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February 28, 2014

When Bukola Oriola started taking courses at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in 2012 she knew she had a calling to be an advocate for survivors of human trafficking. What she didn’t know was how to go about it.

A journalist in her native Nigeria with an associate degree in Mass Communications, Bukola first came to the U.S. in 2005 to cover a session of the United Nations. She soon came under the influence of a man who imprisoned her for two years. Subjected to torture, starvation, physical, psychological and emotional abuse, Oriola could leave the house only to work and was not allowed to keep any earnings.

Once she escaped, she began re-building her life and wanting to advocate for victims of human trafficking. In 2009, she wrote a memoir, “Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim,” and later produced nearly 20 episodes of “Imprisoned Show” as a volunteer television producer with North Metro TV public access. But she still lacked certain skills to be an effective advocate, she said.

For one thing, she didn’t know how to find the information she needed. She began taking courses at Anoka-Ramsey to better understand American culture and how to communicate. She also learned valuable skills in how to find credible facts and information.

“All the classes I have taken have been very helpful as far as understanding the American culture,” she said. Oriola also learned computer skills for producing brochures and flyers, among other things. “Anoka-Ramsey has also helped me be more committed.”

In August 2013, she founded The Enitan Story, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides services to victims and survivors of human trafficking. Now, she routinely makes presentations and holds fund-raising events for local survivors of human trafficking.

And just last month, Oriola was invited to the White House as one of 20 survivors selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Survivor Forum.

“It was a rare privilege,” she said of her experience as a forum participant. And she credits Anoka-Ramsey’s courses, instructors and students with providing her with the know-how, skills and support to become a national spokeswoman for trafficking victims.

Conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and other federal agencies, the forum was a platform for survivors of human trafficking to react to the federal government’s plan to provide and coordinate support for victims

 “It was a very successful forum,” Oriola said. “I was glad that the federal government considers our opinions, as survivors, to be relevant in combating human trafficking in the U.S.”

Oriola currently lives in Anoka and runs a hair braiding studio in Spring Lake Park. She plans to transfer to a four-year college next fall.

 

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Anoka-Ramsey Community College student, Bukola Oriola, sightsees near the White House in Washington, D.C. where she was invited by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to particpate in the forum  for survivors of human trafficking to react to the federal government’s plan to provide and coordinate support for victims.