Over 150 people gathered on Vanguard University’s Costa Mesa campus, and via livestream nationwide, for the annual Ensure Justice Conference, held March 4-5. The conference was hosted by Vanguard’s reputable Global Center for Women and Justice, and gathered national and local leaders, students, law enforcement, teachers, and child welfare professionals from across the U.S. and Nigeria, in the name of social justice.

This year’s conference kicked off with a free Walk for Freedom 5K, fitting the 2016 conference theme, “A Marathon: To End Human Trafficking.” The weekend included panel sessions, health care provider trainings and networking opportunities with a focus on providing more aftercare resources for human trafficking victims and their families.

“The key aspect to this conference is networking,” said Dr. Sandra Morgan, director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. “We have made huge strides in rescuing captives and prosecuting the traffickers, but every day there are more victims and there are more traffickers. So, we have intentionally created a space to do something together—to consider our own role in this issue.”

Conference speakers at the 2-day event included Dr. Morgan; Honorable Maria D. Hernandez, presiding juvenile justice, Orange County; Dr. Laura Lederer, president of Global Centurion; Gary Taylor, division director of Children and Family Services; Deborah S. Augustine, national program manager for the Victim Witness Assistance Program, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Frank Massolini, director of The Salvation Army Promise Program; Jason Pope, technical advisor for The Salvation Army World Service Office; Priscilla Santos, program coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Anti-Trafficking Services Program; David and Dr. Beth Grant, co-founders and co-directors of Project Rescue; Ken Morris, founder and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives; Dawn Marie Lemmonds, chair of Aldersgate Abolitionists; and Derek Marsh, Bureau of Justice Assistance visiting fellow for human trafficking.

Friday’s conference sessions discussed vulnerable children and illicit drugs, and human trafficking as a community health issue. Day one ended with a lively Q&A, where livestreaming audience members texted and emailed questions in, and an in-person audience also raised questions. On Saturday, sessions were strategically divided by subject: research, educators, healthcare, social services, church leaders, youth outreach, and the Spanish track. Dr. Morgan, ending the weekend conference, gave a powerful “call to action” to all attendees.

“To stay the course for long term change, we must have a plan to train—much like marathon runners—to sustain, and to focus our efforts,” said Dr. Morgan.

Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice (GCWJ) is a faith-based organization dedicated to creating a world where women and children are safe, respected and valued. The GCWJ carries out their mission through education, research, advocacy and collaboration with students, educators, law enforcement, healthcare and community leaders.  With over 21 million people living in slavery today, the GCWJ works diligently in their efforts to end human trafficking and the cyber-exploitation of women and children in Orange County and worldwide.

For more information on the GCWJ and Ensure Justice Conference, visit:http://www.vanguard.edu/gcwj/ensurejustice/