If you are out running around on Thursday, May 13th you might notice red sand filling sidewalk cracks around Billings. Perhaps you'll wonder what it's all about. Earlier this week, while grabbing lunch at a downtown sandwich shop, I saw the flyer and little bags of red sand for Red Sand Project sitting on the counter. Now in it's 4th year, this was the first I'd heard about the event.

Credit: Bryan Rask, used with permission

What does the red sand represent?

Red Sand Project is a nationwide campaign launched in 2014 by Miami artist Molly Gochman to raise awareness for global slavery; be it forced marriage, forced labor or for sexual exploitation. The grains of bright red sand represent individuals who have fallen through the cracks of society. Now, more than one million people have participated in the Red Sand Project in all 50 states and 70 countries.

Credit: Bryan Rask, used with permission

Locally, Red Sand Project is led by the Billings Zonta Club. Their page describes the organization as,

The Zonta Club of Billings is comprised of executives and professionals dedicated to the advancement of women through education, economic stability, legal and legislative equality, health and wellness, both locally and worldwide.

Billings Zonta Club president Melanie Tripp told us the Red Sand Project in Billings this year is a collaborative effort, with support from Riverstone Health and the Yellowstone County Human Trafficking Task Force, among others.

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The Red Sand Project packets include cards with local contact numbers and tips to help recognize sex trafficking victims in Yellowstone County. Organizers note,

Human trafficking is a $150 Billion business and the average age of a person first trafficked is 12 years old. Zonta Clubs worldwide are working to fight Human Trafficking. Zonta International "envisions a world in which women's rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential.

If you or your business would like to participate, the sand packets can be picked up at Comtech, M-F between 8:30 and 5 at 7355 Entryway Dr. Delivery can also be arranged. Riverstone Health will also be distributing and spreading sand on Thursday from 2 - 4. Various materials will be available and the Snowie trailer will be on-site.

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A great resource for staying up-to-date on local efforts to curb human trafficking (or to find ways you can become involved) is the Yellowstone County Human Trafficking Task Force Facebook page.

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