FERGUS – Barbara Lustgarten-Evoy is taking her passion for anti-human trafficking to international levels as she has been appointed the Canadian coordinator of the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS).
Lustgarten-Evoy is well-known in Centre Wellington as a radio host, school board trustee, a businessperson and teacher, a Rotarian, and as someone who feels strongly about social justice and equity issues.
She became involved with the board for Elora House – a home for women escaping human trafficking – and has since joined with Wellington OPP, Victim Services Wellington, and CrimeStoppers Guelph Wellington as they speak about human trafficking at meetings and events.
“Human trafficking is an insidious crime and it’s escalating,” Lustgarten-Evoy said in an interview.
“There’s not a place or time in the world where this isn’t a risk. I’m very excited and really proud to be selected to work with RAGAS.”
Lustgarten-Evoy said she was the victim of abuse many years ago, but was a bit oblivious to what had actually happened to her.
It was an offhand comment by someone connected to Elora House – that most victims don’t realize they are victims – that resonated with her.
“That’s when I realized a lot of things,” she said. “That’s when I realized I had to get behind this issue. Somebody had to take it on, so I am.”
RAGAS is a committee of Rotary International with representatives from Rotary Clubs around the world and they try to take on many issues in a global way.
Lustgarten-Evoy said she can’t quite believe she’s working on this issue on a global scale.
She told the story of a Rotarian in the United States whose daughter went missing. He connected with Rotary, which connected with RAGAS, and the word went out.
After a time the daughter was found in Mexico and brought back to her family.
Human trafficking is a worldwide issue, “and 63 countries are working together on this. It’s just amazing,” said Lustgarten-Evoy.
She said the group is working on an event, still tightly under wraps.
But it involves celebrity and high-profile types and she predicts it will be powerful.
“I really believe it takes a village to stop this,” she said.
“We have to be aware of how and what we are doing to help keep kids safe.”
Lustgarten-Evoy said it took many years, but once Rotary International agreed to make human trafficking a focus, the pieces started to fall into place.
“Now we can get on with the work,” she said.
Know the signs
Some clear warning signs a victim of human trafficking may demonstrate are:
- appears to be controlled by someone else, escorted everywhere, constantly being watched;
- shows visible signs of branding. This could be done through tattoos or scarring;
- shows signs of starvation, says they are hungry and aren’t eating enough;
- doesn’t speak for themselves, are told they aren’t allowed to speak for themselves;
- doesn’t have a passport or other ID;
- isn’t familiar with the community they live or work in;
- is frequently moving or being moved, doesn’t have a specific place where they live and sleep;
- has visible injuries or bruises from physical abuse, bruising, cuts, markings, burns, etc; and
- expresses fear/intimidation through facial expressions and body language.
Source: Human Trafficking in Wellington County Facebook page