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Earth Day: Observations from an Amateur Environmentalist

Written by: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations for National Safe Place Network

I’m an environmentalist, a lover of nature and someone that wants to see our planet beautiful and appropriately protected.  I’m on my patio in an older neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky as I write these words, keenly aware of nature around me. The senses of touch, sight, hearing and smell are stirred as I sit, think, and write.

The sun shines brightly and I feel the warmth of its rays. Scattered clouds float by and I’m suddenly cooled in their shadows and reminded of the great energy available through the sun. Solar power is becoming more common and affordable for individuals and should be a consideration of property owners when appropriate. On a recent vacation to the Caribbean I noticed how many homes and businesses had solar panels on their roofs, and a solar farm in a large open area with rows of solar panels undoubtedly provide power for the town. This is important there and in other places where fuel and resources have to be brought in to provide utilities. Maybe that’s something to work toward in your home and community, but if not, there are some simple things we can do to harness the sun’s power.

So what can an average person do to harness the sun’s energy? Have you ever made sun tea? If you like iced tea you can fill a clear, glass jar with water and tea bags and place it in the sun until the water is warm and the tea brews to whatever strength you like. In a short amount of time you can enjoy a glass of iced tea. And yes, you do need a freezer to make the ice – unless you have a natural source.

On clear days in the winter you can also harness the sun’s warmth by opening the blinds or curtains in sunny windows to let the rays shine through, enjoy the bright light and warm your space. In the summer, reverse that and close curtains and blinds to keep the warmth out, cool your space and reduce the energy used in air conditioning.

If you have a home with a yard and space for planting, consider planting shade trees to block the summer sun. Deciduous trees (those that loose leaves in the winter) are helpful because they let the sun in during the winter when you want the sun’s energy to warm your home. There is great value in having trees. They provide a cooling effect not only for your home but in mass they help overall heating in the environment. This is especially true in urban areas with large amounts of paving and hard surfaces that heat up in the daytime and hold that warmth at night. (You may have heard of “heat islands”.)  Undoubtedly you’ve experienced the noticeable temperature difference while driving on a summer night in a city and then passing into the country or a part of town such as a park.

As I sit, other senses are stimulated – the sense of hearing and smell. The wind is blowing through the neighbors’ trees. One is very large and the leaves have not yet come out, but you can clearly see them as they bud. The wind starts subtly and builds to a loud, rushing sound and soon quiets again to nothing. This wind cools my skin as I sit in the sun. As clouds pass I suddenly get chilly – oh the joy of spring time. My sense of hearing is also thrilled as I listen to the birds that have been awakened by spring and are singing to attract their mates. Soon nests will be filled with eggs and baby birds will hatch. I can only identify some of the birds by their song but they’re all beautiful to hear after the silence of winter.

I also distinctly recognize the smell of freshly cut grass and the faint fragrance of plant blossoms and trees nearby. All of these smells bring happiness, relaxation and memories of times gone by.

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Finally, the most obvious sense that I experience is that of sight. I’m surrounded by color – the bright green grass, new foliage on shrubbery and tiny leaves beginning to come out on the trees. Pansies in pots on the patio display vivid yellow, blue, purple, orange and rust. Some of the blooms are two-toned with light and dark in a pattern that reminds me of a monkey’s face – bringing a smile to my face. Looking across my yard I see white dogwood blossoms, bright purple azaleas and a red bud tree – all sights familiar to me since childhood. There are pink tulips, red and yellow columbine, yellow and white daffodils – so much color. I look up and marvel at the blue sky and white puffy clouds floating by.

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There in so much to take in – sound, smell, touch, and sight – all wonderful on a spring day. How does this connect to being an environmentalist? How can one experience all the beauty and not want to protect it? That is the connection. So in conclusion, here are a few things you can do to protect and preserve the beauty around you:

  1. Plant flowers, bushes, trees – whatever is appropriate for your space. It can even be a small pot of herbs, vegetables, flowers or a maple tree that will grow to shade your house. Do some research to find the appropriate plants.
  2. Put out a bird feeder or bird bath and keep it filled and cleaned to satisfy our feathered friends.
  3. If you have space, create a place to sit to take it all in, think, contemplate, and talk with a neighbor or loved one. It is amazing when you can admire nature and unplug from the unnatural.

Now, I think I’ll just sit here and take all this in just a little longer before I have to take on the tasks of the day. Happy Earth Day. Enjoy!

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Agencies in Action Against Human Trafficking: Park Place Outreach

During National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re highlighting agencies and programs doing exceptional work to combat human trafficking and serve victims-survivors. Today’s blog features information about Park Place Outreach located in Savannah, Georgia, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Park Place Outreach, in Savannah, Georgia operates a Street Outreach Program (SOP) that is actively involved in addressing human trafficking in the community. A large part of our outreach program is centered on providing services to trafficking victims, including assistance in residential placement with other collaborating agencies and training for schools and businesses on identification of and response to trafficking victims.

We also focus on educating our community about human trafficking. We participate in venues that are specifically focused on raising awareness. The SOP coordinator serves on the Savannah Interagency Diversity Council (SIDC) Board, which plays a huge role in resolving human trafficking on both the local and national level. We also take part in the annual Savannah Traffic Jam, a conference facilitated by the SIDC.  This year’s Traffic Jam will take place on the campus of Savannah State University on Saturday, January 28th, 2017.

The SOP program goes out into the community two to three days a week and distributes information to suspected trafficking victims. Our approach is to provide information on how to get out of the life if they want.

Park Place Outreach recognizes that an understanding of culture is critical to assist trafficking victims. We have received extensive training from other agencies such as National Safe Place Network and the Family and Youth Services Bureau.

We collaborate with surrounding agencies to assist us in bringing victims off of the streets and out of harm’s way.

Our SOP emphasizes the importance of identification of trafficking and seeks to raise awareness among various community organizations. We work closely with agencies such as Safe Shelter and Salvation Army, who have collectively agreed to assist and provide services to survivors.

To learn more about Park Place Outreach, please visit: http://parkplaceyes.org/

Agencies in Action Trafficking: Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services

During National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re highlighting agencies and programs doing exceptional work to combat human trafficking and serve victims-survivors. Today’s blog features information about Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services located in Fresno, California, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Under the California Office of Emergency Services Human Trafficking Victims Assistance Program, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) Sanctuary And Youth Services Central Valley Against Human Trafficking Program (CVAHT) serves as the planner, fiscal agent, monitor, and technical assistance provider for six strategically chosen sub-awardees and leads the Central Valley Freedom Coalition (CVFC), the local Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Coalition. The project provides comprehensive trauma-informed client services, advocacy, outreach, training, and public awareness to a six-county region including: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare. CVAHT is also the local service provider of the Trafficking Victims Assistance Program in partnership with U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), offering non-citizen victims access to benefits and case management.

The overarching goals of the CVAHT program are to:

  1. Identify victims of human trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and provide comprehensive services to victims and survivors;
  2. Build capacity by providing training and technical assistance on human trafficking in diverse professional sectors;
  3. Provide leadership for, work collaboratively within and actively strengthen the regional anti-trafficking coalition, Central Valley Freedom Coalition, a Rescue and Restore Coalition; and
  4. Increase public awareness, particularly among victims of trafficking, of the dangers of trafficking, how to identify victims and the protections and services that are available for victims of trafficking.

The Coalition’s Steering Committee meets quarterly for training and updating purposes on the topic of human trafficking, as well as creating a safety and supportive services network for identified victims of human trafficking. Sub-committees meet monthly in order to increase collaboration on the topics of: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors, Labor Trafficking, Law-Enforcement, Public Awareness, and Victim Services. General Coalition meetings are held bi-annually and are open to the public. In addition, CVAHT, Central Valley Freedom Coalition, and their project manager supports the activities of local and federal law enforcement agencies, district attorneys’ offices, and the U.S. attorney’s office via pro-active information sharing and training on human trafficking. Central Valley Freedom Coalition is comprised of local and federal law enforcement agencies, legal service organizations, faith-based organizations, service providers, and advocacy groups. Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services, Fresno Police Department, Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Fresno County District Attorney’s office, FBI, ICE, EEOC, U.S. Attorney’s office, Crime Victim Assistance Center, Central CA Legal Services, Marjaree Mason Center, Centro la Familia Advocacy Services Inc.; California Rural Legal Assistance, Family Services Supporting Tulare County, Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention, Kern Coalition Against Trafficking, and Central Valley Justice Coalition are among member organizations. CVAHT is in a position to clearly identify the extent of human trafficking related issues in California’s Central Valley, establish and utilize protocols, certify and provide services to survivors of trafficking in persons. This program fills an existing gap in services while offering a proactive measure toward decreasing future numbers of human trafficking incidents in the community.

Potential victims of trafficking are initially screened by advocates, and/or case managers. Potential victims may enter into contact with CVAHT project staff through a variety of ways. Emergency responders may be dispatched to locations which are deemed safe, for an initial assessment. Potential victims may also be referred through existing community agencies, law enforcement, concerned citizens and significant others or present as a self-referral. CVAHT utilizes a trauma informed approach in conducting both screening and assessment to determine primarily that the definition of trafficking is met as defined by the TVPA and secondly the availability and provision for individualized and comprehensive services to assist all victims of human trafficking in establishing safety, self-sufficiency, and in achieving their short-term and long-term goals.

A unique feature of Fresno EOC, as a community action agency, is that its board and staff must reflect the ethnicity and characteristics of the clientele served. The diversity of program staff lends itself to attract a variety of ethnic, cultural, and racial minorities. Several of the program staff members are bilingual in Spanish, one staff member speaks both Ukrainian and Russian, allowing the program to serve persons with limited ability to speak English. In addition, the majority of informational materials are available in multiple languages, and public service announcements are also broadcast among Spanish-speaking radio stations. The Project utilizes both Language Line and the National Human Trafficking Hotline for initial contact when other languages present, and has additional funding available for translation. Sanctuary and Youth Services maintains a culturally diverse team of staff who are cross-trained and accessible to assist as needed to ensure there are no communication or cultural barriers that impede the delivery of services. In light of sensitivity to the complex identities of male, female and transgender clients, CVAHT ensures that paperwork, intake procedures, and personal interactions are respectful of references, including preferred names and pronouns. Furthermore, CVAHT maintains awareness and heightens service skills by participating in relevant training for sensitivity to cultural, gender victim-oriented trauma issues.

CVAHT utilizes a collaborative and regional approach in order to meet the varying and individualized needs of survivors. Through funded partnerships, advocates have been trained and hired by participating agencies located within the geographic six-county region served. This has proved to increase access to services, especially for rural communities where services are sparse. Additionally, due to the frequency movement of victims by their traffickers within the region, it has provided a way to increase successful investigations and participation of victim service agencies with law enforcement. During the case management phase, this approach has proved helpful to support Survivors because it has increased collaboration, leveraging resources, available options to victims and the ability to fill in gaps of services.

To learn more about Fresno EOC’s CVAHT, please visit: http://www.fresnoeoc.org/cvaht/

What is a father?

By: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator for National Safe Place Network

What is a father?  I did a quick search on the internet to see how “father” was defined and found “a man in relation to his natural child or children.”  I think I’m among great company when I say “it takes much more than being a man in relation to his natural child or children to be a father”.  I’ve asked around to see what being a father means.  To some, a father is a type of superhero because of their “special powers” and the protection they provide.  To others, fathers are also known to simply instill determination, courage, and integrity into the lives of their children.

I posed another question, “what do you admire most about your father?”  I thought I would receive similar adjectives than before, but had a heartfelt reaction when I heard one very simple, yet powerful statement “you didn’t give up on me”.  There seems to be a divide in our society where some experience essential teachings and see the sacrifice and there are others who only imagine a dream world of having a father in their life.  It is clear fatherhood isn’t defined by one simple action.  That’s great news!  It means you don’t have to let one action define “your” success of being a “father”!

When it boils down to it, something is going to impact the lives of children.  In my opinion, having someone present in their lives teaching them how to be the best person they can be… well, that is worthy of a celebration and a “Happy Father’s Day”.  Take the time to thank someone in your life that has made a difference, in a “fatherly” way.

In honor of Father’s Day, here are some great resources from the National Fatherhood Initiative:
Fatherhood Programshttp://www.fatherhood.org/
Free Resourceshttp://www.fatherhood.org/free-resources
The Father Factorhttp://www.fatherhood.org/the-father-factor

And just for funhttp://fulltrain.net/these-dads-start-strutting-from-the-garage-but-when-the-beat-drops-i-lose-it/

Father's Day Wordle