EPC Pastor David Swanson recognized for human trafficking ministry efforts


David Swanson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., was honored by United Abolitionists and the Paving the Way Foundation at the 11th annual Polaris Star Awards Ceremony on January 26. Swanson was named the Faith Community Leader of the Year, given in recognition of his partnership with Samaritan Village in Orlando to fight human trafficking.

Samaritan Village is a faith-based, trauma-informed home and therapeutic program for adult survivors of sex trafficking. It is one of the longest-standing recovery homes for adult female survivors of human trafficking in Central Florida.

“The award is a very humbling thing because I have contributed relatively little compared to the men and women who, night in and night out, are putting themselves in harm’s way to rescue woman from literal sex slavery,” Swanson said. “Florida ranks third in the country for this problem, and it is happening right under our noses every day. I guess I reached the point where I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I decided to get involved.”

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Florida has the third-highest number of calls in the country to the Center—only behind California and Texas—with the average age being 10-13 years old. The Florida Department of Children and Family Services reported that more than 1,700 child human trafficking cases were reported between May 2019 and May 2020.

Swanson noted that the most-often asked question of the host committee working to secure 2026 World Cup soccer matches in Orlando is, “Are you prepared to deal with the influx of trafficking that will take place?”

“They didn’t ask about hotel space or field quality or transportation,” he said. “They wanted to know about trafficking. None of us fully understand the size and scope of the problem.”

The Polaris Star Awards are hosted by the Tri-County Alliance on Human Trafficking. The awards are named after the Polaris Star, also known as the North Star, what slaves used to find their way north to freedom along the Underground Railroad. According to The Alliance, the awards are presented to the modern-day abolitionists in Central Florida who are “leading the fight against human trafficking in their profession and/or sphere of influence.”

United Abolitionists is an Orlando-based network of first responders to the national human trafficking crisis. Paving the Way Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to disrupting the cycle of child trafficking through educational and training programs.

Need help?

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls, texts, emails, and live chats from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. To get help, call 1-888-373-7888, TTY 711, or text 233733.

The Hotline’s mission is to connect human trafficking victims and survivors to critical support and services to get help and stay safe. The Trafficking Hotline offers round-the-clock access to a safe space to report tips, seek services, and ask for help.

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