Participants Walk for Human Rights in St. Petersburg
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03/09/09 Concetta DeLuco
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Hundreds gathered on Saturday to participate in the third Annual Human Rights Walkathon in St. Petersburg.

The promotion of human rights united the diverse group of participants that came together to walk the many laps around North Straub Park. The Walkathon was organized to promote the rights that were established in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by the United Nations in 1948.

Linda Drazkowski is the founder of the Human Rights Group in Tampa Bay, which organized the walkathon. Drazkowski said it is important for people to be aware of their human rights. She said it is not surprising that typically those people who are informed usually stand up for the human rights of others.

Stacey Blake is the executive director for Community Tampa Bay. She said the group works toward promoting dialogue and respect between different cultures, races and religions. However, Blake said the efforts at Community Tampa Bay are only one small part in the fight for human rights.

Walker Christoper Diaz, said he believes human rights are important for everyone to be aware of because underneath we are all humans and we all have the same basic rights.

The U.S. Department of Justice says more than 20,000 of victims of human trafficking are brought into the country each year, with Florida receiving a growing percentage of those people.

Giselle Rodriguez is from the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, a third partner in the walkathon. She said people are often unaware of this violation of human rights. Rodriguez said she hopes to educate people on trafficking and how to identify victims for recovery.

Dr. Mary Shuttleworth is the founder and president of Youth for Human Rights, a partner in the walkathon. She said growing up in apartheid South Africa she saw firsthand what the devastating effects of discrimination and the lack of the most basic human rights does to people. Shuttleworth said she hopes to educate all about their human rights and has begun by targeting the youth.

Another partner in the walkathon was the Tampa Bay Academy of Hope, an organization that works toward helping underprivileged, inner city middle and high school students transition to college. Tally Gainer, a member of the organization led a pack of more than 50 students and parents. Gainer said, these students need to be encouraged to succeed in life and having human rights are the foundation of any achievement.

Wearing a Scout leader uniform, Tom Wright led his troop as they walked the park. He said he believes the best place to start teaching people about humans rights is with the youth, which is exactly what Wright said he spends most of his time doing.

Each organization that was partnered with the Walkathon, including Tampa Bay Academy of Hope, Community Tampa Bay, the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Youth for Human Rights have information about future events on their websites.

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