It’s rare that I get the opportunity to see the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative’s seeds of hope blossom. The Catholic Charities of Louisville anti-human trafficking program is committed to helping clients emancipate themselves, and once we empower clients to embark on a new path of their choosing, we step aside as they move forward and flourish.
That’s why I was incredibly moved when a former client recently brought their family into Catholic Charities to meet the Bakhita staff.
A survivor of labor trafficking, this client was estranged from their family and had been forced to work long hours in difficult conditions at a local restaurant for little to no pay. Bakhita staff helped them exit this exploitation and assisted them in securing basic needs such as food, housing, language services and legal help. This included applying for a T visa, which allows trafficking survivors and their immediate family members to reside in the United States.
Eventually, this individual was reunited with their spouse and child after years of being separated. The family is now thriving in their new home, where both parents are employed and their child is enrolled in school.
It was an honor to see this client’s success and a reminder of why we do this work.
The Bakhita Empowerment Initiative provides direct assistance and case management to survivors of human trafficking — the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world. We identify the immediate needs of survivors, which includes ensuring they are safe and that their basic needs are met. We then identify long-term needs, which may include gaining employment, going back to school or finding permanent housing.
Our staff encourages self-liberation as opposed to “rescuing” clients, an approach that restores power, which is vital to achieving self-sufficiency. We also understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
We listen to clients. We offer the specific help they need. We empower them.
And although protecting the privacy of our clients limits direct volunteer opportunities, there is still so much you can do to assist our efforts.
- You can donate items such as Walmart, Kroger or fast-food gift cards, hygiene items for toiletry kits, or quarter rolls for laundry.
- You can participate in fundraising events, such as the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative’s Kentucky Derby Festival minimarathon charity team. (And if you’re not a runner, you can still help us spread the word.)
- If you own a rental property or work in the hotel industry, you could provide free or discounted lodging, even for just a short time.
- Or you can simply learn more about the signs of human trafficking, then share this information with others. We encourage anyone to report suspected trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and I ask you to please share the journey with Catholic Charities as we strive to provide help and create hope for survivors.
Amy Nace-DeGonda is assistant program director of the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative, Catholic Charities of Louisville’s anti-human trafficking program.