Human trafficking painting selected for display in U.S. Capitol

It started out as a school assignment, but Brooke Hill’s paintings depict the realities of human trafficking and have attracted the attention of U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster.

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  • | 4:32 p.m. May 11, 2016
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A young boy grows up in poverty. 

His mother, desperate to provide for her son, is convinced that by giving him up, she will create a better life for her him. 

She turns her son over to the people who claim they will help create a better life for her son, but she doesn’t know that these people are sex traffickers. 

The boy is abused at the hands of the traffickers and sold like a piece of property. But then, he is rescued

from the traffickers. 

Brooke Hill, a senior at The First Academy and a Winter Garden resident, recently painted this story through a series of paintings. The final painting of the series, called “Huddled Masses Yearning to be Free” depicts the young boy becoming free.

At the annual congressional art competition for high school students held by U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, Brooke’s art was selected to be displayed in a hallway along the U.S. Capitol. 

“This year, the art viewing was set up in the Winter Garden City Commission Chamber, where art teachers and principals could peruse the submissions from Polk, Lake and Orange counties,” said Elizabeth Tyrrell, deputy chief of staff and communications director for Webster. “The comments from the judges regarding Brooke Hill’s artwork explained that they chose her particular piece because it expressed the topic and genre, as well as her artistic qualities and abilities.”

Brooke’s art displayed a boy coming into freedom, which also can be applied to the concept of what America brings: freedom.  


More than a year ago, Love 146, a group dedicated to preventing child trafficking and exploitation, came to Mosaic Church in Oakland. It was when Brooke first heard in depth about the problem of human trafficking,

both in the U.S. and abroad.

The issue stayed in the back of her mind until the start of this school year, when she started working on a concentration for an Accelerated Placement art class. 

She decided to work on a series of pieces that follow two stories of the horrors of human trafficking. 

One story — six paintings — follows the story of the young boy. The second story parallels the first, sharing the story of a teenage girl from America — a topic that will make American viewers realize the problem is closer to home than they think. 


Around the same time, her father David Hill, a financial analyst, met a client who introduced him to the Prince of Peace ministry in Guatemala, a ministry that serves as a safe house for girls — some of whom are human trafficking victims. David, along with other businessmen, went to Guatemala to create a vision for the ministry.

While there, the team saw the need for starting a school, as well as bringing a missions team to encourage the staff at the ministry. So during spring break, David formed a team, which included his family, to return to Prince of Peace. 

Through the experience, the Hills and many of the people with whom they interact are creating a vision to raise awareness of human trafficking. 

Brooke’s sister, Bri, returned from Guatemala with jewelry some of the women at Prince of Peace had made. She hosted a jewelry party to sell these items and raise money for the ministry. 

Brooke feels honored to know that her paintings are helping raise awareness.

“It’s really cool and really honoring to feel that I was able to start something like that just through painting for some school assignment,” Brooke said. 

The family also met a man who runs Destiny Rescue, an organization that runs undercover operations, working to save children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. In part, the organization does undercover rescue operations to save those currently enslaved. 


Despite all the efforts to help, human trafficking is still a rampant problem both in the country and the world, and these organizations seek to raise awareness. 

As the second part of Brooke’s concentration illustrates, there is still work to be done.  

An American teenage girl is kidnapped from her home. 

Her kidnappers immediately take her out of the country, where she will have nowhere to turn for help, because she is illegally there. 

The sex traffickers abuse and control her, and they sell her like a piece of property. 

Finally, she is rescued. 

But this time, it’s through death. 


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected]


Globally, there are 21 million victims of forced labor. Of these, 11.4 million are women and girls and 9.5 million are men and boys.

4.5 million victims of human trafficking are victims of forced sexual exploitation.

Each year, forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits.

Source: International Labor Organization


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