Today is #HumanTraffickingAwarenessDay. Of all the trafficking victims reported globally, did you know almost one-third are children? To help combat this issue on a local level, PCI implemented Project ROOTS (formerly known as Girls Only! and Boys Only!) in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.

Project ROOTS is an after-school program that addresses the root causes of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and unhealthy relationships through group mentoring and social emotional learning. As a primary prevention program, it aims to build protective factors in elementary and middle school aged youth through the three central themes of Empathy, Equality and Empowerment.

In 2018, the program served a total of 220 boys and girls (ages 8-13) at 12 schools in San Diego. Most of the schools are in underserved areas that experience higher rates of poverty, gang activity, violence and sex trafficking recruitment.

To learn more about how this after-school intervention empowers San Diego youth to be safe and resilient, meet Bernadete Leal, a Project ROOTS facilitator for PCI.

*Lead photo by Steve Adams