Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force welcomes visitors from Rwanda

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Visitors from Rwanda with the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program pose with James R. Smith Trucking Recruiter and Safety Assistant Amy McAnalley (third from left), Cullman County District Attorney Wilson Blaylock (fourth from left), Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairperson Kathy Wilson (fourth from right) and Cullman County District Judge Kim Chaney (second from right) at James R. Smith Trucking in Cullman Tuesday afternoon. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – A group of Rwandan visitors was in Cullman Tuesday, meeting with the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force. The delegates traveled to the United States through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Huntsville-based Global Ties Alabama (GTA), which hosts international visitors traveling to Alabama, helped coordinate the meeting.

“The IVLP is the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ premier professional exchange program,” shared AGT Program Consultant Annette Philpo’t. “The IVLP builds mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations through short-term visits to the U.S. for current and emerging foreign leaders.”

The group from Rwanda is in the country for three weeks and will visit another state as well.

“The group from Rwanda is in the U.S. for three weeks studying ‘Countering Human Trafficking.’ The project opened in D.C. and the visitors from Rwanda are traveling to two states, with Alabama being one of the states,” said Philpo’t,” to examine how U.S. institutions systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and develop formal mechanisms to methodically refer trafficking victims to appropriate care; explore how U.S. institutions develop and implement victim witness support programs and expand training for prosecutors dealing with victim witnesses; and analyze U.S. methods of investigating, prosecuting, and convicting perpetrators of forced labor and sex trafficking, including internal trafficking.”

The group’s last stop, where it met with the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, was Tuesday at James R. Smith Trucking on County Road 222.

“Concluding the project in Alabama was a stop at James R. Smith Trucking, Inc. in Cullman for a meeting focused on the initiative ‘Truckers Against Trafficking’ and a discussion with members of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force,” said Philpo’t. “The meeting in Cullman was coordinated by chair of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, Kathy Wilson.”

“It was a true privilege for us for them to come here,” smiled Wilson, “because they have taught us. I know they came to learn from us, but they have taught us.”

Cullman County District Judge Kim Chaney, who is a member of the task force, shared, “We’re all fighting the same problem which human trafficking, labor trafficking, domestic exploitation of people for money. It’s an international problem and it was really interesting and enjoyable for us to share ideas. They taught us something and hopefully we gave them something, and I just thought it was very beneficial. I quite frankly enjoyed it.”

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Maggie Darnell

maggie@cullmantribune.com