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IJM Cebu’s Mentorship Program Empowers Survivors to Help Other Victims Heal

IJM social workers provide many kinds of services and support to survivors of sex trafficking:

•In the weeks following a rescue operation, we work with the government’s social services to ensure the victim can return safely to their family, or, if home is not a safe option, to settle into a long-term aftercare shelter.
•Healing will take time and expert care. Each survivor is assigned an IJM social worker who will create a specialized treatment plan that helps the survivor map a path to a healthy future—physically, emotionally, psychologically.
•In addition to those regular meetings, survivors may return to school, take classes at the shelter, or enroll in a vocational training program. Many of the shelters have group therapy, and IJM social workers also provide training to the house parents and shelter workers.

In Cebu, IJM has a unique mentorship program for survivors who want to use their own story of restoration to help other girls move through a painful past and make their dreams real.
The young women in this group have spent time—often several years—working through their own past and processing the trauma they endured. Ten IJM clients are currently in the group. They make a commitment to attend regular meetings with an IJM social worker, and volunteer to help victims of sex trafficking.

Their last meeting was on February 29—leap day. After sharing a meal together at a favourite local spot, they got down to business. The survivors decided they are going to host a fun activity at an upcoming group meeting for survivors of trafficking who attend a support group in a local community. (The Reintegration Support Network is a community-based initiative that IJM has helped a few different local government groups start. The network gives trafficking survivors that have moved home a safe meeting place to keep processing through trauma, participate in games and activities, and feel supported by other survivors living nearby.)

Even though many of the survivors in the mentorship program are in college and/or working full-time jobs, they are also going to resume tutoring IJM clients this semester. This is a practical way they can build relationships and start to assume a mentor role in the lives of younger survivors of trafficking who are still in the early stages of their freedom journey.

Holiday, the IJM social worker who leads the mentorship program and has worked with IJM since 2008, said she was especially encouraged to see the group of survivors initiate much of the discussion and brainstorm ideas during the February meeting. She said the girls were incredibly supportive of one another, giving each other turns to speak and share ways they can help clients.

Holiday has walked with many of these young women since they were rescued during undercover operations on street corners and abusive bars. Many of these same girls were once afraid, angry, confused and resistant to help. Now they are eager to help other girls understand what freedom means. Holiday adds, "They’ve only grown more lively and ready to engage, each really starting to come into their own as leaders, and not afraid to speak up and share.”

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