We at Courage Worldwide serve victims who have either escaped or have been rescued from sex trafficking. We do this because we believe each one of them have been created on purpose for a purpose and it is our greatest desire to see them be restored to and achieve that unique purpose. We do this work because we believe God has called us to it. We do this because we want to see lives restored!
However, this work can be slow (it takes time to build trust), lonely (we can’t share the private details of their stories) and heart wrenching (trauma and violence damages the mind, the body, the emotions and the spirit). While we long to articulate their journeys, we are not at liberty to share all of the intimate details with you as those we serve have entrusted us with their stories. In many cases, we don’t share details because though they are physically free now, there are individuals who have vowed to hurt them or even kill them.
Thus, it is difficult as a non-profit organization, that depends upon donations and support for the community, to even articulate their individual journeys to healing without betraying their trust – which so many people in their lives have already done. Instead we talk about milestones, numbers served, attendees at events, money raised, programs began and property bought to help you understand the scope of their needs and our work. However, it is so frustrating because numbers alone dehumanize and gloss over the world from which they have been rescued or escaped. Using these safe terms allows us an emotionless escape from the reality of being sold as a commodity, being raped repeatedly and betrayed by those who called you family.
The world of human trafficking – sex trafficking – is brutal and violent. It preys upon the weak and the vulnerable. It treats humans as trash and children as pawns. It makes certain individuals rich and it feeds the fetish of many. It enslaves its victims’ body, mind and spirit all, killing their sense of worth and purpose. These are the ones we serve – these are the ones we have pledged to rescue and restore.
While a part of me wants to curl up in a ball and sob every time my mind turns toward the details of their individual situations and stories, another part of me uses the indignation I feel to strengthen my resolve to stop this evil against our most vulnerable. Many of you already pray for us, volunteer with us and give to us financially. Thank you – as all three are necessary for the work we are called to do! In this post, I want to attempt to communicate some of our successes, struggles and greatest need(s) for the upcoming year since it is impossible for me to share with you each and every story of the hundreds of victims we have met and served during the past 14 years.
Recreation with Courage girls
Success. We struggle still with that description of the work we do. On some days and for some of our girls, success simply means breathing. On other days and for other girls it means not cutting. For one girl that could mean choosing to attend school after being awake all night with flashbacks and for another it could mean trusting her therapist enough to tell her the first time she experienced violence in her life. We have learned to celebrate the simplest success. Helping staff cook dinner. Making a bed. Doing homework. Exercising. Taking a walk. Staying in school. Participating in therapy. Making healthy choices daily while choosing to stay at Courage House takes a tremendous act of faith and courage for our girls. This is what we call success!
As I continue to reflect on how to define and communicate success, I have pondered what has allowed us to have the greatest impact and outcomes on the lives of those we serve. Is it programs, policies or procedures? We have very good ones; but it is not those alone. I have concluded that our success, progress and outcomes must be attributed to our greatest asset – our people – the staff and faithful volunteers who dedicate their lives to bringing health and wholeness to the children who call Courage House home. When you financially give to Courage Worldwide, Inc., you enable us to hire the best of the best to execute our programs and best practices. There would be no program, no Courage House, and no resources without people.
In order for these children to face their past and walk confidently into their future they need compassionate, dependable people who will walk that long journey with them, in addition to needing a physical place. Courage House is a critical piece in the rescue and restoration process that provides a launching pad to healthy relationships, independence, and a trauma free future. Rescue and restoration require both a specific place and skilled people. Restoration means returning something to its original intent, condition or design. That is what we do.
Courage House Tanzania, Education Director
Several years ago, when speaking at a conference I asked the audience to imagine the following when trying to articulate the work that we do.
Imagine a beautiful, hand carved piece of antique furniture. Inspect it in your mind’s eye. Pay attention to the details and superior craftsmanship. It is flawless. While gazing upon it, you can easily imagine the hours of time as well as the enormous amount of love that was poured into the creative process. This piece is truly one of a kind. It is obvious that the heart and soul of the artist was deeply invested into the work. You can see that it was lovingly created on purpose with a specific purpose in the creator’s mind. It is priceless to the designer – beautiful and worthy of great care.
However, as the years go by, the piece is sold off at auctions to the highest bidder, sadly to those who did not recognize nor care for the craftsmanship or uniqueness of the piece. With multiple owners, comes multiple relocations. Those tasked with the move do not possess the owner’s paternal protectiveness, so it gets bumped, banged, borrowed and broken. The original intent becomes lost as one owner after another begins to paint over the original design, completely covering its beauty and uniqueness – making it something it was never meant to be. Broken pieces never get repaired, causing its value to plummet. Eventually it is sold at a garage sale, at a cheap price, placed in an attic or old storage room where it goes unnoticed and unused. Its original beauty and purpose forgotten. Until one day …
One day an individual – a special individual – someone trained in seeing beauty beneath a painted façade, someone trained to recognize craftsmanship despite the broken places and lost pieces stumbles upon this neglected beauty. Though tattered and worn, this individual sees uniqueness of the creation. His eye is trained to see the masterpiece beneath the faded veneer and even recognizes the creator’s design. This one skilled in such things, knows the value of the piece despite the attempted concealment. He realizes that he has discovered a treasure. Gently he wipes away the blanket of dust disguising its beauty. A tear slips down his face. It is obvious that this piece was created on purpose for a purpose. It was to be admired and valued; not hidden away. He longs to restore it to its original intent while keenly aware that it will require a great deal of hard but delicate work. The broken pieces must be repaired and new ones molded. It must be stripped of all that has been placed upon it that was never a part of the original design. It will be messy. He will need a special place to do this type of restorative work. He knows he cannot do it alone. The job will require various professionals skilled in the restoration process. He has weighed the cost. It will be high. However, he is not daunted by what it will cost him in time or money. This piece is priceless. It has a purpose to complete. The investment he has chosen to make in the restoration process will be worth it all after he rescues it from isolation.
House Manager, Courage House Too (Transition Home)
Struggles. Our ability at Courage Worldwide to rescue and restore more children from the evil of sex trafficking, directly depends upon our financial ability to hire quality staff. A program that incorporates best practices and has documented outcomes remains in a binder without trained, compassionate and skilled staff to execute it. A house remains a structure unless there are loving individuals committed to transforming the building into a home where laughter is heard, dreams are dreamed and memories are made. Processes and procedures remain words on paper without competent staff translating them into services designed to meet the unique needs of our girls. There will be no home, no success and no outcomes without our amazing staff and a home called Courage House.
Staff exhaustion is also a real struggle. Many of them – of us – are doing two, three and four job descriptions. We all have been exposed to what the professionals call secondary trauma which results in compassion fatigue and if left unchecked will cause total burnout. Like a championship football team, we must have depth to our roster. We must have qualified replacements as back up to expand and carry the heavy load. However, our finances have not allowed us to hire all the people we need for growth and expansion. Thus our struggle is also our greatest need for the new year.
When I am asked, particularly at year end, “What is your greatest need in serving this population?”– my answer is two-fold: more beds and more staff. To bring more girls home, we must expand geographically, opening more physical homes while at the same time, recruiting, hiring and training more qualified staff. One does not happen without the other. That is our “ask” this year… help us bring more girls home by donating funds that allow us to hire more staff so we can expand our current home and services. The need is great and resources are few both locally and globally. Please consider Courage Worldwide in your end of the year giving. Thank you for your support in the past and for prayerfully considering this ask.
Jenny Williamson, Founder/CEO
Courage Worldwide, Inc.