Red Sand Project

Several local officials took part in the Red Sand Project in front of the McMinn County Judicial Complex last year. This year’s event, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be virtual.

McMinn County will be joining groups across the State of Tennessee tomorrow to participate in the Red Sand Project.

The project is intended to spread awareness on the issues of human trafficking and the “vulnerabilities” which can cause people to “fall through the cracks” and become victims. Packets containing a bag of red sand, information about the Red Sand Project and instructions for pouring the sand throughout the community can be obtained until Thursday at Full Circle Medical Center for Women, The Center for Educational Excellence, Athens-McMinn Family YMCA, New Attitude and the Athens Police Department.

Last year, several people from the community gathered together in front of the McMinn County Judicial Complex to pour the sand. This year, however, it will be virtual.

To encourage social distancing, those who wish to participate are asked to choose a spot in the community to pour the red sand in the cracks of pavement, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots across McMinn County.

Participants are also encouraged to post photos of their sand on social media and use the following hashtags: #RedSandTN, #ItHasToStop, @OneLifeTN and @TNDeptofHealth.

According to information from the project is “participatory artwork that uses sidewalk interventions and earthwork installations to create opportunities for people to question, connect and take action against vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking and exploitation.”

“Human trafficking is a global issue but many people don’t realize how close to home it hits,” said OneLife Positive Youth Development Program Coordinator Stephanie Brown. “I was listening to a talk given by Sarah McKinnis of WillowBend Farms in Cleveland and she said that if you live in a town with a hotel or if there are foster care systems in your town then you have a human trafficking problem whether you know it or not and because of that we just want to raise awareness in our local community.”

She believes the event serves as a good reminder to the community.

“I think the significance of this event is really to keep us mindful of vulnerabilities, because when we are mindful we are aware,” expressed Brown. “We can do more to prevent people becoming exploited and also see those warning signs so that we can intervene.”

COVID-19 presented a challenge to the event this year as they had to devise a way to perform the event without a social gathering.

“I think the idea that several groups from across the state are using is working out pretty good to give people easy access to red sand packets with instruction on how to participate,” said Brown. “A lot of our visibility from our local event is going to be in people posting to social media using the tags and hashtags that we provided to them and I think it is pretty cool that we can make the movement digital.”

Email shane.duncan

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