Buffalo Human Trafficking Restoration Home Expands With Opening of New FreeThem Center
Just last week the Erie County Legislature Chair April Baskin and a crowd of supporters gathered to witness humanitarian Kelly Galloway open The FreeTHEM Center at a ribbon cutting ceremony. The FreeTHEM Center is Buffalo's new drop-in center for human trafficking victims and at-risk women and girls. The organization, located in the Eight Days of Hope building at 852 Kensington Avenue, is the sister location to Buffalo's first human trafficking restoration home, Project Mona's House, founded by Galloway in 2017.
Through organizations like Project Mona's House, human trafficking victims from across the country receive shelter in Buffalo. The organization services women ages 18 and up through a 12 to 24-month program that includes holistic coaching, seminars, life skills training, and healthy family workshops. The program helps trafficking victims recover from their abuse and eventually become overcomers and functional members of society. Mayor Brown said, “Kelly Galloway is a humanitarian, committed to helping victims of human trafficking. Her work in the Buffalo community and abroad brings attention to this inhumane and criminal practice.
The new FreeTHEM Center will expand the reach of Project Mona’s House bringing resources to human trafficking victims and at-risk women and girls in Western New York." Human trafficking victims can be of any race, social class, or age; however, marginalized groups and people in impoverished communities are more at risk. Victims become modern-day slaves used for sex, labor, medical experiments, and organs.
The FreeTHEM Center provides preventative programs and resources for at-risk women and girls. It also assists victims through programming that helps them readjust to society as free individuals and reduce the likelihood of returning to a life of exploitation. Members have access to mental health and addiction counseling, group therapy, life skills classes, community-building activities, workforce training, and the Young Women's Empowerment Academy for girls ages 7 to 18. "Since 2019, I have secured $30,000 in the Erie County budget because I believe in Kelly Galloway and the mission of Project Mona’s House”, said Erie County Legislature Chair, April N.M. Baskin. “Human trafficking is often a silent problem that we must continue to shed light on if we are ever to fully eradicate slavery from existence. I am confident the FreeTHEM Center will continue the good work Kelly has done by empowering women and children through skill development, counseling, and addiction support services. Leaders like Kelly Galloway are our future, and I’m so proud to be in her corner.”
According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking globally generates $150 billion annually. A 2019 report by the State Department identifies the U.S. as one of the world's worst places for human trafficking. Since the global COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been an increase in human trafficking cases in the United States. Galloway says extreme measures to build awareness about human trafficking are necessary to help end it. “There is a war on human trafficking, and The FreeTHEM Center, along with Project Mona’s House, is committed to winning,” said Galloway. Through existing programs by Project Mona’s House, we offer webinars, meetings, and a film that we created to explain the seriousness of human trafficking in the United States.
Unfortunately, many people are still uninformed about what it is, how to identify traffickers, and where victims can get help. We believe we can see human trafficking eradicated in our lifetime. We know we can help prevent it by educating others. For that reason, The FreeTHEM Center’s first major act to raise awareness about human trafficking will be alongside Project Mona’s House in an extraordinary 902-mile journey called The FreeTHEM Walk.” The FreeTHEM Walk will begin on May 3 in Lynchburg, Virginia, and travel to Buffalo, NY. Since human trafficking is modern-day slavery, this journey will mimic the Underground Railroad route with stops in nine cities. Each visit will pay homage to the abolitionists that fought to end slavery generations ago.
The FreeTHEM Walk will travel to Richmond, Warrenton, Baltimore, Washington D.C, Philadelphia, NYC, Auburn, Rochester and end with a Juneteenth celebration in Buffalo on June 19. The organizations have collaborated with similar groups in those cities who will participate throughout this journey. Some will walk through cities and states, and some will walk a few miles. Galloway will walk the entire route.
For more information about The FreeTHEM Walk or the nine cities participants will visit, please go to www.thefreethemwalk.com and follow @ProJectMonaHouse on instagram
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