Bringing Hope To Victims Of Human Trafficking
At the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF), we know first-hand how partnerships can propel a common mission and bring light to an issue that was previously not commonly known. Since 1997, MBF has seen the importance of the partnerships of organizations, schools, and advocates to protect children and bring awareness to the need for prevention education, justice, and healing of children who have been victimized.
Donna Fenchel is the co-founder of The Villages of Hope, a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure and provide safe housing for survivors of sex trafficking. Before becoming involved in the fight against sex trafficking, Donna spent over 20 years at ADT Security, holding multiple executive roles, including roles in IT, Six Sigma, and Call center operations. Donna currently is a partner in multiple Orangetheory Fitness franchises in NE Florida. Donna founded The Villages of Hope after researching the impact of trafficking on America’s youth and coming to understand how big the problem was across America, but also in her own hometown of Jacksonville, FL. Read Donna’s story about the creation of Villages of Hope:
My passion for helping women who are suffering from addiction and sex trafficking came after spending a year researching how intense the problem is and understanding directly from survivors more of what is a myth and what is realty. Taking the mystery out of images and learning to see the women behind the trauma was life-changing during that time. Directly hearing their stories, learning to laugh with them, and sharing our common struggles with life brought a new empathy, not sympathy to my heart. Learning to ask, “What happened to you?” instead of asking “What did you do?” changes the lens of the conversation.
Upon my return to Jacksonville, FL, I contacted my childhood friend, Lynn Layton from the Monique Burr Foundation for Children and asked, “Who in Jacksonville knows what is happening in our town?” Through those connections, the need for housing became overwhelmingly apparent. Through conversations with survivors, I became convinced that we could provide all the education and counseling a woman needs, but without a safe place to lay their head at night, they were consistently exposed and tempted to return to a life on the street. Thus began the dream for The Villages of Hope.
I could not do it alone, so from the beginning, we started partnerships with other organizations that were in the fight to combat sex trafficking. Through my own foundation, Connections 2 Hope, and two special partnerships with Awakenings House and Grace Ministries of Helping Hands, the dream began to become a reality. Awakenings House has a focus on helping women overcome addiction with housing through sober living while Grace Ministries is often the first contact a woman from the street has with our organization. Grace Ministries reaches out directly to women incarcerated or living on the street.
We began a pilot program in 2019 with a partnership with Thistle Farms from Nashville TN, which offers a sisterhood program to organizations with a common mission and vision. Through this partnership, we were able to overcome hurdles like operations manuals, handbooks, and program guidelines. During our pilot, we learned of additional partnerships. The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center became our partner for group therapy sessions and individual mentorship. ReThreaded partnered with us for support and potential job opportunities for our women as well.
In May of 2021, we purchased a small piece of land that will become the home of The Villages of Hope. We have been renovating the home on the property to be used as a community center, where we will hold morning devotions, group therapy, AA meetings, and serve meals. As we prepare to reopen after our Covid shutdown, we are once again reaching out to partners to provide the best and most comprehensive care to women who are seeking a new life and a safe place to lay their heads. Our vision is to provide a tiny home community, where a woman will be surrounded by a community of care and loved unconditionally while they embark on their courageous journey of healing.
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