Jenny Footle Street's Hope

You CAN help more than you think.

One of the biggest questions potential volunteers wanting to help with survivors of human trafficking or the sex trade face is “What can I do?” I would like to address this by providing tangible options for supporting those who strive to break from trafficking situations. One thing to remember first off is it’s not only encouraging these individuals to reintegrate into society, but to also regain their strengths and talents and help them believe in themselves. This opens up many more avenues of support. It’s one thing to tell someone you’re worth more, it’s another to follow up with them and help them endure the challenges of feeling out of place or unqualified to pursue their life. Street’s Hope is just that for many women looking to leave the sex trade and regain life!

It would be great if people would come alongside survivors and help them navigate life one-on-one; but if we’re honest, no one has ‘life’ figured out and people are equipped with different interests, strengths and abilities. So how can you get involved?

If you’re thinking you have no experience with these kinds of situations or people- stop right there. Part of the reason why people coming out of the sex trade struggle with joining the legal world is because they are ostracized by those who don’t understand them or they are placed in a category: those people, those situations, those lifestyles. They’re people! Anyone who volunteers with the ladies at Street’s Hope will report back how much fun it is to hang out with them and how real they are. They are real people seeking to live a real life.

Everyone has faced new obstacles in their life. Some big, others small. Maybe you went to college and couldn’t cook, or do your laundry. Did you have help the first time you did your taxes? Was someone there to edit your first applications to school or jobs? Did you just automatically know how to do these things? Probably not. The difference lies in that these survivors often lack those that would normally fill the roles of guiding them through these standard life practices, or it’s embarrassing to ask for help because society says they should have those things figured out by now. What seems like small or hum-drum daily activities could look more like looming and impossible tasks to someone who has never faced them before.

When I started volunteering with Street’s Hope they asked if I had any life skills I could share with women, such as cooking, laundry, cleaning… Like most people all I could think about is what I couldn’t do- I struggle to cook, I have trouble picking out my clothes for the next day, and don’t feel confident enough to drive someone across town without getting lost… But then I thought; how did I get to where I am? What am I doing now? Why am I employed? Where did I get stumped in the process? I teach Zumba fitness on the side and when the girls at Streets Hope found this out they got excited. Now I offer them an in house Zumba fitness class each time I volunteer. I love helping people enjoy dance and better their lives through being active. If we don’t break a sweat, we at least break a smile, and the daily grind.

Are you not the kind of person to be on the front lines? What can you do behind the scenes? Donate food or items off the needs list. The key is instead of thinking about what you can’t do, think about those times when you could have used some help or advice. Then speak into the lives of others who are on a journey to healthy living. Don’t let gender or experience get in the way. Another reason I’m still thriving is because my husband cooks- so he was able to find a way to support Streets Hope and helps out by cooking meals for the ladies when I go over there, and it is wonderful.

If you are still struggling to come up with ideas of how to help go a little deeper into the roots of why places like Street’s Hope have to exist. Raise awareness of human trafficking. Write a news article, post on your Facebook, and give time at your next conference, event, or group of friends to talk about what’s going on all around you. I believe awareness will awaken people to stop ignoring human trafficking and become more aware of the people around them. Bringing it out into the open will also help victims to see a way out whether that is noting people or organizations around them who are willing to help. You even may bring awareness to people that they themselves are victims, or know someone who is, who needs to be empowered and helped out to become survivors.

Think about your current job or other organizations, could you help Street’s Hope by networking to get an organization on board with assisting survivors on their road to recovery? This could take form in bringing awareness to smaller organizations on how everyone can help build the community up and help combat human trafficking. Whether that is to provide daycare or helping them do their taxes after they land a job, it is rare that organizations are big enough to help in all the areas which assist people out of trafficking. It is important to mobilize people and let them know how even small communities and businesses can network together and help combat human trafficking. There is something you’re good at! Even if that happens to only be making money- you can help by donating, but also let some of us into your world and to show them how you do it!

Don’t underestimate yourself or your resources, and make yourself available to organizations such as Street’s Hope. Together, by each of us utilizing our individual strengths to overcome any weaknesses, and with the help of places like Streets Hope, we can all provide that complete support system that will enable the survivors of human trafficking to not only survive but flourish and excel.