A member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, Araminta Freedom Initiative (aramintafreedom.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to awakening, equipping, and mobilizing the Church and our community to dismantle child sex trafficking in the Baltimore region.
139Made interviewed Alicia McDowell, Executive Director of Araminta, to know more about the work of the wonderful work they are doing.
Q: The name Araminta is so unique. Could you tell us the meaning behind it?
A: Araminta was Harriet Tubman’s given name when she was a child slave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Araminta means defender and we believe we are to be defenders of those who experience the injustice of modern day slavery in Maryland.
The founders of the organization felt compelled to name the organization after someone who had experienced oppression but overcame the oppression to bring hope. In our work, we desire to honor her abolitionist legacy.
Q: Araminta was launched in 2012. What sparked the birth of this organization?
A: In October of 2010, the eight founders of Araminta gathered with one thing in common – a shared desire to see the trafficking of children in Baltimore cease. Driven by our faith in God’s heart for justice and human dignity, we set out on a journey to discover how to move from simply being aware to action. The founders spent the next 16 months discerning through prayer, research and collaboration with local partners how to create an organization moves the Church and community to stand against the trafficking of children in Baltimore. We wanted to give people with a passion to act a way to do so. Out of this time can the vision, mission, and strategic model that is Araminta.
Q: What are the ways in which Araminta is combatting human trafficking in Baltimore/Maryland?
A: Araminta’s mission is to awaken, equip and mobilize the Church and community in Maryland to end human trafficking through education, prevention strategies, and restorative survivor services.
First, we awaken people to the reality of child trafficking and that the victims are children right here in Maryland. We do this through presentations to churches and community groups. Araminta has also written a bible study, Awaken, to help small groups understand the issue.
Once we awaken, we then equip people to volunteer through our certified volunteer training course. Since 2012, we have trained over 400 people through this course. Volunteers are then mobilized to engage through our education, prevention strategies, and restorative survivor services.
Through our prevention and intervention education programs, we educate adults and youth to understand how someone can become a victim of trafficking, how to identify the signs of potential trafficking and how to respond.
These education programs are available to churches, community groups, and professionals who work with children and youth. Araminta also has a partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education to implement training and reporting protocols for child trafficking throughout Maryland schools.
Araminta’s restorative survivor services surround children, teens, and young women, who experienced child trafficking, to heal in community. As a member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force Victim Services Committee, Araminta partners with law enforcement, child protective services, juvenile services and other community agencies to be connected to the needs of identified victims. Our mentoring program pairs survivors and highly-at risk teens with a trained volunteer mentor to help them meet their restoration goals.
Additionally, Araminta has been a part of a nationwide pilot to tailor the Open Table model to serve survivors of human trafficking. In 2017, we are expanding our office space to open a drop-in center where survivors can receive life-skills classes, volunteer advocacy, peer-groups and activities. This space will be a place where the power of community will be central. Furthermore, Araminta is actively seeking to open the first specialized home in Maryland to house minor victims of trafficking.
Q: Based on your experience with Araminta, what would you say is the toughest challenge in this fight against human trafficking?
A: The toughest challenge is the lack of awareness that human trafficking is a local problem. People are still largely unaware that human trafficking is happening in the U.S. and that it is mainly affecting domestic children. Because of this lack of awareness, the resources to serve survivors and implement prevention strategies do not meet the current need. But we are hopeful that this is changing!
Q: How can the every day person support Araminta in fighting human trafficking? What advice would you give for someone who wanted to really make a difference?
A: First, you can pray. Only through God is the abolition of this modern slavery possible. You can download a prayer guide on Araminta’s website to help direct prayers.
Second, make those around you in your circles of influence know that human trafficking is indeed happening right here. If you are in Maryland, you can request Araminta for an awareness presentation with your church, school, or community group.
Third, move to action. That could mean supporting a trafficking organization through your financial gifts or volunteering with an anti-trafficking organization. If you are in Maryland, please visit our website for more information about our next volunteer training course!
Finally, do not believe the lie that just because you are not a professional working in law enforcement or social services that you cannot have an impact or do not have anything to offer. You have gifts and abilities that absolutely can be used to end this injustice. It’s only through God’s people moving through His heart for justice that we will see an end to modern day slavery. We have seen it happen throughout history and believe it will happen again.
Micah 6:8 — He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Another way to support them is to purchase our shirts and spread the word about Araminta Freedom Initiative and human trafficking issues. 10% of our sales until MAY 17 will be donated to Araminta Freedom Initiative. CLICK HERE TO SHOP