In 2009 there was a presentation on sex trafficking at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center – a relatively new topic to the general public at the time. The leader of a local church security team attended as a matter of continuing his education on the threats against the youth in his church. After the first general session, he called one of his associate pastors and said, “You need to come down here and hear this. Our kids are at risk and we know nothing about this!”
Clearing her schedule, the pastor arrived just in time to attend the community advocates workshop with Shared Hope International’s project manager, and to collect her copy of the book Renting Lacy written by the organization’s founder Linda Smith. The pastor took home the book and couldn’t put it down, becoming convinced she had to do something.
That pastor was me, Jo Lembo. Today I work full-time for Shared Hope International, and my husband’s life is also dedicated to fighting sex trafficking. Our head of security had no idea he was introducing me to my life’s calling. And that presenter had no idea that her workshop would completely alter the course of our lives. It just goes to show, you never know the impact of the conversation you’re having.
Shortly after reading Renting Lacy, my husband and I met Linda Smith and her husband, Vern. I desperately wanted to help in some way, but felt I had no skills to truly make an impact. I said to her, “I’m not really making a difference. All I do is talk. I talk to my hairdresser, to my neighbors, to our friends, – we could bring down a dinner party in two minutes by sharing ‘what is happening right now just a few miles from this restaurant…’ – but I don’t want to just be a talking head!”
Linda’s response is now the byline for the Shared Hope’s Ambassador of Hope program, which equips and trains volunteers across the United States with the tools needed to educate our communities about the dangers facing our children. She said, “Never underestimate the power of educating others. The more people who know the signs of trafficking, the smaller the world becomes for those who buy and sell our children.”
Since that encounter, I have learned to share the message with hope and not stop at telling about the issue, but to share what you can DO about it. As the National Growth Strategy Outreach Manager, it is my privilege to empower and equip the nearly one thousand Ambassadors nationwide who are ‘talking’ about the issue everywhere they go.
So if you feel ordinary, you are just what this movement needs! Shared Hope International a non-profit dedicated to ending child sex trafficking through our three-pronged approach: Prevention, Restoration, and Bringing Justice. We need people like you to know the signs and how to prevent sex trafficking where you live.
We are growing a team of Ambassadors of Hope to be grassroots activists in order to combat child sex trafficking. Find out how you can join Shared Hope to make a difference in the lives of your community’s children. Together, we can prevent and end child sex trafficking!