Voices of Women (VOW) celebrated its inaugural awards ceremony and fundraiser, Beyond Borders Benefit on October 17, 2009. The event honored Marisa Ugarte, Founder and Executive Director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (BSCC) as a recipient of the Voice Award for Service for her work in rescuing, sheltering and restoring the lives of sex-trafficked victims.
Mayor Cheryl Cox welcomed the 70 guests at the Athens Market Restaurant, touching on the work of the BSSC and VOW. Cox highlighted the importance of the border region and VOW’s efforts to further educate the community on sex trafficking in the region, especially of women and girls. “This [night] is about education. We need to do a better job of understanding how close our border is…and here you are, caring so much about the voices of women.”
The event not only celebrated a woman of impact in the San Diego community, it also celebrated the 8th anniversary of VOW’s founding. Jenni Prisk, VOW Founder and President, recognized VOW’s founders and current directors, noting that, “women’s and children’s rights are human rights. VOW will continue to exist as long as there is violence.”
J.W. August, Managing Director of Channel 10 and Chair of the BSSC Board of Directors, presented the Voice Award to Marisa Ugarte for her dedication, relentless work and positive spirit. As he reflected on the impact of Marissa’s work through the BSCC, he admitted, “It is never easy. A lot of people don’t believe [human trafficking] is happening.”
The U.S. Department of State estimates that there are between 14,500 and 17,500 people, primarily women and children, who are trafficked each year to the United States. “They’re lured, they’re hurt and then they give them to me,” explained Ugarte. The BSSC works to prevent human trafficking and assists rescued victims, law enforcement and the community through a wide collaboration of projects and services. “With trafficking,” Ugarte noted, “it doesn’t end at the border.” Ugarte acknowledged the dedicated work of the BSCC board, staff, friends and volunteers. For more information on the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, please go to www.bsccoalition.org.
The inspirational evening was closed by Prisk and Virginia Loh, VOW Secretary and Benefit Chair, who announced next year’s Voice Award Artistic Works category.
To see the criteria and application information for VOW's Voice Award, please click here.