Stockdale High senior raises $5K for victims of human trafficking
Feb. 2—Members of the Housing and Opportunity Foundation of Kern and nonprofit leaders held a check presentation Thursday, to honor the fundraising achievements of Mukul Anand, a Stockdale high school senior who raised $5,000 for victims of human trafficking.
Anand, who previously raised $15,000 last September for a free library, presented the money to emPOWERment, a local nonprofit that specializes in rehabilitating victims of human trafficking.
At a press conference on Thursday at the Kern County Family Justice Center, emPOWERment President Dess Perkins, herself a survivor of human trafficking, said the money will go toward future educational activities for at-risk youth who are often underrepresented.
"I wanted to start something and show them that there is always a different way and a different opportunity," Perkins said. "Just because you're in a situation doesn't mean you have to stay there or that's your end. There's so much more that can be had out there."
Human trafficking is the third largest national and international crime industry. About 18,000 people are trafficked in the United States each year. Additionally, at least 50 percent of individuals who are trafficked across international borders are children, and children between the ages of 12 to 14 years old are trafficked for sex.
"(Our) mission is to restore hope to the hopeless, disenfranchised, at-risk, and victims turned survivors of human and sex trafficking," Perkins said. "Our goal is to assist at-risk youth and human/sex trafficking victims turn their negative or troubled past into a positive future by providing a way to speak their truth, heal from traumas, and grow. We want to inspire a nation by building self- determination and resilience by providing a voice for the voiceless and at-risk."
Anand said it was his time as a summer intern last year for the local district attorney's office that inspired him to enter into criminal justice.
"It's heartbreaking to see that human trafficking is so prevalent in this tight-knit community of Bakersfield," Anand said. "You see people who've suffered violence who are going to court for these things and you're hearing things that are happening here in our own community."
According to the Kern County District Attorney's office, more reports of human trafficking come from this county than any other.
"I believe last year there were about 200 calls relating to human trafficking cases," Anand said. "As a whole, 101 going to children and 96 going to other victims. It's alarming to see these things are happening and no one's really doing anything about it."
Anand said he hopes to attend Stanford University in the fall, to study political science and possibly computer science. His application, while deferred, is still undecided. In the meantime, he's considering UC San Diego and Irvine.
For more information on emPOWERment's efforts against human trafficking, visit their website at empowermentdp.org.