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The Wellhouse

Our world seems to shrink everyday as technology and communication continue to advance. A few weeks ago, I was attending an online webinar for nonprofits and started a conversation with a woman named Kat Kirkpatrick from Alabama who is part of an amazing nonprofit called The Wellhouse. What began as an online conversation became multiple emails and phone calls to learn more. I have done two interviews this past year on organizations similar to the The Wellhouse and initially thought twice about writing this now. However, I believe things happen for a reason and there are no accidents, so I am excited to share our conversation with you.

Kat told me that 40% of the human trafficking that happens in the United State happens in the South East off of Interstate 20 and the average age of young women who are trafficked is 12 to 14 years old. That information was more than enough to continue the conversation on this uncomfortable topic.

Charity Matters: So tell us about what The WellHouse does?

Kat Kirkpatrick: The Wellhouse is a safe place that rescues and restores young  women from human trafficking. We restore these women so they can live their lives. We are a residential safe place that can help these women deal with trauma, addiction, health care and counseling. We give them mentors and set them up for life to be successful.

Charity Matters: When did your nonprofit begin and what is the back story to the WellHouse?

Kat Kirkpatrick: Our founder was a victim of human trafficking. She escaped from her trafficker with $33.00 in her pocket and was taken into a place in Birmingham, Alabama called The Dream Center because she heard about it on the radio. Our founder became a mentor there in helping other young women and realized that more needed to be done so in 2010 she began The WellHouse.

She realized there was not a facility that existed only for trafficked victims and she conceived the idea of a home that would not have any prerequisites that can often hinder victims from obtaining needed help. Her goal was to welcome survivors who wanted to move forward in their lives.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Kat Kirkpatrick: The team. Seeing everyone work together and support these women. The women who change their lives.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Kat Kirkpatrick: We know we have changed lives. We have rescued over 400 women since 2010. We know we have made a difference when a girl has a safe place to be for the first time. We know we have made a difference when they share their story and then graduate into our long term program. We know we have made a difference when they graduate and when we celebrate every little step along their journey.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Kat Kirkpatrick: I have seen the public’s misconception and stigma for these girls. They are victims of horrible crimes, victims of violence and yet there is hope. They are coming from the darkest of times and yet their resilience is astounding.  I have learned that people are good and are always there to help.  I know when we walk along side these young women on their journey they can accomplish anything.

 

Charity Matters

 

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Saving Innocence

“i raise up my voice-not so i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard….we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzai

There are so many things that make us uncomfortable. ….driving past the homeless and seeing the ravages of war on the nightly news but this topic is beyond being uncomfortable, it is down right unimaginable. The topic is human trafficking or modern day slavery. It is something that we want to believe only happens in other countries but the harsh reality is that it happens here in the United States of America to over 300, 000 children a year. Children who are sold and enslaved into prostitution, like a product or good sold….but these are our children.

Last week, I was invited to a friend’s home for a Friends With Causes dinner. Her guest was the nonprofit Saving Innocence and the speakers were the Executive Director and a young girl who was sold here in LA at the age of 11. We will call her O and her story was truly unbelievable and haunting.

This inspirational twenty-two year old girl told us her unimaginable story. Raised by  a loving single mom who worked two jobs to support them in house full of love and extended family. O accidentally discovered at the age of 11 that she was adopted and the news sent her reeling. She was confused, angry, sad and upset. At the same time, her mother had just broken up with her boyfriend. The boyfriend came to O’s school to ask how she was doing and offered her a ride home. That moment changed everything because he kidnapped her and sold into sex trafficking at age 11, right here in LA.

Founded in 2012 by actress, Kim Biddle, Saving Innocence are the first responders when trafficked children are identified by the police or other authorities.

The nonprofit arrives within 90 minutes with a Child Welfare and Probation officer. They take the child to the hospital, provide, food, clothing, emotional support and a safety plan and housing for the child. The child is given up to nine months of time, support, love, counseling. Saving Innocence works with the child to see the perpetrator through the justice system and then continues empowerment programs with these young children.

This incredible nonprofit has contracts with the probation offices, judges and prosecutors to help these children through the system and have shown the courts that children who have been commercially sexually exploited need intensive aftercare.

Today, O is working for Saving Innocence and helping the girls get through their ordeal of being held as part of a human trafficking ring. She mentors young girls, works with the police, social workers and empowers these children to become survivors, just as she has done, because of this remarkable organization. As I hugged 22 year old O and told her what an incredible inspiration and leader she is, she cried and said, “No one has ever called me a leader.”  When I told her that a leader is someone who uses their gifts and experience in the service of others, she smiled, hugged me again and said,”Then I guess I am a leader.”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

AnnieCannons

Have you ever heard of Annie Cannon? She was a pioneer, who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the early 20th century. Annie Cannon and a group of women discovered the very categories that stars fall into. If ever there was a more perfect name for an organization about two stars who are truly pioneers, it is Laura Hackney and Jessica Hubley’s nonprofit organization Annie Cannons.

Truly one of the most innovate organizations tackling one of the most horrific problems, human trafficking or slavery. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. Sixty-eight percent are trapped in forced labor, twenty-six percent are children and over fifty percent are women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Polaris there were over 8,000 reported cases in the United States in 2016. I truly had no idea and was shocked by these statistics.

What was even more stunning was two Stanford graduates (one a Masters from Stanford and the other Stanford Law) who were determined to find a solution to empower these victims by teaching them skills, earning income and building solutions to empower them to break the cycle. Last week I had one of the most incredible conversations, I have ever had…. with Co-Founder Jessica Hubley.

Charity Matters: What is the back story to Annie Cannons, your nonprofit is pretty unique?

Jessica Hubley: Laura was the manager of the Program on Human Rights on Stanford and had worked as a Senior Research Associate for Stanford’s Anti-Trafficking Project. I was an attorney, we had both gone to Stanford and in September 2013, I was writing a nonfiction book about human trafficking. Laura was going to Myanmar for work and asked if I wanted to come along. We met and interviewed nine people who were victims of human trafficking and they all said the same thing. That they were desperate for work, they were poor, vulnerable and trusted someone.

This was shocking to me, but not to Laura who had been in this space for much longer. I asked Laura, “What if we got these people a job?” The answer wasn’t as simple, but we knew that if we could find away to address the financial piece we might be able to impact change.

When we came home, I was a successful attorney working with digital media companies in the technology industry. I was seeing so many people in software development making $400 an hour writing code and couldn’t help but wonder what if we taught these women victims of human trafficking how to do this?

Charity Matters: What did you do then? 

Jessica Hubley: First we spent an enormous amount of time talking to people who ran nonprofits, shelters here in the Bay Area that housed women who were victims of human trafficking, we spoke to Fortune 500 companies and gathered a lot of information.

 We are self-proclaimed huge geeks. That being said, we taught ourselves to write code. Laura taught herself, then she taught me, we began essentially putting a school together for these women and kept refining our curriculum. We knew the market and need for coders and believed that these women who had escaped unimaginable past had what it took. They were good problem solvers, they were survivors, hard workers and they had grit. It turns out that is exactly what it takes to  be a perfect coder.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work? You are running a nonprofit and a school, essentially and then you are  helping these women get jobs writing code? It is an enormous undertaking, how do you do it?

Jessica Hubley: I think there are three things. One, I still feel I have something to prove to the world. Two, we built the kind of work place that we both always dreamed of that is supportive and collaborative, where we all learn from one another. Lastly, Laura understands and having a partner to lift me up ….and we keep each other going.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Jessica Hubley: When I see one of our students thriving and being successful. When I receive a card or note saying you changed my life and my children’s’ lives. When our customers love their apps and websites and when we have found hidden figures in the world that no one is looking at and have given them the economic power to break the cycle of human trafficking. We have helped people build solutions.

Charity Matters: What have you learned from this experience?

Jessica Hubley: I have learned that most people are good but more than that, I have learned that what really matters is the mark we leave on the world.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.