Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative (NOVA-HTI) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to eradicate human trafficking locally through awareness, prayer, partnerships, intervention, and victim services.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing organized crime activity in the United States, making almost $32 billion a year for traffickers, while destroying the lives of tens of thousands of innocent children. This crime happens in all 50 states, including Virginia. In fact, in 2015, Virginia is 1 of 10 states that make the MOST calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. Most of these calls are made from Northern Virginia (source: humantraffickinghotline.org).
We had the honor to do a written interview with Anna Hansen, the Director of Operations of NOVA-HTI and asked her to share about their work to fight human trafficking :
Q: Could you tell us what sparked the birth of NOVA-HTI?
A: In 2010, our congressional representative, Frank Wolf, asked the local faith community to be involved in the fight against human trafficking in Northern Virginia. The Pastors Consortium, a local group of church leaders, heeded this call by forming a team called the Loudoun Human Trafficking Task Force.
The Task Force decided the best way to fight trafficking was to serve those already in the fight, such as government agencies, non-profits, and service providers, by funneling community members and resources to them and by creating awareness within the community.
At the beginning of 2013, we re-branded ourselves as the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative (NOVA-HTI), officially becoming a 501(c)3 organization, and in 2014, we revised our mission statement to clarify our role in fighting human trafficking and caring for victims.
Q: What are the ways in which NOVA-HTI is fighting sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Northern Virginia and in the U.S.?
A: To network, serve, pray, and create awareness to mobilize the local Church and community to make a difference in its own neighborhoods and ultimately, eradicate human trafficking in Northern Virginia. NOVA-HTI stands on the front lines of human trafficking by connecting with the public, law enforcement, service providers, and volunteers to identify those being trafficked and provide intervention, crisis response and aftercare services.
Our Intervention Team builds relationships with domestic victims as they are being trafficked. These relationships allow them to begin to trust again and assist them on their long journey to freedom and healing.
We provide important crisis response the first 48 hours after victims are recovered. If they choose to continue with our trauma-informed case management, we provide a full assessment of needs and begin to build a strong support structure that will help them successfully reintegrate into society.
Q: Could you share with us the critical function of your Drop-In Center?
A: The NOVA-HTI Drop-In Center is a refuge for victims of human trafficking to find support, encouragement, and access to resources throughout their journey. During operating hours, survivors and clients will be able to meet with our Case Manager for referrals and application assistance, as well as attend educational classes and activities. One of the main components of the Drop-In Center is mentoring. We have volunteer mentors join our clients during activities, outings, and classes to build relationships and help restore a sense of community.
Q: From your experience in the life of NOVA-HTI, what would you say is the toughest challenge in the process of helping and caring for trafficking survivors?
A: One of the toughest challenges in the process of helping and caring for trafficking survivors is housing. We are able to provide a wide variety of services through our Drop-In Center, but the most needed and the most unavailable service is affordable housing, or housing programs. That is why NOVA-HTI is moving in the direction of providing housing as an organization in the coming year.
Q: What advice would you give for someone who wanted to really make a difference? How can the every day person help you in what you are doing?
A: A NOVA-HTI Ambassador is someone who carries the cause of eradicating human trafficking into communities through awareness and prayer and partners with NOVA-HTI financially with a minimum $30 monthly to help NOVA-HTI in its mission to eradicate trafficking and restore those impacted by it. NOVA-HTI will provide an Ambassador Tool Kit containing everything you need to start the conversation about human trafficking in your community. We’ve created a private Ambassador Facebook page where we’ll keep you informed about local trafficking cases and you will have a forum to share ideas with other Ambassadors. We’ll also provide a few perks available only to our Ambassadors!
You can also support NOVA-HTI by purchasing our shirts and products, while sharing the word about the wonderful work this organization is doing in the fight against human trafficking. 10% of all our sales until MAY 25 will be donated to NOVA-HTI. CLICK HERE TO SHOP