What do letters, coffee, self-defense, and tattoo removal have in common? They're an example of the fact that we will do whatever we can do to ensure that a young lady feels supported on her journey to healing and independence!
To illustrate this, allow us to tell you the story of one of our precious young ladies.
December 2015… we were given a referral from the chaplain at the local county jail, asking us to meet with a young inmate who had been involved in trafficking for quite some time. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity!
We met with her and she shared with us her story of being trafficked, that she grew up in foster care, had no support network other than her trafficker, and had started in the life at a very early age. She also shared that she was being sent to prison for 18 months on charges unrelated to trafficking.
We talked with her about her life, options for recovery, and how we’d like to support her in her journey. She talked about having no one to support her, no friends and certainly family. She was kind, soft-spoken, and very self-aware. She stated that upon her release, she did not want to stay in the are as she had over 900 tricks (men who would pay her for sex) on her phone that it was too tempting to stay in the area.
She hated doing it but she could see no other options, saying, “When I’m released, I have no one who will be waiting for me.” But we said that we wanted to help her.
She was thoughtful when we asked her what her dream job would be. She said, “no one’s ever asked me that before.” She’d never even been given the opportunity to dream. She thought for a bit then said, “maybe be a nurse… or I could be a construction worker.” We all giggled at that contrast, then cerebrated her options and bravery. We talked about keeping in touch while in prison.
She was such a sweet spirit.
Fast Forward to February 2017… We wrote a few letters back and forth, becoming pen pals of sorts. We wanted her to know that we were waiting for her to be released, that we were thinking of her, and hoping for her future. When she was preparing to be released, we reconnected via her case worker in a transitional prison release program who was able to place her at a local domestic violence shelter. If our home were open, she’d be with us already!
While in prison, her trafficker had been threatening her through other people who knew her. Naturally, she was very frightened, so we set up a meeting to give her a boost.
She was excited for the meeting, which we lined up at one of our local partner churches. The church has a coffee shop, so we offered to buy her a drink. She couldn’t wait to pick out her drink!
When she saw our Co-Founder, Season Russo, she said “I’m so glad you came! I read your letter over and over while I was in prison and it helped me so much.”
She shared with us all of her accomplishments since we first met her. She got set up to work on her GED, stating “I completed three tests while in prison.” She’d even been meeting with a county human trafficking officer to help decrease the problem of trafficking in our county!
Then we introduced her to someone special that we had lined up for her to meet. It was a female law enforcement officer who worked with her on self-defense skills, how to be more confident in herself, and how to handle unsafe situations.
Observing this, we watched her change from an anxious, timid spirit to one who laughed with ease and readily learned how to be sure of herself in difficult situations. We gave her a small gift of a journal and a Bible and encouraged her to use them as ways to continue to remain hopeful.
To end the meeting, we were able to share with her that we have found a doctor who is willing to remove the brand that her trafficker had tattooed on her neck. She lit up, “really?” We told her, “yes, really! We still have details to work out but it will happen.” She repeated over and over, “Thank you! Thank you!”
We saw a smile on her face, but also in her eyes!
This reappearance of the light in her eyes took time. Sure, we wanted to see it right away but it takes time for a girl in this situation to recognize that change is possible, that hope is real, and that a new life awaits her.
Thank you for investing into life change like this through your generosity. Together, we are able to provide the services, opportunities, and hope that young ladies like this one need in order to regain their lives, value, and confidence.
If it takes letters, coffee, karate lessons, and tattoo removal, then that’s what we get to provide.