For those of you who don't already know, I am about to embark on a journey to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to live in Hawaii for six months. My plan is to volunteer for a charity called Justice Ministry, a project that supports children, young people and women who are being or have been sexually exploited.
Who are Justice Ministry?
Justice Ministry was formed in 2008 and is based in Honolulu on O'ahu, one of Hawaii's main islands. The Bluewater Mission church were made aware of women being trafficked to Honolulu and trapped in the exploitative sex industry. At that time there was no provision to support these victims and law enforcement claimed to have no awareness of this huge issue. Through prayer and determination, the charity was set up and has since supported many to break free and build new lives away from exploitation. Alongside direct work with victims, they have lobbied for legislative change and seen Hawaii enact its first trafficking laws as well as bring harsher responses to traffickers, pimps and punters by updating existing laws.
What have I got to offer?
As many of you know, working with those impacted by sexual exploitation has been one of my life's passions for over ten years since I started volunteering at Naomi House, a mother and baby unit for those exiting street sex work. Since then, I have volunteered regularly as an outreach worker to women in sex work with One25, trained and worked at Bristol Drugs Project, and qualified as a Social Worker.
I have spent the last four years as a specialist Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) worker supporting children and young people who are being sexually exploited. The children we support tend to be between the ages of 10 and 18 and have been victims of various forms of CSE including gang exploitation, online exploitation, lone perpetrator and peer exploitation, formal exploitaion (parlours and brothels) and trafficking (both internal and external). The support we offer is tailored to each child's needs but often includes crisis intervention, therapeutic support, support through the criminal justice process and recovery work (many of the young people suffer from post traumatic stress disorder). I am trained to work with those experiencing high levels of trauma and distress and over the last three years, I have been training other professionals in this specialism.
What would my role be?
Amazingly, the skills I have to offer seem to fit with their current needs!
Outreach to those still in sexual exploitation has always been one of my favourite parts of the job. Many of you will have witnessed me making hundreds of tuna sandwiches and cling filming slices of cake to give to the women of Bristol who find themselves street sex working late at night. As a team leader, the late night Christmas Eve shift has become a Christmas tradition for me and I couldn't think of anything else I would rather be doing.
Justice Ministry are currently in need of someone to develop their outreach programme on the streets of Waikiki, and have a particular need for somebody with a specialist knowledge of working with under 18's due to the increase in children and young people being seen on outreach. It's currently only monthly as they are lacking confident team leaders to take out their volunteers. Whilst I am there they have asked me to train up volunteers to be team leaders and increase outreach to twice a week.
One of the things I love about my current job is the opportunity I get to deliver specialist training to other professionals. The knowledge we have around sexual exploitation has drastically increased over the last few years. From understanding more about how trauma affects the brain to knowing more accurately how perpetrators work, we know more than ever before. Over the last few years I have trained hundreds of professionals and seen the tangible difference it makes in the lives of those affected. Justice Ministry has noticed the need for training in its locality and is regularly approached by local agencies but are currently unable to meet this demand. I would be able to develop and deliver training packages and 'train the trainer' so that training programmes would be sustainable in the long term.
I first heard about the project in Hawaii just over a year ago. Since then, it has become something of an obsession for me and I have found myself google-ing Honolulu daily and not just to look at beaches! However, through my work in Bristol I have always been wary of volunteers who "parachute" in, make bonds with vulnerable people and then up and leave. It was only when I contacted the project to find out more about their current needs that I realised I could offer specialist support to the project itself, with a focus on training and developing the incredible work that they already do out there.
I have decided to take a leap of faith and amazingly work have agreed to allow me to have an extended period of unpaid leave to be able to spend 6 months at the project. I am scared, excited, nervous but overall, quietly hopeful that I can use the very specific set of skills I have to make a difference to Justice Ministry's on-going mission.
I have been thinking about how to make this happen and several friends suggested I put something out there to those who know me, inviting them to partner in this journey with me and make it possible for me to support Justice Ministry.
I don't want to be a financial burden on a charity that is already under-resourced. Therefore, I am aiming to raise £6,000 which would cover flights, six months of accomodation and living expenses. Anything I have left over my expenses will go directly to the project.
Whether you are able to offer financial support or not, I'd love to keep people up to date with what I'm doing out there. I've yet to figure out how but will definitely be doing a blog/facebook group/email kind of thing. Please do let me know if you would like me to keep you in mind for this.
Also, if you are the praying type, I would really appreciate your prayers for safety, good health, smooth transitions and for building meaningful relationships with the team out there.
And finally, I would so love to hear from you when I am out there so please do keep in touch!
Thanks for taking the time to read this and please do let me know if you have any questions.
Lots of love,