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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Woman starts anti-human trafficking coalition

By Kaye Hult

Even though Jessica Tschida knew how overwhelming it can be to be involved in efforts to end human trafficking and educate others about it, she formed a chapter of the Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking in the Inland Northwest after moving two years ago from Moscow to Coeur d’Alene, where there was no group.

Jessica Tschida

Jessica Tschida has passion to fight this form of slavery.

Believing everyone needs to know about the existence and dangers of human trafficking in the region, she sees her anti-trafficking work as a passion that God laid upon her heart.

“Human trafficking is not something that just happens somewhere else,” she said.

Jessica acknowledged that her involvement is in stages.  She becomes fired up and then has to put it aside because it becomes so overwhelming.

“Just because it’s overwhelming doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn more or be involved,” she said.

“I don’t always feel the passion, but God often calls us to do things we don’t feel like doing.  Helping people who are oppressed is one of those things to which we are called.

“It’s hard to think we are making a difference, because it’s a huge monster.  If each of us can help just one person, it’s huge to that person.  That person might affect yet another.  Small steps have to be okay.  That’s where you have to start,” Jessica said.

At a Hands That Heal Conference in Spokane in the spring of 2012, Jessica learned from Mark Kadel of World Relief Spokane about the Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking there that gathers local organizations concerned about the issue, meeting to spur each other on.

Jessica contacted people in Idaho who attended the meeting to see if any were interested in forming a similar group in Coeur d’Alene. 

They met that fall at the Human Rights Education Institute, created the coalition and have met monthly since.

The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene chapters’ mission is  “to abolish slavery by collaborating with local organizations and individuals, educating our community, addressing the demand, and providing services to victims of human trafficking.”

Jessica finds it a “hard sell” to urge organizations and individuals to take this issue seriously.  The coalition had to cancel a Coeur d’Alene seminar it planned this fall for law enforcement and service providers because too few signed up.

There is little data on human trafficking locally, but Jessica has spoken to someone who was trafficked and to several service providers who know of trafficking.

She notes that North Idaho may attract criminals who deal in human slavery, because, unlike Washington, which has laws on trafficking, Idaho’s laws are lax.

Two major highways, I-90 and State Route 95, serve as corridors to and from Canada to other parts of the United States.

Jessica’s passion about human trafficking began when she was in high school in Meridian, Idaho, and learned about injustices against women.

At the University of Idaho in Moscow, her studies and involvement with a campus ministry group, Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, sharpened her understanding of human slavery.

In Chi Alpha, pastor Jason Kelly shared the story of Asha, whose parents in India had seven children.  They sold her to a strange woman to raise money to care for the other children.  The woman took her to Mumbai, saying she would be in service to a family. 

Instead, she took Asha to a brothel where she was beaten until she complied with the demands made on her.  She stayed there for seven years until she heard that “some friends” could buy her freedom.  She moved into a House of Hope.

In a course on gender and communication, Jessica learned about The War Against Women in Africa, where groups raid villages and homes, gang rape women and force husbands and sons to participate.  Rape is used daily as a weapon of war to destroy communities and families to gain control politically.

In a class on chocolate, she wrote a report on how chocolate was procured through slave labor, where children are forced to work ridiculous hours, sleep on the ground and live without proper clothing or food.

She came to realize that human trafficking is “in our country and in our neighborhoods.”  She believes “sexual assault is the worst thing that could happen to a person.  To have it repeated and repeated is unspeakable.  Human trafficking also includes trafficking of labor.”

Jessica feels called to work to restore people “to have hope and to have relationships again.”

She said traffickers know people can get fired up to fight human trafficking, but become overwhelmed because justice takes time.

“Trafficking has been happening since the beginning of time,” she said.  “It is based on greed.

“Sex trafficking may begin with pornography, desensitizing people to the reality of life for people who are prostituted.  It is not glamorous.  It is horrific,” she said.  “The goal is to convince people to cease prostituting men, women and children.”

She said social media make it easier to entice young people into dangerous situations with individuals who pretend to be someone other than who they are. 

The 2013 goals for the Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking in Coeur d’Alene are:

• To set up a website and keep a Facebook page updated;

• To become more aware of current Idaho laws and how to change them;

• To have the coalition listed on other websites that give resources;

• To do awareness events at middle and high schools;

• To train North Idaho service providers and to raise the awareness in the general population about trafficking in the Inland Northwest.

From talking with people who have been trafficked in Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane, Jessica suggests the following ways to recognize if someone may be enslaved:

• They may always be accompanied by a controlling person or boss who does not let them speak on their own behalf.

• They do not have control over their personal schedule, money, travel documents and ID.

• They are transported to and from work, or live and work in the same place.

• They have a debt to their employer or crew leader that is so great they are unable to leave their work.

• They display bruises, depression or fear, and may appear overly submissive.

Jessica encourages people to look beneath the surface and if they think someone is a victim of human trafficking to call the National Human Trafficking Resource center at 888-373-7888 or contact the Rescue and Restore Campaign at www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.

“Trafficking doesn’t always look like we expect,” she said.

Other resources are at:

World Relief Spokane, 509-484-9829, http://worldrelief.org/spokane or Salvation Army: Lisa Thompson, http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf.

The Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking meets at noon on second Tuesdays at the North Idaho Violence Prevention Center, 850 N. 4th St. in Coeur d’Alene.   The Spokane chapter meets at 4 p.m., first Mondays at the World Relief office, 1522 N. Washington.

For information, call 208-664-9303 or email loosethechains586@gmail.com





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