This month we are celebrating Love True turning 5! Love True has grown and blossomed so much since its inception. To celebrate, look back and forward, I asked our Found and Executive Director Rebekah Hayward and Associate Director Emily Rutt 5 questions about the last few years, what Love True has meant to them, and the future.
Can you sum up what the last 5 years have meant to you in 5 words?
R: Inspirational, Dedication, Persistence, Humility, and Astounding
E: Adventure, Challenge, Surprising, Growth, Humbling, and Rewarding (adding one for this coming year!)
What has surprised you about the work you have been doing?
R: I have been surprised at the amazing people we have the honor of working with, not only survivors but the youth in our prevention programs as well as the adults. The resiliency of individuals amaze me and it has been so surprising to hear stories, see perspectives and be challenged, leading me to continually learn by pursuing this work.
E: I've been surprised by many things over the years. But I think the thing that astounds me the most is how resilient survivors of sex trafficking are. They are truly the strongest individuals I have ever met and have helped me be a stronger woman myself! Here, I thought I was going to help them and I continually find that they are helping me grow into the woman I dreamed of being. It is always a beautiful exchange.
What do you consider to be some of the biggest milestones for Love True?
R: I would say a huge milestone for Love True was the first day we spoke in a public school, our curriculum and approach has changed since then, but seeing that goal accomplished was such a surreal moment. The need for education on this topic and the vital message of prevention is invaluable bringing that to hundreds of students throughout the course of a day was such an honor. The other major milestone I think of are all the little milestones that we get to celebrate in the lives of those we work with. One thing I have learned is that it is not always the "big" moments that need celebrating but often it is the gratitude for every small moment and victory that needs the most recognition.
E: Big milestones haven't always been the type of things we could write in a newsletter because they are usually very intimate, small happenings. Like when we sit with survivors and their families and offer them support as they begin to navigate the healing process, or continue their healing process. On the outside that may just look like our job but to me they are milestones in our journey. A milestone that comes to mind for our prevention program was when we spoke in a high school where a young girl had just been identified as a victim of sex trafficking. Educating her peers, knowing that this was truly happening within these walls opened our eyes to how real and personal this problem is.
The Love True team is a lot bigger than the visible staff, what do the volunteers and supporters mean to you?
R: Being that we have only 2 full time staff members our volunteers and supporters mean the world to us. I do not say that lightly, we have some volunteers that have given their time 20+ hours a week for years, we have supporters who give consistently and multiple individuals who have been supporters and volunteers all 5 years of our existence. We could not do this work without them, it takes so much to keep an organization going especially one with a mission like Love True. It is often not glamorous work and 99% of the time, those giving time and resources will never meet the very people we are working to help yet they still are a part of what we do. That is tremendous, just last week a woman came and volunteered her morning, she created educational packets, wrote cards, organized files and at the end I said “you just literally doubled the hours in the morning.” I was able to make necessary phone calls, confirm training's, work on organizational tasks all because she helped in that way. I also get the privilege of getting to know many of those involved in the organization which is so special and I never take the team around Love True for granted. Thank you volunteers and supporters together we are making lasting change.
E: I think Rebekah said it perfectly, we truly could not do the work we do without our volunteers and supporters. Love True has always been launched forward by the selfless work of volunteers. Thank you to all our dedicated volunteers, interns and supporters. You are the "boots on the ground" that move the mission forward.
Where would you like to see Love True in another 5 years?
R: I would love to see Love True thriving in Prevention Education and Restoration. Having a Prevention Education program that is in most public schools, creating curriculum that can be easily implemented into other programs, as well as seeing a drastic reduce in demand as a result of the Prevention Education programs that we have. A thriving restoration program that includes a residential restoration home as well as a survivor support program that offers off and on site counseling, and case management to best help survivors heal and survivor outside of a residential program.
E: In five years I would love to see the restoration home filled with young women who are on a journey of healing. And staff that are truly passionate and ready for the challenge that running the home will be. I would also like to see sex trafficking education available for all middle schools and high schools in the state of NJ. Big undertaking but one can dream! (This all started as a dream)