From the stone steps of St. Basil Church on Wilshire Boulevard, more than 100 people rallied on the morning of Jan. 11 — national Human Trafficking Awareness Day — before marching through Koreatown for nearly an hour. Many were Catholic women religious of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, whose congregations sponsor the annual consciousness-raising event with CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking).“Do we have something to walk about today?” shouted Sister Kathy Bryant about this year’s “Walk 4 Freedom.”“Yes!” came echoing back. The executive director and CEO of CAST, Kay Buck, said the walk would send a message of hope to those living the nightmare of modern day slavery. “What we want to do today, everyone, is communicate to people who are still enslaved that they can come forward, and we believe them and we want to help them,” she declared.During the walk, Sisters, members of CAST — including survivors of human trafficking — and supporters like students from Immaculate Conception School held up signs saying “I Am Not For Sale” and “Modern Day Slavery Ends With Us.” They chanted “Stop Human Trafficking, Stop Human Trafficking.” Some handed out how-to-recognize-human-trafficking brochures in Korean to storekeepers and pedestrians. Cars honked their horns. Apartment dwellers looked down at the moving demonstration. One young man on a Third Street balcony raised his hand and thumb.Sister Catherine Kreta, former justice coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Los Angeles Province, told The Tidings her congregation has been trying to bring awareness about human trafficking to Catholics and others since 2000. She fears, however, the subject’s become old news. “I think some people still have a passion to stop it, but most people just live their own lives,” she lamented. “And, unfortunately, in the United States it’s not as important to people. A lot of people don’t want to hear about it. But we’ve kept at it, and we’re not going to stop. You’re talking about slavery. I can’t imagine anything more serious.”Survivor’s storyAngela Guanzon agreed, telling her own human trafficking survival story.A struggling 28-year-old secretary in the Philippines, she was trafficked from Manila to Los Angeles in October 2005. Her aunt, in fact, introduced her to a Filipino man who promised her a good “caretaker” job in America. And she jumped at the idea. “I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’m just here to work and save money to help my parents,’ because my father was sick and could no longer work.”She came to the United States on an athlete’s visa, along with others who were supposedly members of a visiting Tae-kwon-do martial arts team. As soon as she landed at LAX, the trafficker took her passport away for “safe keeping.” After a week, she met the woman she would be working for, who ran two board-and-care homes for the elderly. “She’s telling me, ‘You should be thankful. Because of me, you’re here,’” Guanzon recalled. “And she said that we’re going to treat each other like a family. But later she told me I owed her $12,000 for bringing her here — the transportation, paperwork and visa. So she would take $300 from my $600 pay every month. “She said I have to work for her for 10 years. And if I want to go home before 10 years, I have to pay my whole debt. So, basically, she’s telling me that she owns me.”The U.S. trafficker also told Guanzon not to talk to other people, especially Filipinos and Americans. She would have two days off a month. And she would have to buy her own food and personal items. “But sometimes when we had no money, we ate the leftovers from the patients,” she reported. “They were like table scraps, mostly bones. And our days off were mostly canceled.”Work days went from 4:30 a.m., giving the elderly patients baths and cooking for them, to cleaning, washing dishes and other housekeeping chores until 10 p.m. or later. At night, patients with dementia had to be checked on every couple hours. After two-and-a-half years, Guanzon was worn out and depressed. The trafficker told her and other workers if they ran away she would call the police and tell them they stole something. Then they would end up in jail before being deported.During a rare phone call to her mother back in the Philippines, she broke down, confiding for the first time how bad things really were. Her mother said she wanted to help, but couldn’t pay off her debt. The situation looked hopeless until a neighbor became curious about how she always seemed to be working. He said he wanted to help. At first she was afraid, thinking he’d tell the owner of the board-and-care homes. But he contacted the local police, who got in touch with the local task force for human trafficking, who notified the FBI and Immigration. The agents asked her to gather first-hand evidence by wearing a wire. To build their case, she had to get her trafficker to talk about how much money she still owed and how long it would take to work it off. “I didn’t know what I would say to her, but if I’m not going to stop her, she was going to keep doing it,” explained Guanzon. “So I prayed and wore the wire. And when I talked to the trafficker, she told me everything that they wanted to hear. So it all worked out, thank God.”The owner of the homes was tried on human trafficking charges, convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Last year she was released.Guanzon now is associated with CAST, who helped her transition from a modern-day slave to freedom.The CAST 24-hour hotline is (888) 539-2373. To report suspected human trafficking crimes, call (866) 347-2423 or visit www.ice.gov/tips. To contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call (888) 373-7888.On Feb. 1, “It’s Time to Break More Chains!”, a human trafficking workshop led by Sister Kathleen Bryant and sponsored by California Cluny Associates, will take place 1-4 p.m., at Mary Star of the Sea Church, 870 W. 8th St., San Pedro. To RSVP, email [email protected] or call (310) 830-7643.