Several hundred people gave up their shoes on a recent spring Saturday to walk around downtown Anchorage — not for fun but to draw attention to a growing problem in Alaska.
The Barefoot Mile is a 1-mile barefoot walk to raise awareness about human trafficking and to walk in solidarity with impoverished children who are most vulnerable to trafficking.
Davis Constructors & Engineers Inc. partnered with Joy International, Priceless Alaska, MyHouse and Covenant House to present the first Anchorage Barefoot Mile fundraiser. The event took place May 20 at Town Square Park in Anchorage — and reached its goal of over $200,000. Davis Constructors & Engineers provided initial matching funds of $50,000.
Half the money raised from the Anchorage event went to Joy International, an organization that fights human trafficking globally. The remainder went to Priceless Alaska and two nonprofits that serve homeless youths, Covenant House in Anchorage and MyHouse in Wasilla.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing crime in the world and is an annual $150 billion industry.
Two million children are exploited every year in the international commercial sex trade. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked in the U.S. each year.
In Alaska, human trafficking is also considered one of the fastest-growing crimes, with homeless youths especially vulnerable. A study released by Covenant House Alaska this year shows that at least one in four homeless youths in Anchorage said they were victims of human trafficking.
The Barefoot Mile is a reminder of how a community can be effective in supporting this common goal.
Sharon Stockard is managing editor of The Alaska Contractor.