Human trafficking is the second largest underground economy in San Diego County after drug trafficking, and it infiltrates every local community.

According to research from the University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, the size of the human trafficking industry in our region is estimated at $810 million and FBI data lists San Diego as one of the 13 worst regions for human trafficking, impacting as many as 8,000 victims each year.

This pervasive problem is one that impacts every community and requires the support of leaders from every sector.

Raising Awareness

On October 2, community members and local leaders came together to discuss the issue of human trafficking in San Diego at the latest Community Heroes Community Conversation.

The event, sponsored by The San Diego Foundation and hosted in partnership with KPBS and the National Conflict Resolution Center, honored Buki Domingos, professional singer, nurse and board chair of Activist San Diego.

Six years ago, Buki came to the U.S. from Nigeria and shortly after became engulfed in a human trafficking scheme in which she was forced to perform as a singer without pay. For an entire year, Buki and her four children were at the mercy of her trafficker and were left with no support or hope of escape.

After months of sexual abuse, physical violence, as well as psychological and emotional attacks, Buki and her family were able to break away from her trafficker after relocating to safe houses in multiple cities. Buki would ultimately land in a safe house in San Diego where she finally received the resources and legal support necessary to end her family’s nightmare.


Today, Buki shares her story and uses her voice to raise awareness about human trafficking worldwide.

“I realized that the only way to overcome human trafficking is to educate people and to organize around the issue because maybe people have the misconception that the people who are trafficked are poor or uneducated or just desperate girls wanting to come to America,” explained Buki. “But as we have learned from researchers, human trafficking has many faces and it has nothing to do with your socioeconomic status.”

While Buki’s story has a happy ending, not everyone shares the same outcome. Thousands of individuals in San Diego fall victim to human trafficking every year and never get out.

Working Together

Fortunately, there is hope. San Diego’s District Attorney recently made human trafficking a priority and local philanthropists are engaging in the issue like never before.

This year, the San Diego Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit partner of The San Diego Foundation, granted more than $240,000 to support efforts to end human trafficking in our communities.

By raising awareness through events like the KPBS Community Conversation and investing in solutions that protect and support the victims of this issue, we can begin to stem the tide of human trafficking in our region.

Join the Conversation

The San Diego Foundation is proud to support the Community Heroes initiative and local leaders such as Buki who are working to make San Diego County a safer place to live.

Learn how you can get involved in the fight against human trafficking and support organizations and leaders like Buki who are making a difference every day.

Learn more