This month, iEmpathize and Truckers Against Trafficking traveled to Carlsbad, New Mexico, a small town on the verge of an oil boom. We partnered with educators, oil and trucking industry leaders, and community and political leaders using BOOM, the new trucking trailer, and open forums to plan action steps and exploitation-free protocols to ensure Carlsbad remains a healthy, thriving community.
And it all started because of Jerri McTaggert, a community leader who took it upon herself to make sure her community was prepared for the social impact of the oil boom that is just around the corner in Carlsbad.
Jerri used to be under the impression that human trafficking was a foreign problem. She first learned about the issue of human trafficking in the United States at her daughter’s church in Brighton, Colorado. She happened to attend on a Sunday when iEmpathize had been invited to present. To encourage the congregation to engage, he provided locks such as you might use to secure a gym locker or garden gate, urging them to take one home as a reminder of the urgent need to empathize and engage.
Jerri says, “It was not a matter of, ‘Okay, I’ll just go get a lock and not do anything else.’ I wanted a lock, and I wanted to know how to participate. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but when I heard that two hotspots [for child trafficking] are trucking and a boom, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Carlsbad is at both intersections.’ And I thought, ‘I just have to take this back to our community.'”
Engaging an entire community about human trafficking might seem like a big task, but Jerri insists that it as simple as inviting iEmpathize to come. “iEmpathize made it so easy,” she said. “It just takes somebody who has a passion to keep their community safe. I didn’t do anything big or unusual. iEmpathize provided the education and I just provided a place to speak.” And the impact has been significant. Jerri added, “Opening people’s eyes to how we need to get in front of [the boom] before we are a Williston has been huge.”
In addition to creating multiple forums through which to share the Boom campaign, iEmpathize also brought in the Empower Youth Program as a prevention resource that can be used by schools, faith communities, and youth programs. Jerri was present when iEmpathize spent the afternoon at the Carlsbad Boys and Girls Club. “The educational module we showed made an instant impact. We have a kid that was a definite bully and a suicide risk, and the Director of the Boys and Girls Club and I saw an immediate change in him. It was like, ‘Okay, that light-switch just got turned on!'”
Carlsbad now has a very involved task-force, ready to help implement programs for oil, trucking, and youth across Carlsbad and even into some neighboring areas. “I have heard so many people thank me for bringing Truckers Against Trafficking and iEmpathize down here,” Jerri said, “to educate our community so we can get ahead of this and not be like Williston, [so we won’t] be in recovery mode constantly. We want to keep as many of our kids as safe as possible.”
And the advice Jerri offers to other individuals thinking about trying to engage their own communities? Jerri said, “All it takes is someone who is willing. It’s just too important not to do it.” She even offered to help those thinking about getting started.
iEmpathize is glad to help, too. To learn about how you can bring iEmpathize in to help your community establish exploitation-free protocols, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.