...actually all around the world as well. Human Trafficking sadly exists

It's dangerous, it's here among us, AND it's more than what a movie paints it to be. Please don't get me wrong, the Sound Of Freedom which landed here in Bismarck on the big screen just last July is about a rescue from child traffickers in another country - Columbia - and it's powerful -  the point of the film is crystal clear, however this afternoon I had a chance to find out more real-life info than you would by munching on popcorn in a dark theater.

"Creates a larger conversation"

I walked out of the offices feeling proud that we have such amazing people who live here in Bismarck - Executive Director Stacy Schaffer - Administrative Assistant Laura Buchholz and Contractor/Marketing Tyler Merkel met with me for about an hour - Stacy began the 31:8 Project back in 2015 - it is now Statewide - focusing on providing educational training and developing awareness campaigns regarding human trafficking and its many issues.

"Why don't and can't they just walk away"

That's the common question Stacy and Laura receive - it's not that simple, you see those that are inside the walls of human traffickers are experiencing much more than physical and emotional abuse. Psychological hell they may never get over. These are just scary facts: 1 in 6 cases of children reported missing in 2022 who had run away were likely victims of child sex trafficking according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Check out the 31:8 Project Facebook page - For those of you that think "There is no way that happens here..." It does. Human trafficking occurs in North Dakota and across the Midwest" - it is impossible for me to imagine the horrors and brainwashing that goes on with human trafficking. One such person that I NOW know personally, that I believe is a true lifesaver, is Stacy.

Modesty and staying humble prevent her from agreeing with me

In 2007, while living in Guatemala, Stacy had a tip about an 8-year-old girl named Anna, who had been kidnapped one day in El Salvador ( grabbed right off the playground ). With the help from Stacy and others, Anna was able to somehow get away from the madness - she last heard from her back in 2010, living a normal life. Stacy and Laura and their Human Trafficking Survivor Program Mentorship Program Coordinator  Shelly Paul-Fiest all hope that the movie Sound Of Freedom  "Creates a larger conversation " - in other words let's hope the general public takes a little extra time out of their day to learn more human trafficking. Outside groups often partner with 31:8 Project to collaborate on Bravery Backpack drives to collect supplies and distribute them.

Laura Buchholz
Laura Buchholz

I have a couple of things I want to say, these people care so much about survivors - those that have been trapped so long into thinking they weren't good enough - their lives meant nothing - read what one young lady had to say:

"For so long my only purpose was to survive and fulfill the needs of others. I've been home for 15 years now and I've had to learn how to accept love. I missed out on a lot of milestones. I recently learned to drive, and I'm building my resume. I never thought I was smart or worthy. But opening up has helped me understand that I can do things. I can be open and honest and have nothing to hide. I have a family. I have a support system. I have the ability to understand my own self-worth" - Nikki, Survivor Mentorship Program participant


Lastly, I ALWAYS ask people want they love most about their job - "To be part of their journey, seeing success stories from their survivors..." That was pretty much the answer both Stacy and Laura gave me. A HUGE thank you to Stacy for starting the 31:8 Project, once again I am so proud of these wonderful people living here in Bismarck.

To Reach Out - (701) 557-3750 - info@318project.org  - P.O. Box 174, Bismarck, ND 58502


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