I want to tell you about one of our Network Board members and her devotion to fighting trafficking. Teresa Davidson, ARNP, MSN, MA, is a great asset to the Board of Directors of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking. Teresa will soon be completing the required coursework to become a S.A.N.E. nurse this month (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). She will continue to work as a Nurse Practitioner in the NICU, but also will assist the Emergency Department and the Child Protection Center. She is a devoted leader in the fight against human trafficking, not only here in Iowa, but also in Guatemala. Based in Cedar Rapids, the non-profit organization she leads, Chains Interrupted, has been instrumental in developing a coalition in the Cedar Rapids area and is involved in prevention, education, and the Stop the Demand project.
Teresa also led the very successful conference last November, “Human Trafficking: Not in Our Town.” Four hundred attended this very engaging full day conference in Cedar Rapids. For more on this Chains Interrupted conference, you can look back to my blog post on the Network Website.
With Teresa’s permission, I would like to now tell you about her courageous work in Guatemala to fight human trafficking in all its forms.
Since 2004, the Davidsons have been doing medical ministry in Guatemala through their church and organization, World Missions Plus. This ministry has evolved over the last several years, into work in the dark field of anti-human trafficking. Teresa, along with her husband, Jay, and fifteen-year-old daughter, Micaiah, recently spent the last half of January 2017 in Guatemala.
The priority on this recent trip was research into human trafficking. Teresa has been asked to speak at a pastor’s conference in October, 2017, where several hundred pastors from around Guatemala are slated to attend. During the process of this research, she was able to begin three (3) projects based on what she found.
The first project is prevention through education. While human trafficking is extremely prevalent in larger Guatemalan cities, the small villages seem to not have yet been exposed. Sexual abuse in the homes is, however, highly common. Teresa reports that the children are also just now being exposed to the Internet, and a few are getting smart phones. Teresa teamed up with an organization called the “Protect Me Project,” currently working in six (6) Central and South American countries. She had met the founder, Carla Marroquin, while on a mission trip against human trafficking at the Super Bowl in 2016. The project trains local “champions,” who are willing to go into schools, providing prevention education through drama, puppets, art, music, etc. Teresa was able to connect the Protect Me Project with a local organization called “Impacto,” and she soon plans to return to Guatemala with Carla, to train between 10 and 20 local champions.
Most of the governmental-run safe houses in Guatemala are anything but safe. Teresa heard reports of many women and children being raped and even murdered at these safe houses. It has gotten so bad the government is considering shutting them down, which will leave over eight hundred (800) women and girls with nowhere to go. Teresa was able to connect with a private, well-run safe house called “La Alianza,” managed by “Covenant House” based in the US. Covenant House is willing to partner with Teresa in the future, to create truly safe restoration homes across Guatemala. She will soon meet with them again to move forward on these plans.
During a pilot presentation for the Protect Me Project, a lady named Estella was identified as a survivor of human trafficking. As is so often the case, Estella did not realize she had been trafficked. Prostitution is legal in Guatemala, but statistics show well over 90% of the men, women, boys and girls in that life are not there by choice. Estella was able to tell Teresa her story, during which she literally collapsed in tears of guilt and shame stating that everyday she thought about going back into “the life” as it’s the only way she has to provide for her children.
Estella has three (3) young girls, no job, and no prospect of getting a job. Not only can she not read or write, the villagers have ostracized her for being a “prostitute,” and will not give her a chance for respectable employment. Estella also needs to be able to be with her children whenever they are not in school, as all three (3) are highly vulnerable to being abused, as the villagers see them as “daughters of a prostitute.”
Impacto was willing to partner with Teresa to create a program in which a respectable, part-time job was created for Estella (washing laundry), with Chains Interrupted (out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa) paying her salary up front ($45 US dollars per month, the cost of her rent). Teresa has plans for this program to expand to 1) provide this choice for even more women/men 2) teach the survivors to read, write, and learn a skill (baking, hair salon work, etc.) and 3) become self-sustainable.
To contact Teresa Davidson or to simply thank her for her anti Human Trafficking humanitarian work in both Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Guatemala, feel free to connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Teresa is also on the Network’s speakers bureau and you can either contact her directly to request a program or contact me at email@example.com.