Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, has taken on a mission to eradicate a global crisis that has plagued humanity for thousands of years. Vanguard Global Center for Women and Justice, under the directorship of Sandra Morgan, exists to combat human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery.
The only modern-day aspect of the scourge is the rise in the horrific criminal abuse exacerbated by modern technology (Internet and social media), epidemic drug use, as well as modern transportation, money laundering, black markets and, perhaps worse, society’s blind eye.
The blind eye aspect hits home in Orange County.
“This can’t be going on here,” many would say, adding, “That only happens in big cities and mostly in foreign countries.”
Not so. The cases involving forced prostitution of young women and some young men go largely unreported in media. Morgan and her staff have been on top of this crisis, not only here in O.C., but literally worldwide, for the past 16 years through the outreach of the center. Their global partnerships have exported education and training programs in Iraq, Zambia, Thailand, Australia, Kenya, Rwanda, Greece, Ecuador, Argentina, Russia, Germany, Romania, Spain and Italy. Clearly the scope of the crisis is daunting.
Coming up next month, the center will hold its annual “Priceless” event at Newport’s Fashion Island Hotel, inviting the public to join forces learning about the significance of the trafficking crisis right here in Orange County and more significantly, how to work to end it. The gathering promises to be emotional, as have all previous “Priceless” conferences.
Cheryl Dale and Kim Barnett are set to chair the event. The 2019 keynote speaker will be Rabbi Diana Gerson, associate executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis. She has been a leading advocate with the New York Board of Rabbis role in confronting family violence, sexual abuse and exploitation.
Additionally, Gerson has developed programs for the New York City Mayor’s office to combat domestic violence and has educated faith leaders at the New York City Family Justice Centers. She serves on the International Steering Committee for the Interfaith Forum on Child Dignity in the Digital World.
“I am thrilled to be a part of this year’s Priceless event and to partner with the Global Center for Women and Justice and Dr. Sandra Morgan to bring awareness to the community,” Gerson said. “It is an adult’s responsibility to protect children. As communities of faith, it is our moral imperative.”
Trying to put out of business the estimated $150 billion a year monetary take in the human-trafficking industry requires a superhuman effort. The center at Vanguard reports that some 40 million people are living in some form of slavery today.
Ending all forms of such abuse in Orange County remains a principle objective for Morgan, her staff, team, donors and volunteers.
“We don’t often associate exploitation and human trafficking with areas like our beautiful county, but it is here, and it is very real,” she said. “It is our hope that this annual event encourages the greater Orange County community to do more to help victims in their own backyard and around the world.”
To share the mission with Morgan and Gerson over lunch at the Fashion Island Hotel on Sept. 7, the public is invited.
Tickets are $225 with full tables and underwriting sponsorships still available.
For information and tickets please visit vanguard.edu/research/gcwj/events/priceless.
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.