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West // West Oahu News
Christina O’Connor

Chapel’s Fashion Show To Benefit Human Trafficking Victims

During their frequent trips to the Philippines, Waipahu residents Alan and Donna Bartolome often have encountered a number of women, mainly teens and young adults, who were forced into prostitution.

“It’s just really heartbreaking,” Donna Bartolome said. “They are either tricked into it or just have no other choice to make a living.”

The couple, who travel to the Philippines on mission trips with Bethel Chapel Assembly of God, has heard many stories about human trafficking while on the road. Bartolome said they’ve been told of women being promised jobs in other countries ― only to wind up in the sex trade. In other cases, women and children are sold to traffickers by their own families.

Human trafficking also includes forced labor ― where men, women and children of all ages are forced to work against their will for little or no pay.

According to the Department of State’s 2012 Trafficking In Persons Report, there currently are about 27 million men, women and children who are victims of human trafficking. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of human trafficking victims are female.

“It is devastating, and a lot of people don’t even realize this is happening,” Bartolome said.

In order to raise awareness about this issue, the Bartolomes are coordinating Bethel Chapel’s Fashion for Compassion from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Waipahu church, located at 94-371 Ana Lane.

The event will feature a fashion show with clothes, shoes and accessories donated by retailers including Adore, The Butik, The Clothes Chick, Paparazzi Hawaii, Remix and Orange Closet. The items on display will then be available for purchase through a silent auction.

A number of items also will be available for purchase apart from the auction.

The event is intended for women only, and women of all ages are welcome.

Proceeds will benefit Project Rescue and Made In Hope ― two faith-based organizations that are dedicated to supporting victims of sex trafficking. Project Rescue works on a range of initiatives, from intervention to prevention, as well as addressing the needs of rescued victims.

Made In Hope, co-founded by Michelle Tolentino and Hawaii’s own Chris Kanemura, strives to help victims of sex trafficking gain access to sustainable livelihoods. One way that Made In Hope does this is through helping women to make and sell handcrafts.

Representatives from Made In Hope will be on hand at the event to discuss human trafficking, and jewelry created through the program also will be available for purchase.

Bartolome added that while much of the media and policy attention to human trafficking tends to go to Southeast Asian countries, it’s a significant problem here in the United States as well ― including Hawaii.

She hopes that the event can “let people know that (human trafficking) is out there, and what they can do to help.”

Tickets for Fashion for Compassion cost $15 and include one raffle ticket and hors d’oeuvres. Organizers still are searching for additional retail merchants who would be interested in donating products for the event.

All donations are needed by Sept. 13. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Bartolome at 205-7477.

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