see progress on the five Crossing the Bridge projects to fight sex trafficking. All the projects are committed to raise awareness of sex trafficking and to battle mightily against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). Luis Antonio Marquez Heine, a Harvard-educated businessman, supervises the projects and meets regularly with leaders of the five organizations that conduct them. Brenda’s encouraging report of the impressive work they have accomplished in only one year follows.

The night we returned from Mexico City, I happened to attend a charity dinner. The keynote speaker mentioned this quote from C.T. Studd, a missionary to China, India and Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: “Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” This statement sums up the focus and dedication of the entire Crossing the Bridge project team.

Touched by the sex-trafficking training seminar they attended on April 11-15, 2005, in the national office of Concerned Women for America (CWA), Rosie and Alex Orozco of the Road to Home Foundation (Fundacion Camino a Casa), Rosa Martha Brown of the Children’s Foundation (Fundacion Infantia), Sandra Herrera of Families and Society (Familias y Sociedad), Eugenia Diez of the Mexican Human Rights Commission (Comision Mexicana de Derechos Humanos) and Alejandra Zafra of the Challenges and Methods Network (Red Retos y Rutas ) all determined that they would work in the trenches to combat sex trafficking and CSEC in Mexico. They are dedicated to starting at square one to raise awareness of the problem, establish relationships with victims and build a shelter to house them, and then replicate the model throughout Mexico, and working to change the laws of Mexico and its states to protect and help victims.

Luis Marquez and the staff of the Mexican Family Network (Red Familia), our partner organization, arranged a meeting for the groups to present their projects. We also met with Mexican government officials to establish contacts and build a network to eradicate this modern-day slavery. The Crossing the Bridge project coalition is also making inroads to train citizen lobbyists because the problem of sex trafficking and CSEC demands these actions.

Alejandra Zafra of Challenges and Methods Network: Alejandra negotiated a contract with the Web site “I Influence” (“Yo Influyo”) to run 26 bi-weekly articles about sex trafficking and CSEC from March 2006 through February 2007. This site boasts nearly 200,000 subscribers, and they are young, civic-minded and well-educated. Alejandra is working with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to coordinate training workshops for civil servants and public citizens; the first will take place in Chiapas in June.

Rosa Martha Brown of the Children’s Foundation: To date, Rosa Martha has spoken to 1,473 people about how CSEC relates to the travel and tourism industry. The mayors of the state of Puebla, two major union leaders in Mexico City, 125 municipal CEOs of the government agency for the Integral Development of the Family (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia), and many people in the tourist industry have attended the workshops. Rosa Martha has also formed alliances with other influential groups, such as the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition and the ILO. and uses this network to increase her impact on Mexico’s tourism industry.

Sandra Herrera of Families and Society: Sandra has conducted 16 interviews with government officials, private organizations, a lawyer, two business owners and a CSEC researcher. She found that, while Mexican organizations and institutions are working hard to eradicate their country’s grave problem with CSEC, their forces are not enough. The Mexican Human Rights Commission (CMDH) will integrate the research into a white paper to influence public opinion and shape legislation to eradicate CSEC.

Eugenia Diez of CMDH: Eugenia is compiling and organizing 1,451 news articles, books and press releases about sex trafficking and CSEC to form a database for law enforcement, legislators and those that work to combat this horror. Part of the database identifies organized crime networks. According to current law, CSEC must be linked to organized crime in order to be federally prosecuted. Individual Mexican states have varying standards for prosecuting CSEC, and some states have no laws against it. Together with Families and Society, CMDH will produce a white paper on legislative proposals and try to strengthen state and federal laws against CSEC.

Gabriela Calderon of the Road to Home Foundation: Gabriela has vast experience working with shelters. She reported on plans to build a shelter near Mexico City for 12 rescued girls, with the goal of replicating this model throughout Mexico. The shelter operations manual is written, architectural drawings are completed, and an April 29 gala dinner will kick off fundraising for the project. The Road to Home foundation is training pastors throughout Mexico on how to recognize trafficking victims and how to start a shelter to help them. Already three houses have been donated for use as shelters, in Mexico City, Tijuana and in the state of Guanajuato. The Mexico City house will be used as an emergency site where girls may go for a day or two right after they are rescued until they can move into a more permanent shelter.

Our trip to Mexico was a whirlwind two days, but the encouraging reports show us God’s guidance, grace and mercy. Continue to pray for these projects, their leaders and, most importantly, for the victims. The Crossing the Bridge project is committed to the long journey to eradicate sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in Mexico. Each person rescued-and each person still under bondage-is one of God’s precious children. Abolition!

Brenda Zurita is Coordinator for CWA’s Crossing the Bridge Project.

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