In the summer of 2015, Lynne Barletta was asked to participate in an art event in Singapore to help raise funds for a safe home for trafficked and abused girls called Dayspring. Lynne painted an 8-foot anamorphic wave that was used as a fundraiser. She worked with children from various nations to help create a block-long mural for the project. An 18-year old girl worked at Lynne’s side on the art project. She had been trafficked by her parents since age 8. Lynne said, “I went to Singapore to change lives, but my life was changed forever, by this beautiful precious girl.”
Upon returning to the states, Lynne researched the epidemic of sex trafficking in Florida and the U.S. and found that over 300,000 children were estimated to be victimized by sex trafficking. Florida is #3 in the nation, and Palm Beach County is #3 in Florida. The need for child advocacy for trafficked victims and housing was desperate in Martin County, Palm Beach County and St Lucie County.
Widespread media about Lynne’s trip and fundraising efforts using art stirred a tremendous response in our local community. She was asked by the Martin County Department of Juvenile Justice to paint a 40-foot mural at the Martin Girls Academy in Stuart, Florida for girls that had been trafficked.
Lynne was also contacted by the President of the Women’s Club of Stuart to help trafficked victims and consider doing a mural in Stuart Florida, early in 2016. She created and painted a mural on the ATT building in downtown Stuart. With the help of teachers, local artists and students ages 5 to 17, the mural’s creation was and continues to be a very successful fundraiser while beautifying our coastal community. The mural was covered nation-wide on television newscasts, which helped start the wave of awareness concerning sex trafficking.
Catch the Wave of Hope (CWH) was born. Lynn pulled together community leaders who had a heart and background for stopping this atrocity. Initially operated under Visionary Centers International Church, CWH applied for their own 501c3 and received non-profit status in 2017. Our mission: To eliminate human trafficking through education, prevention, restoration and legislation.
Lynne developed The Power of Art III © a 9-week art course that utilizes the right side of the brain with positive image replacement for youth and adults through simple drawing and focused attention. Lynne worked with a team of 8 therapists, including Clinical Directors Karissa Bolden and Brian Berger from Martin Girls Academy, a juvenile detention center in Stuart. The program was piloted with great success at MGA for over 2 years with girls ages 13 to 20 who had been trafficked. The Power of Art curriculum for abused and trafficked victims addresses PTSD, overcoming trauma, and inner healing. The program was showcased at the National Juvenile Justice Symposium in 2017 and presented at the Shared Hope International Annual JuST (Juvenile Sex Trafficking) Conference in 2018.
In 2017, Janice Norman joined the Board of Directors for CWH as President. Under her leadership a powerful awareness campaign took off. Presentations to organizations, businesses, churches and synagogues in Martin, St Lucie, Palm Beach and Broward counties were given by an all-volunteer board in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Media coverage included most of South Florida, with some newscasts syndicated nationally. Since 2017, our mission to educate people and organizations about human trafficking awareness has reached over 1 million people.
Catch the Wave of Hope’s legislative committee works to help change laws and educate representatives in the state of Florida. Most recently Janice Norman and her team educated local State Representative Toby Overdorf and his staff on human sex trafficking. CWH attended the presentation of Bill 219 in Tallahassee in March 2019 and addressed the Judicial Committee that passed the bill unanimously.
In May 2019 portions of Bill 219 were combined with Bill 851 on human sex trafficking that included reclassifying strip clubs to curb sex trafficking, training for law enforcement, hotel staff, massage parlor staff, signage, and a statewide data base of users to track repeat offenders and stiffer penalties for users. Catch the Wave of Hope has made appearances together with Representative Overdorf on various news channels to talk about the bill. Governor DiSantis is expected to sign Bill 851 on July 1, 2019, when it will become law.
Board member Tony Barletta began Catch the Wave of Hope Lifeguards in 2018. The mission: To reach men who can educate trafficking awareness, mentoring and hold one fundraising event per year.
On May 1, 2019, Martin Girls Academy was relocated to Miami, Florida. The Clinical Director, Karissa Bolden, joined CWH as Executive Director. Karissa has a strong track record of successfully treating and helping survivor children of sex trafficking to leave the life of trafficking, receive an education and become productive. Karissa is developing the strategic plan for a Mobile Resource Center and mental health counseling for survivors. Plans to move forward have been endorsed by Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.
CWH receives calls from victims and also from parents who are crying out for help. CWH has been able to help place victims, help them give testimony to law enforcement, get therapeutic help and more. CWH has formed liaisons with various law enforcement agencies locally. Over the last 3 years, our efforts have resulted in investigations, subpoenas, arrests, and a successful raid of a trafficking home that involved the rescue of women and children. We believe that because awareness presentations have been delivered in our local communities, people are rising up, turning in tips and protecting our children.
As of July 2020, CWH is proud to announce that we offer mental health therapy to victims/survivors of human trafficking!
Volunteers are constantly joining the ranks of Catch the Wave of Hope knowing that they can do something to impact communities, change laws and help heal victims. A grass roots movement has begun, and everyone can be a part of stopping modern day slavery!
Catch the Wave of Hope is leading the way in south Florida and beyond to abolish human trafficking locally nationally and internationally.