Tampa radio host shares secret of keeping long-distance marriage thriving

Every love story is different, and those that end like a fairy tale are worth telling.

Ex-reggaeton artist Valerie Morales was at the peak of her career when she met the man of her dreams, Gunny Juan Carlos Morales. He was a fan of her music, and he reached out to her and stole her heart via Myspace.

After realizing the love they shared was like none she had ever experienced, Valerie left her career as an artist to be with the man she loves. AfterJuan returned from Iraq, the couple moved in together and exchanged vows shortly after.

One day, Juan said he was looking online and thought maybe they should get married on a Thursday, Valerie said.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” Valerie said.

Valerie’s love for music never faded, and after she landed a job as a radio host in Tampa, the couple decided to buy a house in the area. Juan is stationed in Boston but plans to retire in five years and settle down in Tampa with his wife and 5-year-old daughter, Dianne.

After a Facetime session with her husband,Valerie revealed the secret to their successful long-distance relationship.

“You have to have a lot of patience and a lot of love,”Valerie said.

Is it true that love always conquers distance? That seems to be the case forJuan and Valerie.

Bulls Radio program “Talk Di Tings” connects with USF’s Caribbean student culture

 

TAMPA— Students from the Caribbean have a significant presence at USF, from Club Creole to the Dominican American Student Association. Now, thanks to a group of Jamaican international students, there is even a Caribbean radio show.

“We named the show Talk Di Tings,” said Sunil Collins, co-creator and co-host of the show. “That’s kind of a Caribbean dialect for ‘talk the things.’ The things being things that are happening. Whatever is happening right now, we’re gonna tell you how we view it from a Caribbean perspective.”

Collins and co-creator Daniel Perry got the idea for the show in the summer of 2014. Their goal was to have a show filled with music and conversation a Caribbean audience could relate to.

“In coming to USF, a lot of international students, including myself, feel homesick,” said Perry. “We are in a foreign country with a foreign culture. In creating a show that can relate to the upbringing and culture of my Caribbean people, I hope listening gives them a piece of home here.”

Staying connected with their listeners is a priority for the Talk Di Tings crew. They use Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to engage listeners, posting videos, questions and snippets of the show. Talk Di Tings teamed up with the Caribbean Culture Exchange and hosted a party to promote the show and show the listeners a good time.

“We always dance and have fun in the studio, and we want to bring that vibe to our listeners,” Collins said. “We want them to feel like they are in the studio with us each time they tune in.”

Talk Di Tings airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on WUSF-89.7 in Tampa and can be streamed worldwide at BullsRadio.org.

 

Confucius Institute at USF Fosters Cross-Cultural Understanding Between Chinese, American Cultures

Kun Shi and the Confucius Institute are bridging the gap between China and the United States.

The Confucius Institute at the University of South Florida is helping students learn Chinese while submersing themselves into the Chinese culture.

“The USF Confucius Institute has numerous projects each year,” said Shi.  “All are focused on supporting the Chinese language programs and facilitating cross-cultural understanding.”

The Confucius Institute has a culture center that has helped students get acclimated to  Chinese language and customs.  Students speak and interact in a Chinese environment with books, games and movies in Mandarin for them to use.

“It’s beneficial to use class materials in a more real context,” student Nabil Smith said.  “You get to practice your Chinese on a more social level.”

The Confucius Institute holds many events throughout the year, including martial arts exhibitions, bridge competitions and Chinese New Year festivities.  There are also plenty of scholarship opportunities for students and chances to study abroad in China, with all expenses paid.

“We have some really great events here at USF, including Chinese opera and different kinds of music events,” student Fang Kairen said.  “There is even a Chinese competition for Hacky Sack.”

USF was the first university to have a Confucius Institute in Florida and it remains one of the best Chinese programs in the country.

Photo Gallery: Local Designer showcases Earth-inspired fashions for her new line

For years, Julia Chew has been creating fashions out of her Tampa home for her line, “Xiaolin.” At 20-years-old, Chew has already made hundreds of items that have been showcased across the globe. She is currently working on the “Phoenix Bird” that will be displayed at an upcoming fashion show.

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Although it may look like a regular living room, to Julia Chew, a designer, it’s a place where her creativity is brought to life.
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Chew’s creations  usually begin on paper, and when they are ready to be conceived, she gathers her fabric and a few simple tools including needles, thread and measurement sticks.
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Chew begins with a dress form that works as the blank canvas for her fashions.
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After hours of hand sewing, Chew uses the dress form to hold her handmade fashions, like the “Phoenix Bird.”
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Inspired by the Earth and its animals, many of Chew’s designs feature colors and elements common to the planet. On the “Phoenix Bird,” in particular, Chew hand sews hundreds of dyed feathers onto the dress.
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For years, Chew has been designing fashions like the “Phoenix Bird.” Her line, “Xiaolin,” has been displayed in boutiques around the country and recognized in magazines and fashion shows across the world. Photos by Cassaundra Palmer.

 

Photo Gallery: Formula Kart Racing brings families together at the Florida Winter Tour Race

Formula Kart Racing is rooted in  family, friendship and competition. From all over the world, competitors and their families join to compete in a safe, yet competitive racing environment. To succeed in this sport, drivers must show high dedication and motivation, as they commonly spend 12 hours at the track daily to prepare for a race. Formula Kart Racing remains one of the few sports where parents and children work together toward a common goal. At the end of a day at the track, even if they were unsuccessful, drivers and their families take away an unforgettable experience. Photos by Kristina Vorndran.

Photo gallery: Colby Parrish and Dunedin’s Enchanted Earth represent the softer side of witchcraft

Going to Enchanted Earth and talking with Colby Parrish was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. Though I’m Christian, and this way of life has never fallen under my beliefs, I find it interesting in getting to know people and trying to understand their mindset on spiritual matters. Colby said his clients are wide-ranging, and many seek out his services if only for an opinion or advice. From a Mormon family, he said nothing has ever spiritually and emotionally connected with him as his current beliefs and practices do. Meeting the owner of the shop, a Stevie Nicks with red hair, as well as some of the other “witches”, I was surprised at how content they seemed. They say they believe there was a Jesus, which shocked me, but that he was just one of the many gods and goddesses that make up the universe. It was clear to me by the end of the conversation that all people, no matter beliefs and practices, simply want to find some kind of comfort in something and the people that share in the same ideologies. Believing is truth in the minds of us all.

 

Going to Enchanted Earth in Dunedin and talking to Colby Parrish was unlike any experience I have ever had.

Though I believe in Christianity — and this way of life has never fallen under my beliefs — I found it interesting getting to know these people and trying to understand their mindset on spiritual matters.

Parrish said his clients are wide-ranging, and that many seek out his services only for his opinion or advice.

Born into a Mormon family, Parrish said nothing has ever spiritually or emotionally connected with him like his current beliefs and practices.

Meeting the owner of the shop — a Stevie Nicks lookalike but with red hair — as well as others that identify themselves as, “witches,” I was surprised at how content they all seemed.

The witches said they believe there was once a Jesus, which shocked me. But they believe that he was just one of the many gods and goddesses that make up the universe.

It was clear to me by the end of our conversation, that all people — no matter beliefs and practices — simply just want to find some kind of comfort in something, and the people that share in the same ideologies.

To me, believing is truth in the minds of us all.

Florida Focus 03-31-2015

In this Florida Focus News Brief: Some Florida state senators want to make it easier for police to enforce the law; A bizarre early morning hit-and-run ends with a shooting; Hillsborough County deputies are looking for two masked burglars; A dispute between a Tampa panhandler and a veteran has gone viral; You may soon be writing a check to a new cable provider.

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Florida Focus 04-01-2015

In this Florida Focus Health Brief: a new yoga mat has been released that can help you with your pose, coffee can prevent heart attacks, exposing infants to peanuts before the age of one can prevent developing an allergy, and a new report found that children are consuming too much sugar and sodium.

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Photo Gallery: The Faces Modeling Troupe Brings Crime Scene Style to USF

The Marshall Center Ballroom at the University of South Florida appeared to be a crime scene the evening of March 15 as The Faces Modeling Troupe and USF’s Faces collegiate chapter took the stage with a CSI-themed fashion show. There are seven Faces Modeling Troupes throughout Florida, and the USF chapter is making its comeback.

The USF chapter’s vice president and fashion coordinator, Jessica Davis-Hall, says the CSI theme is about “where we have come from and where we’ve been. We have been missing from campus, and the story evolves with us reappearing in the crime story.”

Faces, a non-profit organization, puts on shows every semester.

The collegiate chapter adviser, Terry White, said Faces helps to “keep kids from getting in trouble and help aspiring models get their name out there.”

CAUTION: extreme sexy about to take the stage in the Marshall Center Ballroom Sunday night with the Faces Modeling Troupe USF chapter.

Rows of seats wait to be filled right before USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI-themed event Sunday, March 15, 2015. The caution tape warns of the extremely sexy models taking stage at 7 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

Terry White, the USF Faces chapter advisor, receives news that the doors are about to burst with excited patrons.

Terry White, the USF Faces Modeling Troupe chapter advisor, receives word that excited patrons are waiting outside the door of the Marshall Center Ballroom for the CSI-themed event Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 7 p.m.

Anticipation rises as fashion show patrons wait to support their favorite models.

Patrons and Fashion lovers wait for USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI-themed fashion show to begin, and their favorite models to walk out in the Marshall Center Ballroom on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 7 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

"We got any Jamaicans in the house?" Eager patrons rep their heritage at the FCSI Fashion Show.

Eager patrons respond to the question “We got any Jamaicans in the house?” at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 7 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

Draped in caution tape and black patent later, Jessica Davis-Hall  is no stranger to the camera. Work those angles, girl!

Draped in caution tape and black patent leather, Jessica Davis-Hall is no stranger to the camera as she walks down the catwalk at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. Work those angles, Girl! (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

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Donning nude leotards, the “Autopsy” act features models of all shapes and sizes at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

"Faces has been left vulnerable. Betrayal has ruined Faces and left it to fend for itself." The "Autopsy" act featured all shapes and sizes donning nude leotards.

Donning nude leotards, the “Autopsy” act features models of all shapes and sizes at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

The stems on Jessica Davis-Hall are hard to ignore as she struts the runway during the "Autopsy" act in a sparkly nude leotard.

Donning nude leotards, the “Autopsy” act features models of all shapes and sizes at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

During intermission,  fashionable male attendees take to the catwalk and compete for "best dressed."

During intermission, fashionable male attendees take to the catwalk and compete for “best dressed” at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

The "Conviction/ Acquitted" act featured more stripes than a jail in summertime. These models got the stripes and the groove.

The “Conviction/ Acquitted” act features more stripes than a jail in summertime at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. These models have the stripes and the groove. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

Friends of Jessica Davis-Hall show congratulatory love to their favorite model, fashion coordinator and vice president of the Faces USF chapter.

Friends of Jessica Davis-Hall show congratulatory hugs to their favorite model, fashion coordinator and vice president of the Faces USF chapter at the CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

All models take your places! The FACES gang gathers for a final photo after a successful fashion show.

The models of USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe gather for a photo after a successful CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. All models take your places! (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

 

 

Photo Gallery: Sisters Celebrate Holi Festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa with Flying Colors

Two sisters experienced the Holi Festival of Colors together for the first time. The Holi Festival is a Hindu religious event that involves wearing white and decorating people with colorful dust and water.  It is the festival of color and love, so everyone is encouraged to decorate one another as well as eat, dance and play.

Sheranjeet Dhillon mentally prepares herslef as her and her sister Teranjeet walk towards growing crowd of participants. "Lets stay together because It's going to be hard to find you considering every other person here is also wearing white."
Sisters Sheranjeet and Tarenjeet Dhillon mentally prepare themselves as they walk toward the growing crowd of Holi festival participants at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. “Lets stay together because It’s going to be hard to find you, considering every other person here is also wearing white,” said one sister to the other. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan) 
Without hesitation Sheran and Teran throw themselves into the event by redecorating each other with as many colors they could find.
Without hesitation Sheran and Teran throw themselves into the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015, by redecorating each other with as many colors as they could find. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)
Packet after packet each try to find the most creative way to decorate the other.
Teran blows color powder into the air at Riverfront Park in Tampa to celebrate the Holi festival on Saturday, March 14, 2015. Packet after packet, each sister tries to find the most creative way to decorate the other.  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)

 

 

Dust stained feet and flip-flops remind Sheran  why she was advised against wearing sneakers to the festival.  "Real shoes would have been a bad idea."
Sheran’s dust-stained feet and flip-flops show why she was advised against wearing sneakers to the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. “Real shoes would have been a bad idea,” said Sheran. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)

 

Each empty packet is immediately followed by laughter.
Each empty packet is immediately followed by laughter at the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)

 

"Why isn't my hair always this beautiful shade of purple?" Sheran admires the beauty of something as simple as dust kissed hair.
Sheran admires the beauty of her dust-kissed hair after the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. Sheran asks, “Why isn’t my hair always this beautiful shade of purple?”  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)

 

Sheran takes a moment to watch others try to coat themselves and others around them in colorful dust.
Sheran watches others try to coat themselves and the people around them in colorful dust at the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015.  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)

 

"Now we eat and reflect." Sheran and Teran each take the time to enjoy food prepared for the festival.  They take this time to enjoy the music and the atmosphere as they reflect on the memorable experience that they shared together.
Sheran and Teran enjoy food prepared for the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. They enjoy the music and the atmosphere as they reflect on the memorable experience they shared.  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)

 

Photo gallery: New Bakers Ranch venue mixes the best of elegant and modern decor

Bakers Ranch opened their doors to vendors in the Tampa Bay area to help put their new location on the map. Vendors enjoyed dancing the night away and viewing the numerous set up options available at the ranch to use later for their clients. From a starry night scene outdoors to aerial artists performing above, the night was enjoyed by all.

 

Bakers Ranch opened its doors to vendors in the Tampa Bay area to help put its new location on the map. Vendors enjoyed dancing and viewing the myriad options available at the ranch for their clients’ events. From a starry night scene to aerial artists performing above guests, Bakers Ranch hosted a memorable evening.

Photo gallery: Sororities, fraternities compete at 5th annual step show to fight breast cancer

When it comes to raising awareness for a great cause, the sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha do not hold back. For the past five years, the sorority has held the Zeta Step Show at the University of South Florida and raised thousands of dollars for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer foundation.

Each year, multiple fraternities and sororities compete to see who is the best stepper at the university. This year, Sigma Delta Tau Sorority took first place for the women’s competition, and Pi Kappa Phi took first place in the men’s competition for the fourth year in a row. The step show continues to grow each year, and many consider it an important philanthropic event for the spring semester.

Photo gallery: Muslim Students Association hosts Religious Extremism panel to discuss different beliefs among students

On March 11, four organizations co-hosted an event called Religious Extremism in the Marshall Students Center at the University of South Florida. This even consisted of a panel of speakers all representing different religions explaining the difference in what religion is and what extremism is. The point of this event was to bring light to events that have been happening around the world, due to religious extremism actions.

Each guest entered the room to a circle. This exercise included certain scenarios involving religious extremism. As each scenario was presented, the participants were asked to enter the circle if that event has affected their life in some way.
At the Marshall Student Center, guests attend the Muslim Students Association‘s Religious Extremism event on March 11, 2015. They participated in a circle exercise of certain scenarios involving religious extremism. As each scenario was presented, the participants were asked to enter the circle if an event has affected their life in some way. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
After the exercise, the guests, participants, co-hosts and volunteers took seats and began discussion about different types of religions and the extreme points they each consist of.
After the exercise, the discussion starts, detailing different types of religions and the extreme points that each one may be associated with. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
The panel of speakers consisted of professors in Religion, Head of Departments at USF and Chairs of Councils and organizations on campus.
The panel of speakers, Religious Studies professors, USF department heads, council chair members and campus organizations, provide neutral answers during the event. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
The audience listened to the questions prompted for the panel of speakers and engaged in the discussion portion of this event
The audience engages in the discussion portion of this event after listening to the questions presented to the panel of speakers. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
Muslim students Reena, Zuina and Lari enjoyed the discussions from the back of the room as most seats were taken up towards the front.
Muslim students Reena, Zuina and Lari listen to the discussions from the back of the room as most seats were taken toward the front. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
President of co-hosting organization Omega Phi Beta prompts questions for the panel as well as opens up the floor to questions from the audience for further discussion.
Omega Phi Beta president prompts questions for the panel and opens up the floor to questions from the audience for further discussion. Photo by Ashley Harnish.

 

 

 

 

The panel of speakers answering questions from the audience; Professor Mozella Mitchell from the Department of Religious Studies, Clay Cullaton from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Director of Council of American Islamic Relations Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson from Alpha Epsilon Pi.
The panel of speakers, from left, Professor Mozella Mitchell from the Department of Religious Studies; Clay Cullaton from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Director of Council of American Islamic Relations Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson from Alpha Epsilon Pi answer questions from the audience. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
Clay Cullaton, Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson, taking a group picture with representatives from Omega Phi Beta, Cynthia Perez, Luz Peguero and Yanil Muñoz, Delta Phi Omega member Amber, and Alpha Epsilon Pi member Ryan.
After the panel, top from left, Clay Cullaton, Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson meet with representatives from Omega Phi Beta, bottom from left, Cynthia Perez, Luz Peguero and Yanil Muñoz as well as Delta Phi Omega member Amber and Alpha Epsilon Pi member Ryan. Photo by Ashley Harnish.

Photo gallery: Tabanero Cigars craftsmen keep art of handmade cigars alive

Tabanero Cigars in historic Ybor City produces some of the finest handmade cigars. Cigar manufacturers originally founded Ybor City, making cigar production an important aspect of the city’s history. The highly skilled Cuban artisans who work at Tabanero Cigars keep the almost-lost art alive.

Photo Gallery: Wiregrass Car Show Turns Wins Into Funds for Children

The Fourth Annual Everyday Blessings Benefit Car Show provided more than fancy cars and luxury. It invited people to see the bigger picture and show the importance of donating to the community organization, Everyday Blessings. Marketing director of Everyday Blessings Pam Bell said the goal of the program is to reunite children in their homes.
Clark Construction partnered up with Everyday Blessings to help give back to the community instead of offering monetary prizes to contestants. The entrants’ involvement in spite of there not being a cash prize to win inspired not only the children who benefit from this event but also the people who come to get a closer look at the cars. The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel hosted the car show this year and will offer space for next year’s event at well.

Photo Gallery: Florida Lottery, Florida Aquarium unveil new scratch-off tickets

On March 12, the Florida Lottery and the Florida Aquarium unveiled their collaboration for the new $25 scratch-off ticket. The Secretary of the Lottery, along with the Aquarium’s president and CEO, put on the event to showcase the new commercial that they filmed in the coral reef exhibit. The event consisted of 10 minutes  of speeches followed by a private tour of the Aquarium’s new learning facilities.

Photo Gallery: Florida City community lays beloved member of the community, Veronica Ann Mills, to rest

Veronica Ann Mills, affectionately known as Ann, was the neighborhood mom in Florida City. After she retired, her family discovered she was chronically ill with hypertension. Mills passed away after a stroke that left her with a failing heart and severe brain damage. This is the story of a community and family who came together to give Ann the goodbye ceremony she deserved.

Florida Focus 03-26-2015

In this Florida Focus episode: A tragic murder-suicide occurs in Pasco County; The I-4 corridor brings a population boom to Tampa Bay; Channelside Cinemas opens back up for the Gasparilla Film Festival; Zephyrhills High School students are banned from going to the bathroom alone; Tampa Bay police officers raise money for the special olympics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-yHiYEg5f0&feature=youtu.be

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USF student’s unusual phobia keeps her avoiding yellow menace: Bananas

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Laura Slack, a USF humanities major,  may seem like an ordinary college student, until you pull out a banana. She’s been terribly afraid of them ever since she can remember.

“As a baby, my mom said I refused to eat the bananas in baby food,” Slack said.

FearOf.net states that bananaphobia tend to rise from the smell and texture of the banana itself.

“Everything from the way they look, to smell, to touch, to taste, the way that they sound when someone is eating them, it freaks me out,” Slack said.

Aside from the overwhelming fear of the yellow fruit, Slack said she mostly fears “real” bananas.  When bananas are featured on TV or if someone is dressed in a banana suit, she will not run in the other direction, but will feel a bit uneasy.

Growing up, Slack said her friends and family always found a way to tease her once until they found out about her phobia.

Once a friend went into her room and covered her bed with bananas. Unable to touch the bananas, Slack had to ask others to remove them.

According to an article by the Daily Mail, in 2011, John Bruce, a therapist working at Renfrewshire, Scotland, was able to cure a woman’s fear of bananas through Neuro-linguistic programming. In this technique, a therapist talks to the patient and tries to get him or her to separate the bad memories associated with objects and exchange them for positive memories.

“I took her mind back to a time when she didn’t have the phobia and taught her to associate those calm, happy feelings with bananas,” Bruce said in the Daily Mail.

Even though she  cannot touch, smell, or taste bananas without a jolt of fear, Slack said her fear of bananas has subsided slightly.

“I can actually sit at a table with someone eating a banana now,” Slack said.

Slack admits that she will never fully get over her fear of bananas. Just the other day, she recalls finding a banana sitting in front of the microwave in her apartment. Whether it was put there on purpose or by mistake, she does not know.

“All right, I guess I’m not going to use the microwave today,”  Slack said, as she continues her daily battle against her yellow-colored enemy.

 

 

 

Founder of Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking to speak at USF in April

Pamela Woody rolled down her window as she drove through the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.

“This restaurant is one of Rachael Ray’s favorite places,” said Woody, pointing to a crowded Greek restaurant. “And that building up ahead, that’s where my friend was sold to different men by her own father.”

Woody is the founder of the Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking, a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent human-trafficking movements and assist survivors in the Tampa Bay area.

Woody was exposed to human trafficking in 2007 when a law enforcement officer visited her church. He was hoping to find support and encouragement for a 12-year-old girl who was impregnated by her trafficker.

“We had a shower for her and she didn’t attend — but we didn’t expect her to,” Woody said. “Other churches that were asked to help were putting restraints on her. They would say, ‘If she did this, we will help her,’ which is really no different than what the traffickers were doing to her.”

In 2010, Woody went on to work with World Relief Tampa, an anti-trafficking organization, as a mission mobilizer and helped raise local awareness about human trafficking.

“When I worked with World Relief Tampa, I saw a lot of organizations that were fighting against the same thing, but they weren’t coming together and funneling their efforts together,” Woody said.

Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking works to connect volunteers, churches and organizations such as the No More Foundation and Be a Voice Outreach.

“I hope we’re able to raise awareness to the devastation of human trafficking and change laws so they’ll protect the victims and prosecute the offenders,” said Deedee Larreau, a volunteer with Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking. “We want to help all of the agencies of the Tampa Bay area work together to end this travesty.”

Woody: “In the community, we are contacted to do presentations. We’ve gone with survivors and had the opportunity to speak at a high school all the way in St. Augustine.”

Woody manages Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking’s social media accounts. She uses them to encourage and support other organizations while also posting updates on important legislation.

“There is a bill before the senate right now that will require businesses to post human-trafficking posters in all businesses,” Woody said. “It’s similar to the Workers’ Compensation posters you see, which would be an amazing accomplishment.”

HB 369 is currently before Florida state legislators. The bill will require the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number to be posted in public areas such as schools and airports.

According to the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Public Affairs, people can be taken into trafficking by many means, including physical force, marriage and false job opportunities.

“When you go to parties, take your own drink that has a lid, and when you go to the bathroom, take it with you,” Woody said. “It seems gross, taking a drink to the bathroom, but someone could put something in there, with or without a lid.”

College-age students, male and female, are at a high risk of being trafficked, according to Woody.

“If you have a roommate, keep track of each other. Keep common sense because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Woody will speak at USF Tampa on Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m. in the  MSC Oval Theater. The event will be hosted by Sigma Delta Tau and Pi Kappa Phi.