Human trafficking the focus of Prince Rupert presentation
Prince Rupert's Human Trafficking Committee hopes a presentation they're organizing will divert at least one young person from taking the wrong path in life.
"I hope youth will consider the choices they make. In spite of difficulties some may face at home, hopefully they'll understand they don't have to get into drugs or alcohol to deal with any hurts they may be enduring," Marlene Swift, chair of the committee, said.
The Human Trafficking Committee is putting together Whispers in the Wind, an event encouraging youth on the North Coast to make positive choices in their lives.
"You can never force change upon somebody. You can present them with the options, make the connections and be there for them however you can, but you're never going to make somebody change unless they want to," Const. Matt Ericson, one of the speakers who works closely with youth in Prince Rupert, said.
The presentation will address the effects and consequences of alcohol and drug abuse, and what that lifestyle can lead to, with a famous ex-athlete and three Prince Rupert speakers sharing their experiences with drugs, alcohol and gang activity.
Alvin Powell, former player for the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL), will be the presentation's keynote speaker, sharing his experience with drugs. Powell began using cocaine during his second year of playing professional football, and ended up becoming a full-blown addict within a few short years. Although Powell struggled with drugs in the past, he's been sober for more than 10 years and has been working with the Saving Station Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating substance abuse.
"He's such an endearing man... He's a phenomenal man with quite a story," Swift said.
The committee wanted to make sure the presentation also includes Prince Rupert people who turned their lives around.
"So often we're looking outside of Prince Rupert for heroes, but we have our very own," Swift said.
Role models include Prince Rupert's own Const. Ericson, who has been in the RCMP for eight years but prior struggled with getting on the right path.
"I've gotten myself into some difficult trouble, and had some pretty rough times. But there were choices I made along the way that helped prepare and shape me for what I do now," Ericson said.
"Human beings, myself included, think in the moment... Where so many of us fail is looking at the longterm, and 360 degree view of how certain choices can influence us," he said.
24-year old Prince Rupert resident Samantha Jackson will also be sharing her personal story at the presentation.
"She's been able to break free of some of the harshest circumstances you could imagine... She inspires and motivates people just by walking in the room. She has one of those personalities that you meet her and [talk to her] and your day is better," Ericson, a friend of Jackson's, said.
Vern Barker, a youth worker with the Prince Rupert Aboriginal Community Services Society, will also be sharing his story about being raised in a small First Nations community, then trying to adjust to life in a big city and all the temptations that come along with the change.
Swift says while Whispers in the Wind primarily addresses drug and alcohol addiction, it shows how easy it is to make life altering decisions when you're under the grasp of substances.
"Once you start living that lifestyle it's really hard to get out... It's so easy to get lured in when you're on alcohol or drugs," she said.
Swift knows the struggles with addiction all too well, resorting to dealing drugs to support her habit many years ago.
"When I look back at the effects my addiction had on my children, I'm ashamed of myself. If I could reverse that today, I would. I don't want any other child growing up feeling that they're all alone. There are people out there that will listen to them," she said.
While the schedule is still being finalized, the committee is planning to have the Whispers in the Wind presentation in three communities over two days. The event will be held during Victims of Crime Week, starting with presentations to youth in Hartley Bay and Kitkatla on April 24. In Prince Rupert, young people will be spoken to at the Lester Centre of the Arts on April 25, then in the evening there will be a presentation to the community as a whole.
The group estimates the Whispers in the Wind presentations will cost $15,000 to put on, with the committee having less than $4,000 in the bank currently. The committee is not funded, relying on the generosity of businesses and organizations within the community. To make a donation in support of the presentation, call 250-627-7779.