Ever since she learned about human trafficking happening in Wichita, Jennifer White has been helping raise awareness about the issue and helping groups who work directly with victim survivors.
White founded ICT SOS in 2011 after reading a newspaper article about human trafficking. As the mother of two daughters, including one who was 12 at the time – the age that many enter human trafficking – she was compelled to do something, she said.
“I am a mom and a lover of all things Wichita. I’m raising my family here and I want our community to be as safe as possible for all who live here,” White said.
As she became educated about the issue and about those who work with victims – like the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, law enforcement agencies, hospitals and the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center – she realized there was room for a nonprofit that could help them. A group that could provide funds to buy a plane ticket for a victim to rejoin her family or go to a rehabilitation center. A group that would talk to churches and other organizations to tell them this is a problem that needs attention. (White said she’s still often asked, “Does that really happen in Wichita:”) A group that would put together a prevention and awareness curriculum to share in the schools.
White, a former financial adviser who became the full-time executive director of ICT SOS in 2016, often describes ICT SOS as a liaison between the community and professionals, helping support and fill gaps.
Its “fresh start bags” program began when a police officer contacted her to get some items for a young girl the police were helping. The bags contain clothing, hygiene items, a journal or comfort item – a toy or blanket – and a gift card for a meal. The group also provides clean start baskets for youth transitioning from foster care or juvenile justice custody into their first dorm or apartment. A list of needed items can be found on the group’s website.
Through its annual 5k Race 4 Freedom, which started in 2013, ICT SOS has raised $150,000 to help programs that serve at-risk girls and victims of trafficking.
In recent years, ICT SOS has stepped up its prevention and awareness curriculum offered in several Wichita-area middle and high schools. ICT SOS has a full-time education coordinator and a team of volunteers, including detectives, a lawyer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and social workers, who work with teachers to provide the three-to-five hour curriculum. In 2017, the curriculum reached 1,300 kids; in 2018 it nearly doubled to more than 2,500, White said.
“We are working not only to combat the issue of human trafficking, but ultimately end it altogether,” White said.
Find out more about the group by visiting ictsos.org.