SPONSORED: An Update on Louisiana’s Fight Against Human Trafficking

United Way of Acadiana’s Women United group held a powerful session on Aug. 13 for their Food for Thought Series: An Update on Louisiana’s Fight Against Human Trafficking.  This eye-opening panel discussion included Sen. Ronnie Johns, Father Jeff Bayhi and Sister Norma Nunez and was facilitated by Jan Risher.

Sen. Johns has represented District 27 in the Louisiana State Senate since 2012 and has devoted his legislative career to many business-related issues, health care issues, advocating for domestic violence victims, for adoption and foster care of children, and victims of human trafficking.

Father M. Jeffery Bayhi, a native of Baton Rouge, has worked a great deal with retreats, prison systems, and hospitals while also serving many Church parishes. He also established Metanoia Corporation, a non-profit religious organization dedicated to developing a safe shelter to rescue women from human trafficking.  Metanoia Corporation provided the path to establish Metanoia Manor.

Sister Norma Nunez, a native of the Philippines, works with Father Bayhi and, with the assistance of several other nuns, operates Metanoia Manor.

Metanoia Manor provides a secure safe haven and home for female victims of human trafficking.  While it is very difficult to return to a life outside of trafficking, Metanoia Manor provides a safe place to begin the recovery.  The home provides support for physical, mental, and spiritual health, life skills, education and reintegration.  Although Metanoia Manor is run by Catholic nuns, it is a non-denominational facility. Metanoia Manor is privately funded and relies on donations to continue caring for these young women.

Each of the three panelists shared their experience on how they became involved in the fight against human trafficking.  Together, they have set out to educate communities on this issue and bring the realization to light: this is not just an issue in other countries or states. There are victims here, in our cities and in our state. Five years ago, human trafficking was ranked No. 3 in terms of incoming illegal money; now, human trafficking is ranked No. 1.  Raising awareness, educating, and helping these victims is an ongoing and difficult process.

With the help of Sen. Johns, Louisiana is recognized nationwide as having some of the toughest laws on human trafficking with legislation beginning in 2013.  With that said, there is still so much work needed to bring awareness to parents, children and the communities in which we live.

The Picard Group’s Tyron Picard and Mike Michot have been involved in this issue for several years, including traveling to Rome in 2017 to discuss human trafficking in Louisiana with Pope Francis and other Vatican officials.

Elizabeth Picard and The Picard Group Association and Federal Affairs Director Paige Hightower are part of the local Women United chapter. They help bring together women to fight for the health, education, and financial stability in our community. Education is an important component to bring awareness to others in our community.

To learn more about Metanoia Manor and the mission to stop human trafficking, click here.

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