We at Courage Worldwide believe it is wrong for children to be sold for sex. We believe the very children who are being savagely exploited day after day, night after night have a unique purpose and destiny and they will never fulfill it unless someone rescues them. So we as an organization build them homes and call them family. Will you help us?
As I sat down to write my year-end letter, I wanted to share with you all of our accomplishments, successes, and even struggles as an organization determined to rescue and restore this vulnerable population. But as I contemplated the year, I wondered how to communicate with words that which words fail to convey?
How do you measure success with the vulnerable, severely traumatized population of children we serve? How do I explain to you that which causes incredible joy to bubble up inside of me or a pain so great my heart literally hurts? Do I do that with numbers and statistics? By profit and loss statements? With social media counts? Does totaling our number of friends, fans or followers on our Facebook page or Twitter account determine success? I hope not! If it did, I’m afraid we’d be labeled losers as our 584 twitter followers sadly lag behind Lady Gaga’s 31.9 million ones. No matter how culturally relevant, I can’t base our accomplishments or tally success by the total number of people who like or follow us. So how do we? What is our matrix for defining success? For us at Courage Worldwide it is in our mission statement. We exist to change the world one individual at at time. So, how did we do this year? I’ll let our girls tell you.
“You saved my life. Without you, without Courage House I would be dead. Literally.” Those words pierce my heart. They are words I hear often from our girls who call Courage House home. The world, the life of commercial sexual exploitation is violent, dangerous and deadly. Most girls enter it around the age of twelve or thirteen here in the United States. The majority of our girls at Courage House, whether in the States or Tanzania, Africa were sexually abused and exploited as early as five or six years of age. Many have been homeless, living on the streets doing whatever it took to survive, to just be alive. Throwaways and runaways is what our society calls many of them. That is what made them vulnerable to a trafficker. Daily they are beaten, tortured and sold. Death becomes an escape that is seriously contemplated. Thus life, living and breathing become success for us and for them. Safe, loving homes. Someone to believe in them, someone to call them family. Food to eat. Clothes to wear. A place to laugh, to dance and to sing. A place to be alive. That is success. That is what we have done for thirty-five girls who have called Courage House home in Northern California and for the ten in Tanzania, Africa.
“I thought I was stupid.” Many of our girls have not been in school in years and are lagging behind academically. For them, school was a place of failure. Some can barely read or do basic math when they walk through the doors of Courage House. Instead of learning facts, our girls had to learn how to survive. Because of this, most of our girls have become convinced they have no future but to sell their bodies. They don’t believe they are smart but time at Courage House convinces them otherwise. When a girl does her homework, we celebrate! When she shows up for class after struggling over a concept the day before vowing to quit, we call that success! We celebrate trying. When a girl goes from a 0.5 GPA to a 3.5 in four months, we call that a tremendous success. When a girl is the first in her family to graduate from high school and then enters a four year university, we call that success and celebrate! As we do when a girl perseveres to get her GED. All of these are accomplishments that no one can take away from our girls.
“What he did to me was wrong!” Prior to opening homes for this population, I did an extensive amount of research trying to understand the needs of this victim group. I was totally unprepared that these children do not know they are victims of a crime! Because of that, they are fearful of law enforcement and rarely seek help because of the lies they have been told. ”It is all your fault.” “You chose this.” “It is all you will ever be good at.” “No one will ever believe you.” “I am all you have.” “You have no other place to go.”
Over and over our girls have been brain washed and programmed to believe these lies from family members, boyfriends and complete strangers. So it is an enormous success, a very personal achievement, when any one of our girls walk into a court of law, partners with the judicial system, faces their perpetrators/ trafficker in front of a jury and declares “What you did to me was wrong!”
In each of the cases our girls testified in, the perpetrator was found guilty in large part to her courageous testimony. Each of our girls were scared to death before testifying but afterwards said the experience strengthened them and gave them their voice. We call this success. But we also call it success when a young lady says she just isn’t ready. Though we as an organization philosophically believe in partnering with law enforcement to prosecute traffickers, it is ultimately her choice to testify or not. Just being given a choice is success.
“It’s so hard. Most days I just want to quit; to run away. But your loving me makes me stay.” The population we love and serve has a very high tendency to run away due to the trauma their brains and bodies have experienced. Fight or flight is very real to them and to the organizations and families who try to provide them a loving home. A high percentage of our girls have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), making this tendency to run even more common. Each day, our girls must make a courageous choice to stay on this path that will lead to hope. Most of us will never really understand how very hard it is to face the memories, emotions and pain of the past. It is extremely difficult for these courageous young ladies to uncover all they have tried so hard to bury and forget. Of the thirty-five girls who have called Courage House home we call it success, an accomplishment that so few have run away without returning. For those who stayed, we celebrate their perseverance, their courage and the healthy choices they have made to deal with the pain filled memories of the past. That is success.
”If God is real and good, then why did he let this happen to me? Why didn’t he save me?” At Courage House we call it success when this question is even asked. We celebrate the spiritual journey of all our girls at Courage House, but we don’t mandate it. We pray for it. We celebrate their courage as they attempt to wrestle out the evil they have seen and experienced with the good God we try and represent. At their own speed and in their own way, most of our girls who have called Courage House home ultimately accept the concept that there is a God who loves them and who created them on purpose for a unique purpose. They don’t embrace religion, self-righteousness or condemnation but then neither did Jesus. But they do embrace grace, forgiveness, peace and purpose. We call that a success.
In August 1, 2013 we celebrated Courage Houses being open for two years. We have seen lives literally changed. That is success! After these two years, I now know our God is still in the business of restoration and resurrection. But it has not been easy–far from it. It is extremely difficult loving girls who do not love themselves while at the same time fighting seen and unseen forces attempting to shut us down. But we didn’t quit! I know one of the reasons is because of people like you! People who believed in us, prayed for us, volunteered for us and financially gave to our vision and mission. Because of you we raised the funds necessary to create environments where the successes and accomplishments of this year were realized. Thank you. You are truly the answer to prayer. The only obstacle holding us back from fulfilling our dream of building Courage Houses around the world, multiplying these successes, and eradicating the evil of sex trafficking is resources -human and financial. Right now our vision is far greater than our resources. For those of you who have given, we encourage you to continue being committed to the very long, expensive and often messy restoration process for the girls who are calling Courage House home. I promise you we won’t quit but we need you to continue giving. For those of you who haven’t given financially, I ask you to consider beginning now so we can continue what we started but also so we can bring more girls home.
We need you. We need you to believe, to pray, to volunteer and to prayerfully consider giving. You can mail your gift or donate online. Happy Holidays. I pray in 2014 you will experience MORE than you dare to dream, ask or imagine.
Abraham Lincoln could testify that it took a war to end slavery in this country over a hundred years ago and I will tell you it will take another one to end the slavery we now call human
trafficking. Today, more human beings are sold annually than the total number of individuals who were sold in the entire transatlantic slave trade. We are going to need a well trained army if we are going to win this war. You can’t wait until you are in the middle of a war to go find highly skilled and well trained soldiers, we must train the army before the war breaks out. That is what we at Courage Worldwide are doing now; training the army. “Your training is the best I have ever participated in.” We at CWW have trained and certified over 1000 individuals to work with this vulnerable population. We believe there needs to be a common language for those of us working with these courageous kids. We believe they deserve the best of the best. In 2013, CWW hosted our first Global Sex Trafficking Summit called The Response engaging over 60 industry leaders, law enforcement personnel and law makers, mental health professionals as well health care leaders, researchers and those in technology asking them all “how are you responding to this issue?” Hundreds of people attended the conference and over a thousand for the Benefit Concert featuring Jars of Clay. We learned so much from each other as well as gained much needed encouragement to continue our respective, unique responses to this evil that enslaves the most vulnerable. In this new year, I challenge you to contemplate how will you respond and sign up for our next training if you live near the Sacramento, California region. In 2014, we plan to have all of our trainings available on line. For more information go to CourageWorldwide.org/Take-Action
Our Vision is Big and Bold and we believe, from God. In 2014 we want to…
- Expand the Courage House Northern California campus so we can bring home additional girls. Bayside Community Church donated the funds to build the first cottage but we will also need funds to hire additional staff, furnish the entire house and meet the unique needs of those six additional girls on a monthly basis.
- Buy ten acres of land in Tanzania, Africa to build the Courage Compound so we can double our capacity from ten to twenty rescued girls! In addition to bringing more girls home, with this property we can build a volunteer cottage for teams and staff wanting to serve in Tanzania.
- Pursue and develop sustainable income generators like Courage Products, Courage Kitchen and Courage Cafe’s to create dependable monthly income.
- Prototype Courage House. Building Courage Houses around the world in every city that needs one is our goal. At this time Honolulu, Hawaii is slated to be the first prototype location. In addition, volunteer and law enforcement groups in Nashville, Tennessee, Las Vegas, Nevada, Jackson, Mississippi, San Jose, Costa Rica and the Philippines are also making inquiries about bringing a Courage House to their city. To do all this and more, we need you! Consider becoming a monthly financial partner and we’ll send you a FREE Come Back Home CD.
Jenny Williamson, Founder/CEO