Sex Trafficking in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia, a province known for caring people and communities, is not immune from the recruitment and trafficking of sex workers. Sex trafficking is modern day slavery and IMG_7699it affects the youth of our neighbourhoods. Young women are targeted at school or at popular hangouts. They are groomed in Halifax by young men acting as boyfriends; then the girls are taken from their homes and moved throughout the country. We often think that trafficking is something that only happens overseas, but two years ago, a meeting was held by a group of concerned Christians who had learned that this practice had been occurring in Nova Scotia. At this meeting, volunteers signed up for three teams: research, proposal and prayer. The teams worked hard to explore a faith based response to sex trafficking in the Maritimes. As a result of these volunteer efforts, in 2016 Open Door Centre launched a new initiative called Helping Exploited Youth. (HEY) HEY uses a three-prong strategy: Prevention, Protection and Partnership.

1. Prevention: this involves working in the community, visiting schools and churches and educating them on the early signs of trafficking.

2. Protection: victims of sex trafficking can come directly to the centre, have a safe place to meet and, if needed, access safe houses.

3. Partnership: HEY works with community groups and establishes relationships with churches and non-faith-based organizations.

Volunteers at HEY do many different tasks, from counselling, financial advising, social work, stuffing newsletters or stocking shelves at the client boutique. Currently HEY is in need of volunteer receptionists.

If you are interested in volunteering with HEY, step one is to visit Open Door Centre, located at 5991 Spring Garden Rd #630, and pick up an application! It is not necessary to commit to a specific amount of time, and people from all walks of life or beliefs are welcome!

Opening Arms in the North End

Uniacke Square, located in Halifax’s North End, is a tight-knit community made up largely of women and young people. The neighbourhood is known as a low-income area, with unemployment hovering at 60%. The need for community outreach was seen by the Salvation Army and the Open Arms Centre was established to assist the women and children of the Uniacke community. IMG_1430

The Open Arms Centre currently facilitates women’s programs ranging from Bible studies to sewing classes, budgeting and other life skills programs. It also caters to children through summer and March break camps, and a drop-in after school program.

Deep Water Summer Student Shawna McKay has been working with the organization through the afterschool program. She describes it as a place that “allows kids to be kids even for a small portion of their day.” Kids in the program play games, act creatively, receive healthy snacks and have access to homework help.

Shawna also lends her support by helping out the Open Arms staff at the Gottingen Street Food bank. Also run by the Salvation Army, this food bank provides much-needed supplies to residents, including those in Uniacke Square.

The Open Arms Centre is currently seeking dedicated helpers. “The biggest rule,” Shawna says, “is that it’s about participation; it’s a hands-on organisation.” If you enjoy working with women or kids and are sensing a call to help, contact Shawna at Shawna@deepwaterchurch.com.