The 2011 DC Twestival benefits FAIR Fund, an organization committed to ending the sexual exploitation and trafficking of youth, both domestically and abroad. FAIR Fund Founder and Executive Director, Andrea Powell, took time to answer a few questions for the DC Twestival blog.
How did you get involved with FAIR Fund?
During my time studying in Germany, I began working at a domestic violence shelter where I met a teen woman who had been debt payment from her parents to a man three times her age. We quickly became close friends. Shortly after telling me she planned to try to leave her husband, she disappeared. Her disappearance deeply affected me and inspired me to found FAIR Fund in her honor. No girl deserves to be sold like a commodity or just forgotten by those around her. I don’t want to be in a world like that at all. I believe every girl has the right to be empowered, safe, and to lead a life she chooses to lead.
FAIR Fund works to keep girls and boys safe from all forms of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. I know that our work gives the young girls and boys we educate and assist the safety net and tools that they need to make healthy choices and get help if someone is threatening them. We also work to restore the lives of those girls and boys who are at high risk or have been trafficked – here in Washington, D.C. and in our global programs.
What is your opinion of governmental (both Federal and DC) response to human trafficking?
The United States is at the forefront of combating human trafficking. Under the leadership of Senator Wellstone and then President Bill Clinton, the U.S. developed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person’s assertively works with countries worldwide to establish and monitor prevention, prosecution, and protection efforts. However, where the U.S. efforts have lagged is in state-by-state legislation.
The District of Columbia has been one of the last states (or district, if you will) to pass its own comprehensive legislation to combat human trafficking. Of course, there have been laws to address kidnapping, sexual assault, pandering and other associated crimes. However, it was important to have a comprehensive bill that would ensure that all forms of trafficking were punished. Currently, FAIR Fund acts as co-chair of the D.C. Anti Trafficking Task Force’s training committee where we and our partners will train local DC police, social workers, and many others who could help us identify a victim of trafficking here in D.C. This is critical because laws are only effective if we can identify and assist victims. In FAIR Fund’s experience, the majority of the child victims we have assisted here in the D.C. area were identified by every day citizens: students, teachers, nurses, taxi drivers, etc. What we need now are comprehensive funds to enable groups like FAIR Fund to deliver long-term services and offer therapeutic housing and care to child victims.
Right now, there are not enough beds for child victims of trafficking in D.C. or nationally. Furthermore, there are no federal dollars allocated toward domestic victims and local and city governments are not allocating funds toward victims. We receive almost no funding to assist an American girl who has been sold and sexually exploited. Any girl – whether she is from Anacostia or Albania – who has more than likely been raped by hundreds of men who bought her hour after hour, needs truly comprehensive care. FAIR Fund (and our partners) often has to cover these costs on our own and while we will do everything we can, this is not sustainable. We need our local, state, and federal governments to become part of our network of support for these children. It is their obligation toward these children.
How did you feel when you heard that FAIR Fund would be the beneficiary of the 2011 DC Twestival?
FAIR Fund was so honored, and I was really excited. DC Twestival is, in my opinion, on the cutting age of new social philanthropy. By bringing social media organizing and passionate people together, DC Twestival is building a wave of new energy for local nonprofits like FAIR Fund who truly need the support – both in terms of funding and volunteers. I am confident that those who hear about and support FAIR Fund through DC Twestival will also become part of our community who cares about keeping DC kids safe from human trafficking.
Many of the DC Twestival participants may not have heard about human trafficking before. They certainly might not have known that right here in D.C., American girls are being sold and raped hour after hour in hotel rooms and apartments all across this city. As horrible as that is, DC Twestival is helping FAIR Fund get out the word that they can help us be a part of the solution by ensuring we can educate 1000 DC teens this year --- that is a 1000 young girls and boys who will be safer from exploitation. How could we not be excited about this? We so appreciate the support -- both in building our community and through the financial contributions. Thank you!
What would you like for people to know about FAIR Fund and/or any of the issues that it supports?
FAIR Fund was founded with the vision of creating communities where girls are empowered and safe from all forms of human trafficking. We are a small staff with a budget that is made up in large part through in-kind donations of volunteer time and space. We all work as hard as we can to ensure that the 200+ girls who are assisted in our compassionate care program receive the knowledge and social support that they need to stay safe or rebuild their lives after trafficking. We go deep into the communities’ schools, foster group homes, and youth centers to educate teens about how they can keep themselves and their friends safe from trafficking.
How can people get involved/help FAIR Fund achieve its mission?
We absolutely need the communities' support in so many ways—helping us with day to day things like filing, helping us with grant writing, and so much more. We also truly thrive from the financial support of our community partners and individuals. You can learn more about how to give your time and make donations at www.fairfund.org or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be so happy and grateful to hear from you.
About Andrea Powell:
Andrea Powell received her MA in European Union Law and Economics at the University of Bonn, Germany and her BAIS from Texas State University in International Relations and Geography. She provides expert testimony in support of trafficking and sexual violence victims in the United States and has developed and delivered trainings in anti trafficking for law enforcement officers, educators, social workers.
In 2006, Ms. Powell was a contributing writer to the San Francisco International Women Museum's "Imagining Ourselves" book and traveling exhibit project. In 2009, Ms. Powell was a co-investigator to a Department of Justice funded study of the pathways American girls and boys take into and out of commercial sexual exploitation.
Prior to co-founding FAIR Fund, Ms. Powell worked for the World Cancer Research Fund, the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies at Radcliffe College at Harvard University, Pathfinder International, Greenpeace Germany, and the EcoLogic Development Fund. Ms. Powell recently received the Texas State Alumni Association's Walter Richter Humanitarian Award for her work in promoting human rights.