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  In 2005, the first Lee County Human Trafficking Task Force was established due to a group of  women determined to know if this crime was happening in the Southwest Florida region. Our founder, Nola Theiss served as a founding co-chair on that task force.  The resulting joint efforts of community outreach and education brought awareness to law enforcement, service providers, community members, and educators  allowing them to identify a young girl from Guatemala as a victim. At the age of thirteen, she had been trafficked and enslaved for two years in a house residing in Cape Coral. Officially classified as a domestic servitude, labor and sex trafficking victim; this child had become pregnant by her handler and beaten in an attempt to force her to lose the baby. She was hospitalized and placed in foster care for young mothers where she was later identified by the task force as a possible victim. At that time, there was no name in our community to describe what had happen to her. Now we had something to call it, “Human Trafficking” and we knew that there were other victims. This first case placed Lee County, Florida in the national spotlight as actively apprehending and prosecuting traffickers and resulted in the arrest of 4 men in Cape Coral. The impact of this experience led Nola Theiss to found a 501c3 organization in 2006 known as  Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships (HTAP). She understood the importance of continuing to focus on the role of educating the community about human trafficking in collaboration and partnerships. HTAP expanded its mission to focus on children in 2010. The premise being to get ahead of the traffickers. It became clear we can’t devote all our resources and time to responding and reacting. We have to stop the cycle that begins with vulnerable children at risk. HTAP established youth prevention programs that include art and theater. Since then we have served over 1200 youth in our signature ARTREACH programs and held hundreds of other trainings and programs in Lee and Collier Counties. We could not do our job without the generous support of volunteers, grantors and donors.  As one of the first organizations in the area to work on the issue of human trafficking, we have worked with most, if not all, local organizations from shelters and service providers like: ACT Shelter for Abused Women, Our Mothers Home, ProjectHelp, Children’s Advocacy Center, Boys & Girls Clubs, AFCAAM, YMCAs, PACE Schools, and New Horizons to name a few. e conduct shorter programs and events for youth and teach classes in middle and high schools. Our curriculum meets sunshine state standards and we are approved to educate in the Lee County School District. Our Point of Contact/Point of Rescue program  teaches professionals, educators, parents and first responders about human trafficking. HTAP’s mission is to prevent human trafficking by empowering individuals through education and collaborative action in SW Florida. Its goal is to protect, educate and empower young people to be able to protect themselves and educate others through their art and to train professionals like social workers, nurses, law enforcement and the community about the dangers of trafficking and the actions they can take to prevent trafficking before it harms a person, especially the young, the vulnerable and those at risk.  



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