A conversation with Marisa Ugarte in her office is not likely to continue uninterrupted for long.
Urgent matters – a call from a Honduran victim of sex trafficking in San Diego, a request from a co-worker for help in writing a grant request – frequently punctuate the flow in Ugarte’s office, located in National City, part of metropolitan San Diego and just 23 kilometers (14 miles) from Tijuana, Mexico.
But assisting trafficking victims is the raison d’être of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, a group Ugarte started building in 1997. And support from other organizations—and thus grant writing—is BSCC’s lifeblood.
“Our emergency response line gets about 30 calls a month,” noted Ugarte, who is the grandmother of two, was born in Mexico City and is a social worker by training. She said that her case load has included victims from many places – Latin America (Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Colombia), Asia (China, Korea, the Philippines), Africa (Cameroon, Ethiopia, Somalia), as well as from within the United States, where vulnerable youngsters living in the foster care system may become trapped in prostitution after they are recruited by pimps.
Similarly, BSCC’s webpage, bsccoalition.org, displays numerous, important liaisons, some of which bring funding, including the U.S. Departments of Justice, State and Health and Human Services, the Hitachi Foundation, Rotary and Soroptimist Clubs and more, underscoring that it is essential for the group’s survival that Ugarte tend to these ties.
Ugarte reports that she had not specifically heard about a Puerto Vallarta party recently busted because young teenagers were thought to be in danger from traffickers (Guadalajara Reporter, June 23), but she was not surprised to learn of it.