Hello, my sunflower sisters! Do you like our new term of endearment? Alahna opened the meeting with a quick, inspirational story about sunflowers, that goes a little something like this: sunflowers are heliotropes, meaning their blooms follow the sun around the sky. But what happens on cloudy or overcast days? Do they wilt or turn downward until the sun comes back out? NO - they TURN TO EACH OTHER FOR ENERGY!! How very fitting for our group of ladies - our group exists to not only share our achievements and glories, but it also exists to also lift each other up during down times in our lives. We thank each and every one of you - through good times and bad. Now, on with the meeting!
SPOTLIGHT SPEAKER: Tammy Foster, Compassus Hospice. What do you think of when you hear the word "hospice"? Death? Sadness? Tammy and the staff at Compassus work hard everyday to change how the word "hospice" is perceived. After working with them, they hope the words slowly change into ones like "support" and "compassion" - the last word is even in their name! For more information or to start your hospice journey, please visit them online HERE.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Helen Brown, Hinds County Sheriff's Office. Helen Brown is the Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Hind's County Sheriff's Office, under Victor Mason's administration. Human Trafficking is defined as "the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for labor services or commercial sex acts." And while people may think that something like this couldn't occur in our sleepy little state, Helen will definitely prove how wrong that thinking can be. She can attest that while some may think that only certain ethnicities or socioeconomic backgrounds have a propensity to be more likely to be trafficked, any child from any race or background should be considered vulnerable to be trafficked. Her number one piece of advice: stay in your child's business. Traffickers use any and all tools to lure children, from social media to using fellow students (think as early as middle-school) as recruiters.
Helen also handed out flyers that included more notes on the subject (included below). There was so much vital, useful information, the writing on the handout became a little blurry, so I'm including the typed-out info, starting here: Victims of human trafficking could be people you meet, work with, or care for every day. Traffickers use a variety of means to control victims and limit their freedom. Here are signs to look for:
- Lack of identifying documents such as a driver's license or passport. Traffickers seize these from their victims to restrict their freedom of movement and limit their actions.
- Lack of control over their own money. Traffickers withhold or deny wages, and limit access to cash in order to control their victims.
- Signs of physical abuse such as bruises or scars.
- Unusual fearfulness. Victims may be working under threats to themselves, their family, their property or their freedom.
- Unwillingness to communicate or socialize. Victims may be fearful to communicate with their friends, family, or authorities.
- Lack of food, sleep, or proper care. Victims may be subject to very poor living conditions and treatment.
- Being underage for their work, especially if it involves commercial sex.
If you are a victim, or suspect that human trafficking is taking place, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Helen also gave us her cell number to contact if you suspect any local cases that may need investigating: 601-906-7856.
ON THE MENU: Baked chicken, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetable medley, mixed green salad with house dressing or balsamic vinaigrette. To drink: tea and a surprisingly beautiful watermelon infused water. For dessert: chocolate meringue pie.