i-5 Freedom Network works to address human trafficking

Brenda Wells

Now in its sixth year, the i-5 Freedom Network continues working toward its goal of ending human trafficking with workshops and other events in Orange County, where it is based, and North County.

The organization’s founder, Brenda Wells, had been a corporate trainer and worked in hotels.

“I put those two things together to train hotels on how to identify and report human trafficking in the inustry,” Wells said. “That was our first mission. We’ve added our survivor workshops and legislative advocacy and community awareness as well, training for the community.”

She added that “it started out as a project to train hotels, that was our goal.”

“But what happened was, the approach that we took and the skills that we have took us into new arenas,” Wells said.

A lot of i-5 Freedom Network’s work takes place in San Diego because it is home to several other organizations working toward the same goals to combat human trafficking.

“When people start to learn about this, it really does get their attention and it’s hard for them to understand what’s actually happening,” Wells said. “But there’s a lot of misinformation about what trafficking is that is leading people down the wrong path and the misuse of resources and things like that.”

The organization’s work has also focused on raising awareness of the common warning signs of human trafficking.

“It’s not about trying to lock eyes with a person you think is in trouble and they’re going to trust you and all of the sudden you’re going to rescue them from this situation,” Wells said.

Human trafficking is often “a very complex problem.”

“The individuals who are in it don’t even realize that they’re in it, they wouldn’t call themselves victims of trafficking,” Wells said. “They would think that they’re doing this for their boyfriend or their family member.”

The organization also helps support survivors of human trafficking, many of whom face an arduous road to move forward with their lives and are sometimes left with criminal records. i-5 Freedom Network’s WAY2WORK program was designed to address that issue.

More recently, i-5 Freedom Network has also been focusing on legislative advocacy involving laws that are relevant to human trafficking.

“The No. 1 thing to think about is that human trafficking is very much a U.S. problem,” Wells said.

For more information about i-5 Freedom Network, visit The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-3737-888.