When I first joined the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT) staff this June, I was asked what I found most compelling about the role and this organizations work. It was an easy question to answer. Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is backed entirely by volunteer advocates.
Staffing a 24/7 hotline that responds to both calls and texts for the duration of a year requires coverage of 988 unique shifts totaling 13,140 annual hours of service
To truly put their hard work and dedication into perspective, it is important to acknowledge that staffing a 24/7 hotline that responds to both calls and texts for the duration of a year requires coverage of 988 unique shifts totaling 13,140 annual hours of service. This year alone, it required answering close to 600 calls and texts from survivors, service providers, and community members. To prepare for their roles as advocates they complete 50 hours of training and engage in an additional 12 hours of continuing education each year.
Commitment to a Complex Human Rights Issue
As you read those numbers, you might be wondering about the size of our volunteer advocate team. Most wouldn’t guess that our small, but mighty team amounts only to 50 of the most phenomenal humans I know. They are courageous pioneers who have made a conscious decision to turn towards a complex human rights issue and be a part of the solution. They show up for human trafficking by taking time away from their work, studies, families and personal lives. They answer calls while grocery shopping, while driving on I-70, in the midst of celebrating family birthdays, and in the middle of the night.
These special volunteers align with our vision to end to human trafficking in so many ways! When they aren’t on-call, many advocates extend their service in other meaningful ways including:
- Collaborating on training curriculum
- Participating in our Leadership Development Program
- Working with our hotline data
- Fundraising within their own communities
- Supporting new advocates
- Offering yoga to the advocate team as a means of self-care
2019 Spirit of Service Awards
This month at our annual Holiday Toast, we had the chance to honor two of our hotline advocates with the Spirit of Service Award. The Spirit of Service Award is given to individuals who have made outstanding volunteer contributions to anti-trafficking. Both of this year’s awardees are amazing leaders who have made our work stronger, particularly through their service to the hotline.
Nhu-Minh Le is a Victim Assistance Director at the Asian Pacific Development Center. She first came to the US as a refugee with her family when she was 5 years old. Nhu-Minh holds a fellowship through the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy, is a member of the Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission, and was appointed to the Governor’s Colorado Human Trafficking Council. She has served as a volunteer advocate for Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline for several years and is joining our backup manager team in 2020. Based on our records, Nhu-Minh has actually supported the second highest number of calls of any advocate in the history of the hotline.
Jen Jachimiec is a pediatric nurse educator who teaches many groups of healthcare providers about child abuse and human trafficking. She has been involved with LCHT since 2016, and has served as a volunteer hotline advocate since 2017, and volunteer backup manager since earlier this year. Jen believes it is essential for healthcare providers to recognize signs of abuse and trafficking in children, since many kids who visit clinics and hospitals may be in the midst of exploitation. She was also a key partner in helping LCHT design a Colorado-specific training module for healthcare professionals.
I asked Nhu Minh and Jen to share a little bit about their time with LCHT and their commitment to end human trafficking in Colorado:
Nhu-Minh, you have been involved with the hotline since practically it’s inception and supporting survivors through your work in the community for some time. How have you seen Colorado’s response to this issue evolve and what keeps you motivated in this work?
NHU-MINH: During my time with the hotline, I have seen the state of Colorado begin to address the issue through meaningful collaborations between systems-based and community-based organizations in efforts to combat human trafficking in various communities. As the issue of human trafficking does not often receive the accurate representation in media and community support it deserves, my motivation drives me to continue to establish partnerships while providing community outreach and education to bring additional visibility to our fight.
Jen, as a Pediatric Nurse Educator, you plan an essential role in educating healthcare providers about child abuse and human trafficking. What have you observed when bringing people together around this subject and how has the conversation changed over the past three years?
JEN: I find the intersection of health care and human trafficking to be essential for survivors. Research shows that the majority of survivors utilized a health care service during their victimization. This is such an opportunity for us to reach out to survivors and try to get them the resources they need to be safe. I’ve done multiple lectures on this topic to healthcare providers, with another presentation planned at a national pediatric conference in 2020, and also serve as an informal resource for anyone who has questions. The conversation with health care providers has changed from, “You mean she got taken by someone?” to “I think I recognize a trafficking victim, but I’m not sure what to do next.” I am constantly encouraging health care workers to utilize their resources, like Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline. Not everyone will be an expert in trafficking identification, but if they know who to call, that’s the next best thing!
You were both recently selected to step into the role of volunteer backup manager for the hotline. What is most compelling to you about serving in this supportive, supervisory role?
NHU-MINH: As a backup manager, I am looking forward to providing additional support and training in how calls are handled and information is collected through the hotline. I am eager to promote referral services and increased collaborative efforts with multiple organizations with the ability to effectively manage and provide support for callers to the statewide hotline. ~ Nhu-Minh
JEN: I am so excited for the opportunity to volunteer as a backup manager! I like knowing that I am a resource for both survivors who may call the hotline, as well as for the advocates who are volunteering their time for the hotline. I also feel like it’s a great way to continue my own education of this crime, and put my advocacy for social justice to work. I think the Hotline’s text-based support is a phenomenal addition to the Hotline’s services, and I think our hotline texting volume will eventually outweigh our call volume. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this movement in our state! ~ Jen
We are so grateful for Jen and Nhu-Minh! And to all of our amazing hotline advocates who displayed commitment to anti-trafficking in 2019. Here are a few of them that stopped by the photo booth at our Holiday Toast last week:
Thank you Alexi, Allyssa, Andrea, Britta, Brittany A., Brittany V, Catherine, Chad, Chadley Colleen, David, Desirree, Devyn, Emma, Marty, Gillian, Gina, Greg, Hiba, Holly, Jan, Janice, Jasmine, Jay, Jos, Josie, Julie, Kaitlin, Kate, Katrina, Kelly R., Kelly T., Kristen, Kristina, Lance, Lucy, Lyna, Nadiyah, Natalie, Nomi, Olivia, Sally, Sandra C., Sandra M, Sarah, Scott, Sharai, Yangmee, Madison, Amber, Nikki, Avril, Zarah, Staley and Jenica!
You continue to be a source of tremendous inspiration. We are amazed by your collective efforts in 2019. It will continue to be an honor to work alongside you next year!
Brittany Austin has been the Program Coordinator for the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking since June 2019. She helps oversee the Hotline and Resource Directory Program.