In a world increasingly dominated by technology, the safety of our children online has become a pressing concern. Recognizing this need, Simon and Aletha Arkley founded The Lantern Project in 2020. With a mission to protect kids and empower parents, this nonprofit organization has become a beacon of hope in the fight against human trafficking and online exploitation.
The Arkleys, drawing from almost a decade of experience working with other nonprofits, identified the gaps in the system that allowed for the exploitation of young minds.
- Simon, who previously worked in the tech industry, witnessed firsthand the dangers that technology posed to children.
This realization prompted them to establish The Lantern Project, choosing Cabarrus County as their base due to overwhelming support from the District Attorney and Sheriff’s offices. The community, from legislators to law enforcement, rallied behind the cause.
Simon emphasizes that awareness and education start in the home, and The Lantern Project has strategically partnered with parents, other nonprofits, and schools to provide education and training through the Empowered Parents initiative. This program aims to build safer families by equipping parents with the tools to recognize danger signs, fostering open communication, and providing ongoing support.
- The Empowered Parent class covers essential topics such as securing devices, identifying online predators and warning signs, setting age-appropriate content boundaries, and fostering device-free lifestyles. The goal is to create knowledgeable, tech-aware parents who play an active role in their children’s online lives, mitigating the risks of trafficking, online grooming, and exploitation.
To complement the class, The Lantern Project offers a comprehensive Parent Guide, available for download. This guide provides practical advice on securing devices, initiating conversations with children, and understanding the online dangers they face.
The Lantern App, another key initiative, serves as a hub for updates, resources, and information related to the fight against trafficking. Users can opt-in for notifications, ensuring they stay informed and actively participate in the battle against this humanitarian crisis.
- One unique aspect of The Lantern Project is the establishment of Lantern Stations. After completing The Lantern Training, businesses and churches have the option to become a Lantern Station, symbolized by displaying the lantern logo. This network of safe points of contact aims to change the alarming statistic that less than 1% of trafficking victims are identified. By having “a light in every window,” The Lantern Project strives to offer hope on every street in America.
The Lantern House, a fully staffed safe house for survivors of human trafficking, is a critical component of The Lantern Project’s efforts. With the number of beds for survivors in the greater Charlotte area decreasing, the Lantern House provides a vital space for survivors to heal and rebuild. Achieving their goal, The Lantern Project successfully opened two additional safe houses in 2023, expanding their capacity to support survivors.
- Alarming statistics drive The Lantern Project’s urgency, with 88% of sex trafficking cases being internet-based and the quick formation of lasting bonds between children and predators, the need for proactive parental involvement is evident. The organization is addressing this by offering practical solutions, including age-appropriate content guidelines, secure tech alternatives, and nurturing device-free lifestyles.
The Lantern Gala, now in its third year, stands as a testament to The Lantern Project’s commitment and achievements. Scheduled for Dec 1st, the semi-formal event will be held at the City Club at Gibson Mill in Concord. The gala promises an evening filled with celebration, reflection on the wins of 2023, and a glimpse into the ambitious vision for 2024 in the fight against trafficking in the region.
The event kicks off with a Social Hour featuring a professional photographer, a cash bar, music, and an opportunity to mingle in the festive atmosphere. The main program begins with a plated dinner followed by a presentation, providing attendees with insights into The Lantern Project’s progress and plans for the future.
Individual tickets for general admission are available here.
The Lantern Project stands as a powerful force against the dark realities of human trafficking and online exploitation. By empowering parents, creating safe spaces, and building a network of support, the organization is making a tangible impact on the lives of children and survivors. As they continue to shine a light on these issues, The Lantern Project invites everyone to join in the fight, ensuring a safer and brighter future for all.
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