STUART, Fla. (CBS12) — Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry with more than 20 million victims, according to the International Labour Organization.
It's happening all around the world and right here in our area.
"Human trafficking is hidden right in plain sight," said Lynne Barletta and Founder of Catch the Wave of Hope.
She started Catch the Wave of Hope after helping with a project in Singapore, three years ago.
"That mural project introduced me to a young lady who had been trafficked by her parents since she was eight years and she was 18," said Barletta.
Ever since then she's focused her time on the fight against human trafficking.
"I got such a heart to do something especially when I found out that it's so rampant here in America over 100,000 children a day are being used that we now about," said Barletta.
Through their awareness training in businesses, schools and organization, they already helped with one major bust.
Police arrested Miguel Alvarez Maradiaga for running several brothels and prostitution homes in suburban lake worth and Martin County. Two others were arrested in connection to the case as well.
“It’s indescribable how much awareness is a facet of this and how much people need to recognize signs,” said Barletta.
She explained there are many signs to look out for like boarded up homes in a neighborhood with locks on the doors and surveillance cameras. She also mentioned social media is a dangerous avenue for children to open the door to become victims. Barletta added to look out for children who suddenly get a lot of jewelry, gifts or even tattoos.
As she continues to work to raise awareness, she’s working to raise funds as well. She wants to raise a million dollars to build a home for victims of human trafficking to “restore them to go back into life.”
A 250 foot mural on the side of AT&T in downtown Stuart is helping to make that possible.
Each animal on the wall is sponsored, creating money to help victims.
“I believe with all my heart that art will cross any boundary,” said Barletta. She added, “art reaches everyone. Art is a vehicle they can mobilize an entire community.”
Each fish is painted by a student at Visionary School of Arts and worth $100 each. So for those students have raised, $10,000.
“I can't do it alone. You can't do it alone but an entire community rising up can do this,” said Barletta.
If you or your company want to help, head over to their website.