Today I am going to talk about something a little different than usual. Generally I pick a topic about human trafficking and discuss the issues behind it and some common misconceptions. This time I will actually be talking about something that directly involves All We Want is LOVE and that is #SoleMates.

            #SoleMates is an after school program that is dedicated to “Connecting the Mind, The Heart, and The SOLE through a leadership/volunteer program for elementary school children at risk for human trafficking and bullying.” The point of the program is to give kids a foot in the right direction. The founders of #SoleMates are Ashley Harkrader and Co-Founder Loryn Wurst (Owner of FitGirl Charlotte). How it works is they work with a school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system (CMS) to give kids a better start and to limit their chances of being trafficked. The program is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30-4:15pm starting October 27th through December 3rd. Each day the volunteers will teach kids, through hands on activities, about important life issues such as; leadership, teamwork, respect, listening, sexual assault, anger issues, self-esteem, body image, male/female unity, and current events. By completing the program each child will receive a band new pair of shoes.

            This program is volunteer oriented and will not only change the lives of the volunteers but also the lives of the children. The reason this is so important is because North Carolina is in the top 10 states with the highest rates of human trafficking. And what’s even more is that Charlotte, North Carolina is number 6 in the nation where about 300,000 children are at risk of being sold and trafficked. Plus there are roughly 2,500-3,000 kids who are targeted in our own community of CMS. So All We Want is LOVE decided to do something about these numbers and give back to the community.

            What’s most important is the way that #SoleMates fights trafficking. No, no one is busting down doors and saving kids locked up from the world. This program fights human trafficking as a prevention mechanism and in an empowering way. Many times child victims have also been severely bullied. Bullying leads to low self-esteem and self-worth, and makes many children feel invisible or unwanted. When kids feel unworthy it leads to a need to escape. Many children who are bullied are more likely to run away and this puts them in a more vulnerable state than they could ever foresee.

            When a child runs away they are more vulnerable to human trafficking. With nowhere to go and no way to eat, children turn to people for affirmation and support. 1 of 3 runaway children are approached by a trafficker within 48 hours. The likelihood that a child on the streets with be a victim of human trafficking is a little less than half. As I said before there are 2,500-3,000 kids who are vulnerable to human trafficking in Mecklenburg County alone. Imagine how many of them will be trafficked if we don’t do anything.

            This is why #SoleMates is so vital. The program gives children emotional and mental strength. It gives them the power over their situations and the knowledge to combat the reality of bullying. If we can give children the confidence in themselves through education and positive role models, then we can reduce the reality and possibility of them being sold and traded in the human trafficking market for labor and sex.

*****If you would like to sign up as a volunteer or make any donations for the program please contact us through our page!*****