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West Volusia’s HOPE (Helpers of People Enslaved) made labor-trafficking the centerpoint of their fifth annual Night for Freedom fundraising dinner.

The 150 guests at the recent event on the Stetson University campus heard keynote speaker Linda Leonard-Woods, a survivor advocate for Florida Abolitionist in Orlando, explain that “Labor-trafficking is a form of human injustice you rarely hear about, and might involve debt bondage, enforced labor to pay for uniforms, housing, food, or the denying of promised wages.”

Following Leonard-Woods’ presentation, labor-trafficking victim Angela Choque, originally from Peru, told the audience how she was lured to this country by promises of $500 a week in pay as a hotel housecleaner, but on her first payday was paid only $150.

“I had a broken heart. Now, I haven’t seen my family in 11 years,” she said.

Choque’s recounting of her long nightmare left many wiping away tears.

Leonard-Woods was instrumental in rescuing Choque from her plight. Choque had never heard of labor-trafficking, and didn’t know any way out.

HOPE is the project of members of seven West Volusia churches. In its five-year existence, the 20-member group has raised and donated more than $50,000 to organizations that help survivors of human trafficking.

The money is given through the Central Florida Foundation, which vets safe houses, restorative care, counseling and life-skills training for human-trafficking victims.

Leonard-Woods stressed that most victims of labor-trafficking are either American citizens or legally in this country, like Choque.

The HOPE team encourages anyone who suspects he or she knows a victim of either sex-trafficking or labor-trafficking to call the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888.


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