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A dynamic presentation on Human Trafficking at this year’s LCWR Assembly was offered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis Province and Philadelphia,  teaming with their good friends, Kimberly Ritter from Nix Conference and Meeting Management and Katie Rhodes, MSW of Healing Action Network .

After Dominican Sisters lead us in prayer, Patty Johnson, CSJ and US Federation Executive Director introduced this exciting panel of experts. 

Sharing the work that the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has been doing since 2005, Sr. Kathleen Coll, SSJ from Philadelphia, the Administrator of Shareholder Advocacy at Catholic Health East told me that when looking for an entry point to address human trafficking, ICCR decided to use their investing strength to influence the “Travel and Tourist Industry.  ”  Over these last 7 years, 94 ICCR member groups have chosen to focus investment energy on human trafficking, making it one of ICCR’s larger commitments.  They have influenced the sponsors and hotels of such major sporting events as the World Cup in South Africa, the Super Bowl in both Texas and Indiana and the current Olympics in London.  They can often engage sponsors and hotel chains in dialogue that leads to gradual improvements in their policies and corporate responsibility.

Sr. Kathleen went on to describe her successes with US Airways.  Knowing that Catholic Health East had stock in US Airways, she wrote them a letter asking them how they addressed human trafficking.  This resulted in a phone call.  Although US Airways did not agree to sign the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (ECPAT), they did agree to put an ad in their inflight magazine.  Pleased with this first effort, Sr. Kathleen continued to contact them.  After no further action was forthcoming from US Airways, she filed a shareholder resolution this year.  Soon after, the Vice President for Corporate Affairs contacted her for a face-to-face meeting.  Still not ready to sign the ECPAT code, US Airways agreed to put four ads in their inflight magazine this year, two during the Olympics and two later in the year.  They have developed a human rights policy with advice from Sr. Kathleen and ICCR that includes an anti-trafficking stand that is posted on their website.  Additionally, they have agreed to ongoing dialogue on future steps they might take. 

Sr. Kathleen also shared her story in helping to develop Dawn’s Place, a refuge for victims of human trafficking, which is featured in this month’s “Making a Difference” section of this website.  Click here to see that article,  Safe and Sound

This wonderful step is a great example of how we can use our corporate influence to encourage companies to do the right thing.  Kimberly Ritter then reminded LCWR how our corporate partners at both the Millennium Hotel and Nix Conference and Meeting Management both did the right thing as soon as they became aware of how their companies could collaborate with the Sisters of St. Joseph and  ECPAT to bring an end to human trafficking.

Lastly, those of you who were at the US Federation Event 2011 may remember Katie Rhodes, who told us her personal story of escaping from human trafficking.  She is now the Executive Director of the Healing Action Network.  She is adamant that survivors of human trafficking need specialized intervention to assist them in reclaiming their lives.  She has developed a curriculum to assist programs in developing individualized treatment services.  Katie so interested the faculty at Washington University where she received her master’s in social work, that they are doing research to demonstrate the efficacy of this approach.  Intuitively, one can easily understand why these women need specialized care.  Katie is doing groundbreaking work in developing best practices that will have international significance.

The Carondelet-St. Louis Province prepared a lovely Prayer Card to End Human Trafficking for each person in attendance at LCWR.  When the card is turned over, seven actions that Congregations can take to stop human trafficking are provided. (click here to see the card.)