Red Sand public art project represents human trafficking |

Red Sand public art project represents human trafficking

Mary Pickels

Volunteers gathered at Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant this week for this year’s final local installation of the Red Sand Project.

Snipping open small bags, they poured the brightly colored sand into sidewalk cracks outside the hospital’s emergency entrance.

The Blackburn Center is sponsoring the public art installation, which raises awareness about human trafficking.

Rebecca Hamel of Penn Borough attended as an officer of the Humanitarian Social Work Club at Westmoreland County Community College, where she is a student.

“Our group was emailed an invitation from an instructor. I see a lot about it (human trafficking),” she said.

Hamel’s husband, Arthur Hamel, and daughter, Abbigail Hudock, 7, also participated.

Earlier installations this month took place at the Westmoreland County Courthouse and Twin Lakes Park extension area, and at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg and Excela Latrobe Hospital.

The Westmoreland County Human Trafficking Task Force organized the county effort, asking residents to join in on shining a light on a covert crime.

A sign posted outside the hospital’s emergency room entrance explained the project.

Created by artist Molly Gochman, the project asks volunteers around the world to place red sand in sidewalk cracks. The grains of sand are representative of millions of human trafficking victims who slip through the cracks of society unnoticed.

The Rev. Bob Ellson, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant, and his wife, Jill Ellson, along with congregation member Wanda Ohler, knelt on the sidewalk, directing grains of red sand into the cracks.

“Our daughter works for the Blackburn Center,” Jill Ellson said, explaining their knowledge of and interest in the project.

“Jill (Ellson) did a presentation in church on this, and I thought it was a worthwhile thing to do. It really brings (human trafficking) to your attention,” Ohler said.

Karen Evans, Blackburn Center advocacy program manager, said the project was expanded to different sites and on different dates in this third year of participation.

According to the Blackburn Center, human trafficking enslaves on average 21 million people around the world. Victims can be exploited for sex or labor, sometimes both.

Victims sometimes end up jailed or returning to their traffickers.

Those unable to attend or participate can view the installations and post photos to social media with the hashtag #RedSandProjectWestmoreland.

Reports of suspected trafficking can be made to the center by calling 724-836-1122 or 888-832-2272.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Volunteers, from left, Wanda Ohler, Jill Elllson and Bob Ellson, pour red sand into sidewalk cracks in front of Excela Frick Hospital on Sept. 25, part of the Red Sand Project to draw attention to human trafficking.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Lisa Yetter, safety services coordinator for Excela Health, carefully fills a sidewalk crack outside Excela Frick Hospital with red sand.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Abbigail Hudock, 7, of Penn Borough, participates in the Red Sand Project at Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant on Sept. 25.
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