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Gabriela Ferrer and Deborah Sigmund at "A Night to Benefit the Fight Against Child Trafficking." Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.
Gabriela Ferrer, Deborah Sigmund. A Night to Benefit the Fight Against Child Trafficking�. Mayflower Hotel. October 19, 2011. Photo by Alfredo Flores

Washington Life sponsored Innocents at Risk at The Mayflower salsas into the night with the flair of Ole Havana.
By John Arundel

Gabriela Ferrer and Deborah Sigmund at the Innocents at Risk gala, Mayflower Hotel, Washington DC.

The Miami Sound Machine let it loose for Innocents at Risk as members of the 80’s hit band and rising Latino musician Gabriella Ferrer lent their talents for An Evening in Old Havana, the Washington Life-sponsored Innocents at Risk gala at The Mayflower, chaired by founder Deborah Sigmund.

Between noshing on Cuban-inspired cuisine and boogieing to the long lost hits which sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide, attendees were reminded of the horrors of child trafficking in viewing bits of a new documentary by film producer Carl Colby, introduced by the evening’s emcee Mike Walters, formerly of WUSA 9 News Now.

Since 2005, Innocents at Risk has been establishing partnerships with well-known voices to help bring awareness to the horrendous Issue of Child Trafficking, Sigmund said.

“When Gabriella Ferrer and members of the Miami Sound Machine approached Innocents at Risk and offered to donate their talents for a fundraiser,” she said, “we asked Nancy Rivard and Erika Gutierrez to help organize an elegant event to raise awareness.”

Two million children are sold into the sex trade each year. “The number is truly staggering: Over four children per minute,” Sigmund said. “Despite being a beacon for freedom and democracy throughout the world, Washington, D.C. is a major destination city for child trafficking.”

Rivard, president and founder of Airline Ambassadors, a humanitarian relief organization that escorts kids who need medical care, puts vulnerable children in safehouses.

Rivard spoke passionately about the power that a few educated individuals have to save children from trafficking. On a recent mission to orphanages in the Dominican Republic, Rivard, Sigmund and others were able to spot and assist the flight attendants in reporting three incidences of trafficking.

“Just on one flight we urged all airlines to adopt corporate social responsibility commitments for their company, and to put into place emergency procedure training on trafficking, as well as ensure crew briefing, and provide information in bulletins and in-flight media about what trafficking looks like and what you can do to stop it,” Rivard said.

Rivard also encourages airline travelers to observe who is on each flight, and to be especially aware of children and young women traveling alone. ” Just one non-confrontational conversation about what they are doing can give you a lot of insight as to whether this situation is right,” she said.

To date, Innocents at Risk has provided airline personnel with thousands of brochures and blue hot-line wrist bands supported only by private and corporate sponsors.

Sigmund’s ambition? To train all 90,000 flight attendants worldwide and all airline personnel.

“We are asking the airlines to incorporate Human Trafficking training into their basic annual airline training and to help us educate passengers with acceptable trafficking information in in-flight magazines,” she said. “Together, we can open thousands of eyes to this horror, and take control of the airways, to form an impenetrable defense that will protect children everywhere.”

Attendees included Mexico’s Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan and his wife Veronica Valencia, Betty and Jim Baird, Christina Carter, Brooke Carnot, Kandy Stroud, Deborah and Michael Kentor, Howard Lee, Jackie Mason, Marilyn Harris, Pierson Mapes, Natalie Grigorian and Wright Sigmund.

Major sponsors of the evening included Marathon Oil, FEDEX, Boulder Shares,Katherine Bradley, Donald Sigmund and The Meltzer GroupDeborah Carstens andNancy Rivard of Airline Ambassadors.

Mayflower Hotel, "A Night to Benefit the Fight Against Child Trafficking."

Howard Lee

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