By Karen McBride
While completing her master’s degree, Laura Hamilton joined a U.S. Department of Justice funded task force for Tampa Bay on human trafficking. It was then that God placed on her heart to start Bridging Freedom for victims of human trafficking to give young girls recovered from child-sex trafficking a place to live and to help them along the path to healing.
There are currently two homes on over 100 acres in an undisclosed location. The two homes can provide shelter for 12 girls, ages 13-17. In an effort to provide a home for more girls, Bridging Freedom is partnering with Rotary Clubs and other donors to build a third house.
The girls may be runaways, fleeing from a dysfunctional home and end up as victims. The experienced staff will help the girls to understand what situations define human trafficking. Some are not even aware that they are a victim of it. Girls may remain in this safe haven for a year or more where they focus on healing from the physical, mental, and emotional trauma, and are filled with hope for a better life.
“It’s a beautiful thing when you see that hope come to them, “ said Laura.
With a high staff to child ratio, they are able to meet the needs of the girls. It can take 3 to 4 months just to stabilize a victim of human trafficking to begin their long road of recovery. The professional team includes therapists, nurse, educator, case manager, and residential caretakers that help her to begin to process all that she has been through.
In addition to health care, girls receive educational training, therapeutic interventions, such as equine, music, art , gardening therapies, survivor mentorship, life skills including balancing a budget and taking care of a car, career development, and transitional mentorship for the time when the girls are ready to leave the facility and start on their own.
The organization’s tagline is “restoring stolen childhoods” and the staff accomplish this through counseling and helping the girls to feel special and loved with birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and many recreational outings.
In addition to helping the victims, Bridging Freedom works with the community, focusing on awareness and prevention. The organization participates in events throughout the year, including Light Up the Night, where funds are raised for agencies that fight human trafficking, and support survivors.
If you would like to support Bridging Freedom, gift card donations are needed to enable the girls to go on various adventures, fun outings and shopping. Grocery store cards are welcome too. Health and nutrition are an important part of the recovery process on the road to living independent, healthy lives. The girls are taught nutrition and how to prepare well-balanced meals.
For more information about this organization, go to https://www.bridgingfreedom.org/.