The 2023 NJ Freedom Award Recipients
Lifetime NJ Freedom Award recipient Theresa Flores
"It is an honor to receive the Lifetime Freedom Award from the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Fighting this crime, creating effective programs to bring about change is something that takes commitment, hard work, lots of amazing partnerships and to be honest, unfortunately, a lifetime. It is my dream that someday every American will know that human trafficking was ONCE the 2nd leading crime but now it has been eradicated and those who were enslaved are now free."
Theresa Flores: Human Trafficking Survivor, Best Selling Author, Founder of the S.O.A.P. Project
Ms. Flores has been a licensed Social Worker for over twenty years. Ms. Flores was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2009 and has testified before the Ohio House and Senate in supports of Human Trafficking Legislation. Her efforts were a major part of the success of these bills being passed into laws. Additionally, the “Theresa Flores Law” was passed in Michigan that eliminates the statute of limitation for children who have been trafficked.
Flores is a survivor of domestic child sex trafficking and was sold in an underground crime ring in an upper middle class suburb outside Detroit from the time she was 15-17 years old. She now works with other survivors, has researched the mental and physical health problems of over 200 domestic trafficking survivors, and has hosted over 100 women at Survivor Retreats.
She has received many awards including the L’Oréal Women of Worth & University of Dayton’s Alumni Association 2013 Christian Service Award for her work with S.O.A.P. In January 2012 at the State of the State Address, Ms. Flores received The Courage Award from the Governor of Ohio for her work in human trafficking.
Ms. Flores has published five books, “The Sacred Bath” and “The Slave Across the Street” (in the UK and U.S.) and “Slavery in the Land of the Free- A Student’s Guide to Modern Day Slavery”. The 10-year Anniversary Edition is a rare glimpse into what trauma of trafficking has upon a person and the struggle it takes to heal. The audio version of her memoir was nominated for The 2011 Audie Award, being in the top 5 of all memoirs and biographies and also has been on the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller list for e-books several times. Ms. Flores also has a very popular TED talk.
NJ Freedom Award Recipient Cristian Eduardo
Cristian Eduardo is an advocate, speaker and educator for anti-trafficking initiatives, immigrant and LGBTQ+ rights. He is a survivor of international and domestic sex and labor trafficking, a Mexican immigrant, a person living with HIV, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and someone who speaks openly about the mental health challenges he has faced that frequently result from trauma.
Cristian serves as a Survivor Leader & Human Trafficking Consultant with Shobana Powell Consulting, ECPAT-USA, Center for Court Innovation, USCRI, Sanctuary for Families, Empower Her Network, United States Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, New Yorkers for the Equality Model, New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition and New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
He is the Co-Founder of United Immigrants of New York (UIONY) and Mujeres en Resistencia, both immigrant coalitions focus on education and awareness about gender based violence including femicide, domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault in the Latino and Spanish speaking community.
NJ Freedom Award Recipient: Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) is a non-profit legal services organization based in Newark, NJ. VLJ’s mission is to ensure access to justice for people experiencing poverty. VLJ fulfills its mission by mobilizing volunteers to work alongside staff to address critical legal needs across New Jersey, advancing racial, social, and economic justice for the most vulnerable members of our community. Last year, VLJ assisted 1960 clients, impacting 4,561 people, including 1,714 children.
In 2016, VLJ launched New Jersey's first-ever holistic legal services project dedicated to human trafficking survivors. Since then, VLJ has provided free legal help to survivors of human trafficking on a variety of legal issues, including criminal record clearing, immigration assistance, family law matters, debt relief, and more. In addition to direct client representation VLJ also works with key stakeholders throughout New Jersey to identify and effectively address the broader systemic issues impacting survivors.
VLJ’s ambitious mission strives to not just provide free legal services, but to ensure access to justice. For our clients who have experienced human trafficking, this means taking a survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach to services where the client is in charge and defines what justice means to them.
NJ Freedom Award Recipient: Charmaine Rudd-Sanders
Charmaine Rudd-Sanders emerges as a dynamic social worker and motivational speaker. She is a vibrant powerhouse with a Masters in Social Work with over 20 years’ experience working with children and families helping them reach their full potential.
As a Social Worker with the Newark Board of Education and CEO of Thrive Enterprises, LLC., Charmaine is extremely compassionate and her drive to succeed comes from her caring spirit that will do everything possible to help students and families.
Charmaine has overseen the development of several programs to support children, women and families in every aspects of life. These acts have not been unnoticed as she was recently nominated for the Governor’s Educator of the Year Award SY 2022-2023 for inspiring students of all backgrounds and for her dedicated role in the community and safety of all students. Her efforts through counseling and speaking allow her to go beyond the norm and instill hope in individuals to “persevere” through any given situation.
NJ Freedom Award Recipient Barry Segal, Focus for Health
Barry Segal is a man who can’t sit still. In business and in philanthropy he has obsessed over the challenge of solving big problems and getting things done more efficiently and effectively.
As a businessperson, he was a fantastically successful entrepreneur. He started his company, Bradco, in 1966 after working with his father for 15 years at the H. Verby Company. His father eventually joined him at Bradco. The company was built over decades until 2006, when Bradco sales peaked at over $1.9 billion with 150 branches across the U.S. In August 2008 he sold control of the company and began his journey into philanthropy.
Segal Family Foundation was registered in 2004 as the manifestation of Barry’s belief that individuals and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa were just a few opportunities away from realizing stable, healthy, and empowered lives. The Foundation team has striven to remain true to this vision to this day.
In addition to the work in Africa, Barry founded Focus for Health in 2009, devoted to combatting racial inequities and ending sexual violence. In 2021, Barry founded Focus Central America to expand his life changing work to those living in Central America
NJ Lifetime Freedom Award Honorable Mention: Detective Alicia Bergondo
Detective Alicia Bergondo, employed by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office since 2007, became a detective after attending the Division of Criminal Justice Police Academy in Sea Girt, New Jersey. Alicia's assignments have included the Grand Jury Unit, Trial Unit, Domestic Violence Unit, Economic Crime Unit, Insurance Fraud Unit, and Special Victims Unit. Currently, she is assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, as well as the Human Trafficking Unit, since 2016, where she has also served as Mercer County’s liaison to the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force since 2016.
Detective Bergondo has a Bachelor of Science degree in Law and Justice from The College of New Jersey and a Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Monmouth University.
She has served on various law enforcement panels speaking about human trafficking, provided training to other law enforcement officers on human trafficking and was a guest speaker on human trafficking investigations on New York University’s “You Matter!” Podcast. Two of the Detective's human trafficking investigations have resulted in Mercer County’s first ever human trafficking convictions.
Detective Bergondo was the recipient of an Exceptional Duty Citation for excellence in human trafficking investigations and was also the 2020 New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice “Sergeant Noelle Holl Recognition Award” recipient for outstanding efforts to end human trafficking in New Jersey.
NJ Freedom Award Honorable Mention: Christine Pastor, Tamar's Hope
Tamar's Hope's Mission is to Advocate to be a Voice on behalf of Victims who who can not speak for themselves. We do this by way of Street Outreach; we go out to the streets to Search and Rescue Victims and reach them at the point of transaction. We bring HOPE Packages filled with hygiene products to give to the women in an effort to meet their most basic needs, connect them to resources, and to communicate a message of HOPE delivered through Christian teachings and understanding.
NJ Freedom Award Honorable Mention: John Pizzuro, Raven
John Pizzuro serves as Raven’s CEO a lobbying and advocacy organization to fight against child exploitation. He retired from the New Jersey State Police where he was Commander of the NJ Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.John served as Chairman of the ICAC Outreach Committee, where he championed prevention, and as the Co-chair of the National Children’s Alliance working group. He has created a framework for other countries to investigate Child Exploitation and consulted with governments and organizations on child exploitation and how to protect children. John has developed programs about Human Behavior and Neuroscience and frequently speaks regarding online grooming, child exploitation, and how technology has impacted our children and their behavior. John is a certified Master Neuro Linguistic Practitioner with an M.A. in Human Resource Development and Training.