VISTA, California, February 2, 2022—After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland held its 16th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Walk and Event on January 29 in Vista as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month. “Last January, we had to settle for holding a virtual event, so it’s great to be able to gather in person again,” said Soroptimist member Kaye Van Nevel, who has chaired the Walk every year since 2006. Walkers gathered outside on the grounds of the United Methodist Church of Vista. Van Nevel welcomed the crowd and recognized local dignitaries present, including San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones, and representatives from State Assembly member Marie Waldron’s office and from the San Diego Board of Supervisors Office, District 76, Jim Desmond. Van Nevel then introduced keynote speaker, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. Stephan has long been an advocate for victims of human trafficking, pioneering San Diego’s Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division. Recently her office unveiled an anti-human trafficking training program aimed at the tourism and hospitality industry.

Saving “the best for last,” Stephan ended her talk by announcing the opening this April of a new family justice center in North County called “One Safe Place” in a revamped warehouse in San Marcos. “It has been a dream of mine for 15 years….it will be a state-of-the-art facility…a place of hope, healing and justice in the North County” Stephan said, where survivors of sex trafficking, domestic violence, family violence, elder abuse, and sexual assault can seek justice, begin healing, and reclaim their lives with help from a variety of agencies operating on-site.

The walkers then collected their “Stop Human Trafficking” signs and headed to Melrose Drive, walking from the church to Sunset Drive and back to the church, eliciting honks of support from passing drivers.

Van Nevel and her Soroptimist Club also coordinate the North County Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative, open to the public which meets every other month at the church. Their next meeting is Thursday, March 3 at 9 am in Fellowship Hall, United Methodist Church, 490 S. Melrose Drive, Vista. Masks required.

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