More Too Life
Local Nonprofit On National Stage in Fight against Human Trafficking
More Too Life’s mission to end sexual violence and all types of human trafficking has been garnering statewide and national attention, while the nonprofit continues its comprehensive approach to address the issue locally with direct services and indirect services on a national level. More Too Life not only continues to develop curriculum to reach victims and high-risk youth, but also works through innovative education and outreach to win minds and hearts by creating an understanding that those in the world’s “oldest profession” are victims themselves, 95 percent of whom were violated as children.
“We need to change the myth that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession,” says Dr. Brook Bello, More Too Life’s CEO/Executive Director. “It has never been a profession.” One recent initiative aimed at changing that perception brings More Too Life’s volunteer, state approved and court appointed Restorative Justice End Demand program – aimed at educating men about sexual violence – to Harvest House, which takes a multi-faceted approach to homelessness. “The men have stated it’s the best course they have taken there,” Bello says. “They were moved and touched by what they learned and had never understood the issue before from the perspective as men and fathers or father figures.”
More Too Life (941.227.1012/moretoolife.org) has a focused initiative, working with as many as 1,500 youth every year on prevention or as a bridge to victim services, and it now has launched an internet safety and sexual violence prevention initiative for teens approved by Sarasota County Schools. The nonprofit provides services to survivors and has aided 50 young adult victims of human trafficking and sexual violence so far this year. More Too Life is opening a new home in Sarasota in January for homeless victims in partnership with Community Assisted and Supported Living, called the Not Forgotten Project.
An opportunity to support More Too Life’s mission and goals is coming up at an evening gala on January 10 at the Sarasota CinéBistro. The evening will include a special screening of United Way Worldwide’s and Dolphin Entertainment’s The Hero Effect, followed by a short discussion and the screening of a short version of the film Sold. The Hero Effect features Bello who was chosen as one of 10 heroes across the nation, and that episode will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) at 10 a.m. on January 14. Sold is about a young girl’s escape from trafficking and was directed by Academy Award winner Jeffrey D. Brown, produced by Emma Thompson and stars Gillian Anderson and David Arquette. More Too Life has first rights to screen the film in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Bello and her friend and mentor, actor Jon Voight, have partnered with Ringling College, Semkhor and actor Dylan McDermott, on McDermott’s Sugar project. Sugar (moretoosugar.com) is a web series, filmed in Sarasota, whose goal is to raise awareness about women’s rights through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl. More Too Life now provides a sexual violence prevention curriculum to be used at colleges nationally, beginning with 120 college campuses through Sober Online Solutions, a local organization taking a national approach to drug and alcohol prevention. More Too Life also is looking to aid women headed into the prison system. “Many prostituted persons are women trafficked as children and never rescued,” she says. “It is cheaper, and more effective, to put them in a program with housing than to put them in prison.”
Bello’s efforts earned her recognition as the 2016 Advocate of the Year for Florida, named by Attorney General Pam Bondi, and she has been named an advisory member of the NoVo Foundation, which was established by the Buffett family and has become one of the largest private foundations worldwide to focus explicitly on initiatives for girls and women. “We are hoping more people will come to our fundraiser or reach out to us to learn more about our efforts. We were the first organization in Sarasota and Manatee to address issues of human trafficking, but 95 percent of our funding comes from outside Florida,” Bello says. “It is our hope to engage more people locally to partner with us to end all forms of sexual violence and exploitation. With that support, we believe we have the national voice, experience and innovation to win the fight to see every child free and to prevent other young people from ever being harmed.”