On Thursday, October 5, Westin Hotel hosted a dinner to support one of the most urgent matters in our city.
The large hotel ballroom bordered with floor-to-ceiling windows was filled with guest in formal attire — women in dresses and high heels and men with colourful pocket-squares and bow-ties. In groups of ten or so, pastors, church-goers, and business representatives sat and mingled around white cloth-covered tables. A silent auction was set up at the back of room for guests to participate in before the dinner began. Volunteers were stationed around the room holding large bunches of gold balloons: single balloons could be bought for $20, with two balloons containing the grand prize of either a pair of diamond earrings or a diamond necklace valued at $1000.
This was the 3rd annual Door of Hope Dinner, organized to raise funding to support the work of the Open Door Centre in Halifax. Heather Harman, the executive director of the centre, walked onstage in a long black dress and welcomed guests with a warm smile. She acknowledged that the topic of the night may be uncomfortable — guests would be served a delicious three course dinner while also being educated on the centre’s work in trying to eliminate sex trafficking and helping young people make critical decisions around pregnancy and abortions. Harman’s speech was gentle but powerful. Guests heard personal stories of women who have found help, hope and healing through the programs the centre offers.
“It is so easy to imagine that sex trafficking only happens in places so far away from our homes and that perhaps, it is not our problem,” reads the Open Door Centre’s website, “Yet, the vice is a growing criminal industry in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimates the number of sex trafficking victims to be in the thousands and that 90% of these thousands are Canadians. This is proof that sex trafficking is indeed our problem. It is happening in our backyard. From our interactions with different professionals who have worked in the area of sex trafficking over the years, we learnt that Nova Scotia is a recruitment hub.”
The division of the Open Door Centre that focuses on sex trafficking, entitled HEY (Helping Exploited Youth), is a ministry that Deep Water supports financially through it's ReachOut program. HEY was excited to announce that their Prevention strategy is well underway. Their focus for this coming Fall will be to educate teens about how human trafficking happens here in Halifax.
Earlier this year HEY gave presentations to guidance counsellors across the HRM, which helped to build connections and trust between Open Door Centre and local schools. The centre has now met with every junior high in the HRSB to discuss the possibility of making presentations to students throughout the school year. The presentations are free and include information about what sex trafficking is and how it works, Canadian laws about sex workers and trafficking, how to recognize the signs if someone is being recruited, and how students can help stop local exploitation.
“18 schools have expressed interest in our presentations so far and as of now we have 7 booked,” says Heather. “Some schools are already asking us to come back and make a presentation each year.” Most schools are requesting presentations for their Grade 6 students.
So what can we, the members of Deep Water Church, do to support the volunteers and staff at the Open Door Centre? They have asked for us to focus our prayers in these 3 areas:
- That HEY would be equipped to carry out it's mandate — preventing teens who would have otherwise been trafficked from being exploited.
- That the volunteers who are giving school presentations would have the wisdom, courage, and passion to engage these youth in an impactful way.
- That any exploited youth would see the presentation and come to the centre for help.
Thanks for joining with us in supporting the life-changing work that is happening in our city!