Maria (17 Years Old)
Maria was a 17-year-old high school student who came from an upper middle-class home. She was active in sports and other after-school activities, as well as holding down a part-time job to help her learn good work ethic, according to her parents. Maria also suffered from low self-esteem and desperately wanted a boyfriend. One day a young man, five years her senior, approached her while she was working. This person expressed interest in Maria and over the course of several weeks courted her into thinking that they were in a loving, caring relationship. Then one day, he approached her with a financial emergency, crafted to coerce Maria into a life of sexual exploitation predicated on the lie that it was all in the ‘name of love.’ Luckily, the next day Maria went to school and participated in the program implemented by our Foundation. Because of the program, Maria was able to recognize what was happening and was empowered to seek help. She went home and had a conversation with her mother. This program saved Maria from being exploited, empowering her to report to law enforcement, and her would-be trafficker was arrested and found guilty of sex trafficking.
Maria’s is but one example of many documented successes resulting from of our work. Despite these successes, much work remains. We have a vision with a set of supporting goals and outcomes to achieve over the next five years, described in this strategic plan. This vision is driven by Mr. Woolf, a former law enforcement officer with over 15 years of experience protecting communities from predators like human traffickers. Prior to launching the Project, he was responsible for starting the first Human Trafficking Unit within his department and co-directing a federally funded regional human trafficking task force. He is recognized as an international expert on all issues relating to human trafficking and most recently was awarded the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, among many other awards and recognitions. As a father of six, he has a personal and professional drive to end human trafficking worldwide. His passion and expertise continue to inform the direction of our work and ensure our programming is relevant and effective.