For three weeks every September, one of the largest art events in the world, ArtPrize, takes over the city of Grand Rapids. More than 400,000 people visit this city to embrace creativity and vote on which art piece deserves the cash award. During this time, hundreds of people walk the streets, creating the perfect opportunity for us to inform our community on the topic of human trafficking. The streets of downtown Grand Rapids become our platform for raising awareness about the prevalence of this injustice in our area.
Part of this heightened awareness includes Women At Risk, Int’l (WAR, Int’l) co-hosting a community-wide S.O.A.P. Project (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution), founded by anti-trafficking advocate and survivor, Theresa Flores, on September 10, 2016. Flores, who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit in the 1980s, was trafficked out of her own home without her parents knowing at the age of 15 by a classmate and his cousins. The pain of this injustice driving her, Flores started the S.O.A.P. Project to reach out to women and girls who desperately need to escape the sex industry but lack the resources to do so.
S.O.A.P. is a project that includes wrapping bars of soap in labels that have the national human trafficking hotline number (1-888-373-7888) printed on them. Hotels are hotspots for trafficking. Victims and customers are easily hidden amongst those who come and go from their many rooms. The labeled bars are distributed to local hotels to be placed in bathrooms, creating the opportunity for victims to seek necessary help. Along with these bars, posters of missing children are handed out to hotel staff members, encouraging them to report any suspicious activity that could occur at their place of employment.
We invite you to join WAR, Int’l on September 10 to help wrap and distribute the bars of soap. You’ll have the opportunity to hear from our WAR, Int’l President Becky McDonald, law enforcement officials, and Theresa Flores herself. You’ll also be invited to join us on outreach as we drive around to hotels in our area to offer them these labeled, complimentary soaps. The cost for the afternoon is just $10, which covers your lunch.
Join us in making the most of ArtPrize this year by creating circles of protection and becoming modern-day abolitionists for women at risk in the greater Grand Rapids area. We have an opportunity to be advocates and catalysts for change this year. Mark your calendars and join us for the S.O.A.P. Project 2016. Registration for this event is required prior to September 10, and can be found on our website at warinternational.org.
During ArtPrize, we will also be partnering with the exhibit titled “Stories in Blue,” by Stephanie Sandberg. This piece will use various creative elements to tell the stories of trafficking survivors. If you cannot attend our SOAP event, please consider visiting the exhibit in its entirety during ArtPrize, from September 21 through October 9.
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Location: WAR, Int’l Headquarters
Cost: $10 to cover the cost of lunch
Women At Risk, Int’l Headquarters
2790 44th St. SW
Wyoming, MI 49519