Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to human dignity, which has presented itself in the last decade, has been the prevalence of human trafficking.
This is both a global and national issue, which victimizes many people, particularly women and children. It has an adverse effect on the poor and marginalized, and often occurs under our nose, and in our own communities.
Today, we understand so much more about this blight than we did five years ago. Every January, the nation recognizes this injustice as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. At Bon Secours, we are committed to ending human trafficking, not just during this one-month observance but throughout the year.
Across the ministry, we have educated our team members about red flags to look for when encountering patients who may have experienced trafficking. If a suspicion of human trafficking arises, there is also protocol in place and resources available. Last year, we even created a training video for the South Carolina Hospital Association so that hospitals across the state would also have a resource to help their teams spot the signs of trafficking.
“Many of our staff have children of their own. To see children or young people come in that have been coerced into a lifestyle that’s not their choice, to be able to be part of the intervention, it’s just as powerful as being able to save someone’s life from a medical condition,” shares Dr. Alex Garvey, the Senior Vice President of Mission at Bon Secours St. Francis.
Bon Secours St. Francis in Greenville is also using its community partnerships to take this fight beyond our hospital walls. In 2020, we joined law enforcement and other advocates to roll out a new anti-human trafficking campaign with the public transit service, Greenlink. During the 18-month campaign, Bon Secours is helping host training seminars for drivers so they can keep an eye out for red flags during their daily routes. Greenlink averaged about 2,000 rides per day before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
While prevention is a big key to tackling the issue of human trafficking, there’s another side to the fight – helping those already victimized. This is the driving force behind another community partnership – with Jasmine Road.
Jasmine Road is the first residential restoration program for human trafficking victims in South Carolina. We are honored to provide comprehensive medical and behavioral health care to the program’s residents in support of their recovery and reintegration.
This partnership continues to grow, with the recent announcement of plans to build a second safe house. The new facility will help rehabilitate 14 additional human trafficking victims by providing them with a place to live, rent-free for two years. While living there, women will receive help addressing their recovery from trauma and addictions. The new safe house will also include a separate workspace so its residents will have a place to learn job skills.
Jasmine Road’s new site is funded by a grant form us as well as donations from North Hills Community Church, NewSpring Church, Grace Church and Fellowship Greenville.
“We can’t say enough about how excited we are as a Catholic hospital to come together with an Evangelical church and a nonprofit organization to help build a better community. We hope this is just the beginning of many more joint ventures, as there are many women out there who desperately need healing and restoration and a way out of this life,” shares Dr. Garvey.
Construction of the new safe house, which was postponed due to COVID-19, is expected to begin in the near future so the facility can open by the end of 2021.
If you believe someone around you is a human trafficking victim, call the national hotline at 1-88-373-788 or text “HELP” to 233733.