Davenport conference to raise awareness about human trafficking

The Quad Cities are a center for human trafficking. — photo by smcgee via Flickr Creative Commons
By Sophie Neems and Jacob Petterson

Human trafficking is the largest criminal industry in the world after drug trade, and some are working to raise awareness about how the issue is affecting Iowans. The Newcomb Presbyterian Church in Davenport will host the 2015 Human Trafficking Conference on Sunday, Jan. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Center for Active Seniors (1035 W. Kimberly Rd., Davenport).

Although Davenport may not seem like a place that would be affected by this international concern, The Quad City area is actually a trouble-spot for trafficking according Elise Ward of Newcomb Presbyterian Church.

“Our community is at a crossroads of transportation. Human trafficking occurs in our area, essentially in plain sight, but invisible to nearly all of us,” Ward said. “We understand the urgent need of awareness-building in the community. Once we have a widespread basic understanding, we will be able to promote peace and support basic human rights through our actions.”

Measures have been taken to raise awareness in the past, but Ward hopes this conference will take the community’s understanding a step further.

“We have an effective, well-respected local agency, Braking Traffik, who is very interested in community education,” said Ward. “Through the Presbyterian church, we are also able to provide nationally-recognized speakers.”

There will be three speakers at the event, with each presentation lasting an hour. Mark Koenig, Director of Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, will talk about the types of human trafficking across the globe; Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of Ending Child Slavery at the Source (ECPAT-USA), will present on stopping child slavery; and Jane Hoffman of Braking Traffik will address local human trafficking issues. There will also be a panel discussion and time for audience questions.

The 2015 Human Trafficking Conference is free and open to the public. Registration is appreciated, though not required. This can be done by calling Newcomb Church 563-391-7308 or emailing them directly at