Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amirah's Journey: Past, Present & Future

In my recent interview with Bob Atherton, Amirah’s Director of Operations, we talked about how Amirah was formed. Take a moment to look back at how it all began. It's been quite a journey thus far...

2008: A journey begins
In 2008, Anita Coco, now Co-State Director of Not For Sale Massachusetts, shared with Bob the recording of a presentation on human trafficking by David Batstone.  Bob says he was “baffled as to why this issue wasn’t being talked about” in the mainstream. Like so many of us, he’d never heard of human trafficking  - only drugs or arms trafficking.  Wanting to learn more, Bob, Anita and several others did a group study of Batstone’s book, also called Not For Sale

After going through the book, Bob, Anita, and some others from the group study wanted to take action.  They began hosting informational events “for anyone who would listen” – groups ranging from a handful of teens in a living room to larger crowds in auditoriums. Through additional research and talking with experts (Polaris Project, the FBI, local law enforcement, and others), the group discovered there was significant action in the areas of legislation, awareness, and intervention, “but the gaping hole was aftercare.”

In November 2008, as Bob was preparing for an informational event, he felt compelled to introduce the idea of establishing a safe home in the Boston area to see if anyone in attendance would be interested in exploring this further with him.  From this event, a discussion group emerged. This group had the desire to “be a part of something bigger than themselves” in order to address the needs of human trafficking survivors in Boston.

2009: Amirah is formed 
The big watershed moment came in June 2009 at a day-long retreat where everything the group had learned and discussed over the previous 7 months was plastered on sticky notes all over a conference room.  Amirah’s mission and vision emerged: the establishment of its first long-term residential safe home for whole-person aftercare that would enable women trafficking survivors to be healed, restored, and reintegrated into society as productive, empowered individuals. With that, Amirah was born.  Over the next several months, the group established their board and chose the name Amirah meaning "princess, daughter of the king" (Arabic) & "female leader" (Persian)."  In October 2009, Amirah became officially incorporated.

2010-2011: Steady progress
In 2010, Amirah focused on building networks, taking the first steps of fundraising, as well as further developing the organization's vision and program. 2011 was a year of significant growth and milestones: Arwyn Jackson was hired as Amirah’s first employee, and Amirah received its official 501(c)(3) non-profit certification.  Bob also points to their presence at SoulFest 2011 as another unexpected watershed moment that put Amirah’s name on the map for many around New England. Throughout 2011, Amirah strengthened and expanded its partnerships, held its first major fundraising event, and achieved major progress in the development of a whole-person aftercare program plan. For more highlights of how Amirah has grown recently, see Emily's post: In Just One Year

2012: Amirah is poised to carry out its mission
As of June 2012, Amirah now has an expanded staff, effective program plan, safe house location, and well-established partnerships with law enforcement and various service providers.  Amirah stands ready to begin the mission of providing whole-person aftercare for women survivors of modern-day slavery.

I am eager to write the next line in this history: ”Amirah opened the doors to its first safe home on (insert date here).”  
We are so close to making that date a reality. Help us open the doors with your donation today and journey with us.
Over the next few years Amirah's history will undoubtedly become even richer with survivors’ stories of healing, restoration and empowerment. 
Stay tuned...the best is yet to come!

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