New backpack-stuffing effort lets victims of human trafficking know 'they're not alone'

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The warmth and empathy shown by a group of Edmonton woman packing emergency backpacks makes a difference, says one advocate grateful for a new grassroots donation effort.

“It really helps women to know they’re not alone,” said Kate Quinn, executive director of CEASE, referring to more than a dozen backpacks collected by local volunteers to give women fleeing human trafficking situations.

It’s like escaping a house fire, Quinn said. The women often leave with little to no supplies to help them get on their feet.

Edmonton resident Tanya DaEstrela started the backpack-stuffing effort after reading a story of a young man who had to fill a bag with essential items as part of his sentencing for soliciting sex.

She reached out to a member of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) and learned that many women flee with nothing but the clothes on their back and need a ‘Day 1’-style bag with supplies.

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DaEstrela reached out to her social circles to pull together bags and supplies.

“What was great about it, was it got a mix of things,” said DaEstrela. “I was honestly overwhelmed by the level of interest and the level of contribution. Some of the things were really beautiful, like Victoria’s Secret and La Vie En Rose pyjamas.”

In the end, they filled 17 bags and had donations of loose supplies as well. The filled backpacks were dropped off at CEASE as well as the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT). She’s hoping to organize more donations in the coming months as she’s already heard from people who want a second chance to contribute.

Quinn said the donation shows the community backs their work.

“That supports us and our workers in the field, we know that we’ve got a community behind us,” she said. “More importantly, we are able to share these backpacks with with women who are in terribly difficult situations. We say to them, these backpacks were prepared by women in the community.”

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