A LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER
“She could have been me.”
Those words echoed through my 14 year-old mind as I sat at next to my parents at a fundraiser, listening to a woman tell a story about another 14 year-old girl in India.
She had a family. Just like me.
She went to school. Just like me.
She had dreams for her future. Just like me.
But those dreams were all shattered when she was taken and sold into sex trafficking.
Months later, she was rescued by a ministry that helped her heal and get back on her feet - but she would never be the same. Her childhood innocence had been stolen. Her family wanted nothing to do with her. Because she had contracted AIDS, she could never get married and have children of her own within her culture.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the horrific trauma she had gone through. But the realization that she could have been me struck a chord in my heart. At the time, I didn’t know that was the beginning of what would become a lifelong passion to fight on behalf of the exploited.
Three years passed, I graduated high school, and continued to be more and more involved in raising awareness in my community about the issue of sex trafficking. I combined my passion for music with my growing passion to fight against injustice by writing and recording a song called “Break the Chains”.
In March 2013, I performed “Break the Chains” and spoke at an anti-trafficking fundraising event that I helped organize. It was at that event that I realized I wanted to be in this fight for the long run. I didn’t know what that looked like, or how I could even make a dent in such a massive worldwide problem. But I knew I could not sit back and do nothing.
After some months of careful thought and counsel from a few trusted people in my life, I decided to just go for it.
On December 17, 2013, I signed the paperwork to start a non-profit. I decided to call it Just1, because I wanted the heartbeat behind everything we do to be just one is worth fighting for. There are millions of children trapped in different forms of exploitation around the world, but if we can help save the life of just one of those children, it’ll all be worth it.
I was 20 years old with very little experience but a very big passion. I dove into learning how to build a non-profit and within the first few months, I was invited to speak and perform my song “Break the Chains” at Delta, The Rotary Regional Convention, and other events with political and business leaders. I traveled to Africa to establish a partnership with a non-profit based in Kenya so we could start fundraising for our first safe house for rescued children. I thought nothing could stop me, but a few months later my world turned upside down.
out of nowhere, A guy I’d only known for a little while started pursuing me. He worked his magic and I fell for him, completely oblivious to his manipulative tactics and lies. He wooed me with compliments. He told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. Meanwhile, he failed to tell me he had another girlfriend (who he lived with) and was talking to multiple other women. He even went as far as to lie about having stage three lung cancer in effort to get me to stay in the relationship.
Things went from bad to worse, and it wasn’t until a year later that I found out the whole truth. By that time, it was too late to protect myself. It actually took about three years for me to see the situation with clear eyes and realize I had been exploited. If he had been a trafficker, I would have been trafficked because he used many of the same tactics traffickers use to lure in and groom their victims.
To this day, it still blows my mind that the very thing I was trying to fight against is what almost took me out. It was the most painful season of my life. It changed me. But it wasn’t the end of me or my story. Jesus and time healed my pain and I got back on my feet. Now more than ever, I am fiercely committed to fighting on behalf of the vulnerable and exploited.
My story is directly linked to Just1’s story. I’m just a girl in her late 20s who wants to help protect and rescue kids from exploitation so they can live the lives they deserve to live. Because of our amazing partners and supporters, we are building a safe house and helping care for 21 rescued children in Kenya, and teaching minors in the United States how they can protect themselves from sex trafficking and exploitation.
There are a lot of kids in the world to protect and rescue. Millions. But I know if we can help save one of those kids, then we can save another one, and then another.
Will you join me?
For the one,