Wayne Pregnancy Care Center has hired a men's program director to work with young men in the areas of parenting skills, mentoring and an especially touchy but important subject -- sex trafficking.

Jonathan Chavous, a former youth pastor, had worked in overseas missions and with an organization, Hope for All Children, which tackles human trafficking.

His work took him to such countries as the Philippines, Mexico and Peru, where the presumption is that this is more prevalent.

"These kids are getting trafficked at birth," he said, explaining that there are no vital records and the children are put into a home for two years before going to a brothel. Life expectancy for these children, he said, is around 13 years old.

He has worked with rescue efforts, including a home set up for girls 13 and younger, he said.

"That's kind of where our hearts have been," he said. "Me and my wife have worked with foster care. In the last two years, we really wanted to see our community thrive and grow."

Chavous and his wife, Laura, parents of four children, began praying about doing something more local, he said.

"I met with (Goldsboro Mayor) Chuck Allen about four or five months ago," he said, raising the question, "'What can we do in the community?'"

The meeting also led him to Beverly Weeks, executive director of the pregnancy center. At the time, she was looking to have more of a male presence there, to mentor young men facing fatherhood.

When he later heard about the job, Chavous said he knew it was an answer to prayer and "putting feet to your faith."

He now splits his time as director of a Bible college at his church, Church on the Rock, and the role at the pregnancy center. His efforts in the latter range from working one-on-one with young men entering fatherhood to guiding them through the job search.

The center is also working on an abstinence program for schools, at the middle school level.

But perhaps the most innovative effort the ministry finds itself squarely taking on is human trafficking of children.

"It's a big issue," Chavous said, citing statistics that have North Carolina in the top 10 list of states where it is prevalent. "That's shocking, considering we don't have that many huge cities."

One reason, he suggested, is the major highways that run down the eastern seaboard, connecting such "hubs" as Washington, D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta.

"What we have discovered, there's a whole undercurrent of activities that people are not aware of, and it's not just the prostitution," he said. "There are a lot of drugs, but what we've discovered is that these (children) have been in it at 10, 11, 12 years old.

"We've got people that are soliciting young children so they can get drug money. You don't hear about a lot of it going on behind the scenes. But it goes on a lot."

Mrs. Weeks said the news is closer to home than people realize.

"We have worked with four clients just within the last month that we're suspecting involved with sex trafficking," she said. "They may have even been beaten.

"Right now we know of four that we're working with, that are staying within our area, that we're suspecting are involved in it."

Awareness and education on the subject are essential, Chavous said.

"Some of them fall through the cracks because they're not from this area," he said. "They get removed from the communities that know them.

"One girl we're working with here is from South Carolina."

There are efforts going on to change the climate, including a home in Greenville, Mrs. Weeks said. One of these is "Restore One," a faith-based center for boys who are survivors of sex trafficking.

"We want to educate, definitely -- that's the No. 1 thing we want, to educate and make our community aware that this problem does exist," she said.

Wayne Pregnancy Center hopes to partner with other agencies in the area, tackling this problem.

In the meantime, it is holding a seminar on the subject later this month.

"A group is coming from Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking (in Farmville) to educate community leaders, law enforcement, anyone that wants to be educated," she said.

The event, free and open to the public, will be held Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. at Wayne Pregnancy Care Center on Ash Street.