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Local Officials Send Off Anti-Human Trafficking Group starting 902-mile Walk on Underground Railroad

Project Mona’s House & FreeThem Center host FreeTHEM Rally and aims to raise $1M

This past Saturday Mayor Byron W. Brown, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and a crowd of supporters gathered on the steps of city hall to offer well wishes to Project Mona's House and FreeThem Center founder, Kelly Galloway, and participants of The FreeTHEM Walk. The FreeTHEM Walk is a 902-mile walk from Lynchburg, V.A. to Buffalo, N.Y., to end human trafficking. The send-off happened at The FreeTHEM Rally, a kickoff for The FreeTHEM Walk to share details about the journey and bring awareness to human trafficking.

"Buffalo is a fitting place to send off and celebrate the FreeTHEM walkers as they depart to Lynchburg, V.A. and make their way back to Buffalo on Juneteenth", said Mayor Brown. "Our city has a long history of supporting abolitionism, freedom, and civil rights. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and Buffalo will continue to be a place of liberation, protection, and opportunity for all, especially the most vulnerable among us. I commend Kelly Diane Galloway and all of the FreeTHEM Walkers for embarking on this historic journey."

Following The FreeTHEM Rally, the group of participants, known as The FreeTHEM Walkers, boarded an RV and left city hall headed for Lynchburg, where they will join more FreeTHEM Walkers and begin their journey on Monday. There are 14 FreeTHEM Walkers participating in this initiative. The Buffalo group includes Kelly Galloway, Chris Bishop, Drea d'Nur, Julius Land, Jamil Crews, Lala Woods, Sadi Fleischer, and Kimera Lattimore. The others are from cities in Virginia, North Carolina, and Guatemala. The FreeTHEM Walkers will support Galloway by walking with her throughout this journey. Kelly will walk the entire 902-mile route.

"I have devoted my life to helping people and fighting for human rights", said Galloway. "Human Trafficking is a crime. It is the exploitation and abuse of people through labor, sex, experimentation, and organ removal. This is modern-day slavery, and it is wrong. That is why I started organizations like Project Mona's House and The FreeTHEM Center. Our programs transform human trafficking victims into overcomers and prevent at-risk girls and women from becoming future victims. The FreeTHEM Walk is how we will stand up for current victims. We will do that by protesting against this disgusting crime and teaching others about human trafficking in cities along the way."

Since human trafficking is modern-day slavery, The FreeTHEM Walk will travel the Underground Railroad with visits to historic sites in nine cities to pay homage to abolitionists who fought to end slavery generations ago. The FreeTHEM Walk will travel to Warrenton, Richmond, Cambridge, New Castle, Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Auburn, and Rochester. The walk will conclude in Buffalo on June 19 in a Juneteenth celebration. Juneteenth is a national holiday to celebrate abolishing slavery in the U.S. The group's arrival on Juneteenth is a symbolic representation of The FreeTHEM Walk's demand for freedom for the modern-day slave. To document this journey, a traveling film crew will follow The FreeTHEM Walkers to capture moments and experiences throughout their journey. Additional information about the docufilm will come later this year.

 

"I am extremely proud of Kelly Galloway, founder of Project Mona's House and The FreeThem Center, and would like to congratulate her and all of the participants of the FreeTHEM Walk", said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes. Human trafficking is the new-age slavery, and there is no better way to bring attention to this cause than by paying homage to our ancestors by trekking the historic Underground Railroad. Buffalo has deep abolitionist roots. It is very fitting that the trip concludes here. I'd like to wish everyone a safe, healthy, and speedy journey."

Project Mona's House and The FreeThem Center are committed to rescuing victims of human trafficking and preventing at-risk women and girls from becoming victims. Project Mona's House is a human trafficking restoration home for women. The organization provides shelter, counseling, financial literacy, and life-skills training to help former victims adjust to society. Without programs like those offered at Project Mona's House, former victims are more at-risk to return to a life of exploitation. In March, Galloway opened The FreeThem Center, a human trafficking drop-in center for at-risk girls and women on Buffalo's eastside. The FreeThem Center is a sister organization to Project Mona's House. It provides programs and resources for at-risk women and girls, such as community-building activities, workforce training, and the Young Women's Empowerment Academy for girls ages 7 to 18.

Over the past few months, Project Mona's House and The FreeThem Center have solicited donations from members and organizations within the community to help them reach a $1 million goal. The funds will go towards the development of a larger human trafficking restoration home in Western New York. Recently, The FreeTHEM Walkers challenged themselves to help rally donor support on social media through gofundme. By Saturday morning, they had raised over $36,000. In addition to supporting their cause, donations will also fund food, lodging, safety, and incidentals for The FreeTHEM Walkers throughout the journey.

 

According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking globally generates $150 billion annually. A 2019 report by the State Department identifies the U.S. as one of the world's worst places for human trafficking. Victims are modern-day slaves used for sex, labor, medical experiments, and organs. Human trafficking is happening across the country; however, many people are uninformed about what it is, how to identify victims or traffickers, and where to get help. 

 

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking and looking for assistance, contact Project Mona's House at 716-795-MONA. For more information or to donate to The FreeTHEM Walk, visit the web at www.thefreethemwalk.com.

 

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