Sidewalk symbolism

Members of the Garrett County Republican Women’s Club Executive Committee sprinkle red sand in the sidewalk cracks following their January meeting at the Pine Lodge Steakhouse. The Red Sand Project serves to heighten awareness of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Pictured are Caring for America Chair Linda Bradley, Treasurer and Membership Chair Anne Davidson, Scholarship Chair Lisa Herman, President Luanne Ruddell and Literacy Chair Cosette Harman.

OAKLAND — Members of the Garrett County Republican Women’s Club are participating in the Red Sand Project during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Red Sand Project symbolizes “those individuals who fall through the cracks — whether the cracks of our social, economic and political systems or those of our personal consciousness.” It is an awareness event that provides the opportunity to initiate discussion into the causes and effects of human trafficking and exploitation.

“Many believe trafficking isn’t something that happens in rural areas or away from the large cities on the coasts and borders,” said Linda Bradley, the Caring for America chair of the club. “However, we all saw the news articles reporting hundreds of children and adults freed from trafficking in Ohio, Georgia, West Virginia and other states throughout the fall.

“In 2019, Beth Halley of The Samaritan Women presented to our members on human trafficking. The Samaritan Women provides shelter and other rehabilitative services to sexually exploited persons. The specific stories of Maryland survivors were horrific.

“Members of the GCRWC participated in the October 2019 Walk for Freedom in Hagerstown. ... With most projects on hold throughout 2020, we were excited to learn about the Red Sand Project.”

A proclamation will be issued by the Garrett County commissioners during their Jan. 19 virtual meeting. Members of the club will gather at noon near the town halls of Oakland on Jan. 21 and Grantsville on Jan. 22. Red sand will be placed in cracks of sidewalks to further awareness of human trafficking. All community members are invited to participate.

Representatives of the Dove Center are also participating in spreading of sand. “This is an incredible opportunity to highlight the tragedy of human trafficking and exploitation and to let victims know there are people who care and services available,” said Heather Hanline, executive director of the Dove Center. “We have served victims of trafficking and are able to assist anyone with questions or concerns about a situation they might encounter in the community.” Confidential contact can be made with the Dove Center by calling 301-334-9000.

The Western Region offices of the Department of Juvenile Services and their allied agencies are also participating in the Red Sand Project.

Participants place red sand in the cracks of sidewalks as a way to bring awareness and the conversations needed to combat human trafficking. An estimated 40 million people worldwide live in forced labor, forced marriages or sexual exploitation. More women than men fall prey to sexual trafficking, while more men are trapped in forced labor.

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