In uncertain and disconcerting times that impact our world, we can be mindful of those who are in great need and how compounding vulnerabilities impact the most vulnerable in our communities.
We are encouraged to remember that while we all step back to participate in social distancing, we can step forward in our commitment to proactively help our neighbors and community members that are now – and will continue to be – at great risk during this time, unless we fill the gap.
Vulnerabilities can be increased during this time due to lack of access to work, food, finances, childcare, and other essentials.
For human trafficking survivors, many are likely working jobs at places that have been forced to close and may therefore be vulnerable.
At-risk populations continue to be the homeless, elderly, youth that were dependent on federal food programs at school, and low-income families that were working multiple jobs.
Exploitation and trafficking have often been the results of preying on vulnerabilities, leading to the exchange of sex for rent, utilities, food, or shelter. Exploitation and trafficking in the workplace is still a risk as people try to get or maintain work, even if it is still low pay, because there are fewer options and the need for basic necessities is so great.
With many schools closed, children and youth at home are likely online more due to little homework, limited time outside, and not as much interaction with others, and therefore more vulnerable to online predators and bullying.
The Needs Remain:
While food banks and shelters are often places for assistance during crisis, many food banks are experiencing shortages on financial and in-kind donations as well as volunteers. Some distributions form the USDA are suspended until further notice.
Supplies for shelters (homeless, domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking) are limited and include bedding, baggies to keep personal items separate, and hygiene products.
Many families are looking for activities for their children and youth while at home that are both entertaining and educational.
Ways to Engage:
Though times may be uncertain, there are ways to extend neighborly support and generosity. There are opportunities to engage to provide solutions and hope to those in need.
Below are a few ways that businesses, civic groups, organizations, and community members can engage:
- Food banks:
- Contact your local food banks and help them stock their shelves while you stock yours.
- Find out if your local food bank needs volunteers – some food banks, such as in Nashville, are still having volunteers come in while complying with regulations to help sort and bag food.
- Meeting neighbors’ needs
- Monitor neighborhood or local apps and websites for needs posted by new moms unable to leave home, the elderly, or families needing assistance.
- If you are going out for yourself, you can see if there is anyone in your area that has a need that you can pick up and leave at their door.
- Educational resources
- Smithsonian Learning Lab offers students a distance learning resources guide that offers high, low, and non-tech activities. Registered users can access millions of free, high-quality, digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s museum, research centers, libraries, archives, and more.
- NetSmartzKids from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers resources to help keep your kids safe online. Check out their “Into the Cloud” season 1 videos and activity sheets to help keep your kids safe while online.
- Scholastic Learn at Home offers day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, growing, and learning. These resources are free and provide four learning experiences centered around a story or video.
- The Virginia Zoo is offering a virtual voyage every day at 2pm through March 30th. You can go behind the scenes, tour the zoo, and keep up with the animals and keepers. Check to see if your local parks and attractions are offering virtual opportunities to engage to help keep the kids in your life engaged, safe, and educated.
- Internet Safety Resources
- Check out the blog on “5 Risks for Youth Online,” the LOVE146 Internet Safety Guide for parents, and resources for students to know how to keep youth at home safe while online.
- Online Training Resources
- The National Criminal Justice Training Center for eLearning offers relevant topics for communities and criminal justice professionals.
- Contact local shelters to learn what basic necessities are needed to help families that are struggling to provide for their loved ones.
- Provide monetary donations to food banks and shelters so they can purchase needed items.
As this pandemic impacts every area of our lives, including our health, finances, and social interactions, we know that neighborly goodness and generosity can bring hope to everyone. Consider how you can help fill gaps and bring encouragement to those in your community.
Check out the human trafficking resources and information on our website, sign up for Engage Together® communications to get monthly resources of existing efforts sent right to your inbox, earn your free Human Trafficking Awareness Badge through Justice U™ and get equipped to increase your impact, or review resources specific to your role discover how you are uniquely positioned to engage.