Contact Lisette Arsuaga 213-365-1906 ext. 118

April 21, 2009: In celebration of its eleventh anniversary and in honor of its award nominees including La Opinión’s Publisher and CEO Monica Lozano, Actor and United Nations Ambassador Julia Ormond, Little Tokyo Service Center Executive Director Bill Watanabe and Trafficking Survivor Flor Molina, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) will hold its annual fundraiser from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at the Beverly Hills Country Club.

Founded in 1998, CAST provides services to and advocates for the rights of people who have been ensnared by what director Kay Buck calls "the most heinous crime against human persons in the world today--slavery." Estimates suggest that as many as 27 million people worldwide are slaves. Modern day slavery, believed to be a $9 billion industry, forces people to work in dismal conditions as laborers, domestic servants, and/or sex workers. Los Angeles is regarded as one of the top destinations of up to 50,000 people trafficked into the US annually.

CAST focuses on spreading awareness about human trafficking and slavery and providing services to guide survivors toward stabilization, independence, and self-sufficiency. Board President Sister Catherine Marie Kreta says, "For survivors, gaining control over their own lives through education and training is incredibly empowering, as they will be better prepared to transition into the workplace and the community." Over the past year, CAST has continued to advocate for more legal protections, and has seen members of its Survivor Advisory Caucus emerge as leaders of the modern abolitionist movement. Next month, CAST will begin its first international project with partners in Mexico.

The annual fundraiser features a silent auction, dinner buffet, and keynote speech by world-renowned anti-slavery and -trafficking advocate Benjamin Skinner, author of the book A Crime So Monstrous. Proceeds from the event will go toward supporting the growing costs of CAST's critical programs, like its shelter, which for the first time has been forced to create a waiting list.

For their outstanding contributions to CAST, its clients, and the modern abolitionist movement, awards will be presented to Julia Ormond for Modern Day Abolitionist 2009; the Founders Award will go to Bill Watanabe; Journalistic Integrity to Monica Lozano and Seeds of Renewal Award to Flor Molina.

As Buck says, "Now more than ever, CAST must build our coalition of partners and stakeholders as we advocate for more resources for a growing community of trafficking survivors, and create a greater awareness of the existence of trafficking in our communities...Believe in the vision of a slavery free world."