By Haley Chi-Sing
The San Clemente Sunrise Rotary is set to host a month-long worldwide virtual run through the month of September as a means of raising awareness for human trafficking.
The virtual run, titled “Run Free to End Human Trafficking,” is open to everyone of all ages internationally.
“It was a collaborative effort once COVID-19 hit—looking at what we could do in a virtual way to, one, engage people who are stuck at home and sheltered in place, and, two, reach out for an educational opportunity around the world with bringing human trafficking awareness to the community,” said Sally Guon, president-elect of the San Clemente Sunrise Rotary Club.
With approximately 1.2 million members worldwide, the virtual run aims at garnering 24,901 miles in total, with all participants’ final distances combined. Participants can pledge to complete any distance they wish, individually or as a team.
According to Guon, participants can engage in the virtual run any way possible, coining it “Rock, Run, or Roll.”
“You’re not only aiding in your own health fitness, you’re learning the signs of human trafficking and educating yourself, which is part of the solution, and we’re raising funds to put education programs into the school system for high school and middle school students to raise the awareness,” Guon said. “Many people have the misconception that (human trafficking) is a developing-world problem and that it does not happen in the United States”
Due to COVID-19 and statewide lockdowns, human trafficking through online channels has increased, especially in the South County area, including San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, and Newport Beach.
According to Brenda Wells, founder and executive director of i-5 Freedom Network, street-based trafficking has been moved online since the statewide lockdown, with traffickers finding “creative and more aggressive ways” to find new victims.
As a result, San Clemente Sunrise Rotary will be posting educational human trafficking blurbs and featurettes on their social media platforms as another form of outreach.
“When we engage all spokes of the community in the effort—which includes the churches and the schools and law enforcement and the committee members and the business owners, all those things—they all are critical to disrupting and preventing (human trafficking) from happening, not just in our community but everywhere,” said Wells.
San Clemente Sunrise Rotary is currently working within its organization to host more fundraisers and educational means within the community, as other mediums through which to end human trafficking in South County.
The rotary club has already partnered with other rotary clubs in the area, including the Evening Club and the Irvine Club, for the virtual run fundraiser. “We would like to see that the community get involved with this event as well,” said Guon. “The more people that you bring into the fold, the better.”