Even though it’s a dreary November afternoon, Suzanne Smith’s voice radiates warmth and enthusiasm. Smith is a woman on a mission, and she is brimming with passion and conviction as she describes how she has become a crusader in the local war against human trafficking.
Desiring to effect permanent change, Suzanne has embarked on an exciting and heart-felt campaign to fill a much needed void in the Fraser Valley. Having worked for both the Salvation Army and Omni Television, Suzanne became aware of the ever- growing problems of human trafficking, debt bondage and their link to the sex trade. As a new mother of a beautiful baby girl, it weighed heavy on her heart, and she knew that she needed to become involved in creating a solution.
The sex trade/human trafficking issue that is well publicized by media as an overseas problem. However, many people in Canada do not realize that illegal human slavery is going on right here, all around us, in our home towns. Women, men and children are sold into slavery worldwide, every day. It is estimated that over 4 million women and children worldwide are presently engaged in forced sexual slavery. Of these, an astounding 1.5 million of them are presently operating in this capacity within North America. Sex tourism is on the rise in BC, and continues to grow as more and more women are brought here to supply the insatiable demand. It is thought that there is significantly more financial profit generated by criminals who traffic people, than there is in the production, sale and distribution of drugs.
Women who are brought to Canada for the sole purpose of staffing the sex trade are often smuggled into the country illegally. Arriving with no money, no documentation and no ability to extricate themselves, they end up trapped and marginalized. Living in horrifically inhumane conditions, and enduring unspeakable sexual and physical abuse is a reality for victims. Smith points out that when they do somehow manage to get help, they often have absolutely no resources, no place to go, and few to no places that are equipped for dealing with their specific needs.
Enter the Purple Button Project.
Inspired by Kyle McDonald’s celebrated One Red Paperclip adventure (McDonald started with only one red paperclip, and subsequently traded it for a series of items of increasing value, until he managed to trade his way into the ownership of a house) Suzanne decided that she was going to give Fraser Valley victims of sexual slavery a safe haven to obtain assistance, shelter and recovery by embarking on a similar project. In conjunction with the Salvation Army’s crusade to end sex trafficking, Smith launched The Purple Button Project in mid-2009, with the goal of trading her way into obtaining a home and other items that she then would donate to the Salvation Army for the purpose of creating a Safe House. The process would be well documented by Smith on her blog, as well as by a local documentary producer.
Knowing that the first item in the chain of exchanges would be monumental, Smith settled on a humble purple button. Word of the project travelled, and soon enough, the button was given a new home. In it’s place, Smith now had a heart-shapped waffle maker. Again, the waffle maker was exchanged for something more valuable – a $100 Gift Certificate for a Hot Stone Massage at Lotus Day Spa. This is where Fraser Valley Pulse readers come in!
Suzanne needs to move on to the next phase of the project, and is seeking a generous supporter who has a special something that she can trade the Lotus gift certificate for. The item must be worth more than the value of the massage, but not significantly so.
If you would like to be involved, and are able to offer Suzanne something in the $150 – $200 range, please get in contact with Suzanne before December 10th, 2009.
Here is how: