05 Jul 2017 The Growth of a Collaboration
by Nola Theiss, Executive Director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships and member of the former Rauschenberg Grant 2015 and the Community Impact Grant 2017.
Our organization, Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, is always developing new programs to reach students, community professionals and community members to prevent human trafficking.
When we seek funding for our programs, the SWFL Community Foundation is the perfect place to look. They know the people and the funding to help our programs grow. The award of their grants is not just funding. The Foundation supports its partners through monthly trainings and attendance at conferences where we learn how to work and communicate better and together.
Perhaps the most important benefit is the connections formed among the other non-profit leaders in its group doing amazing work. That’s what happened when I met Ms. Annette Trossbach, Artistic Director of the Laboratory Theater when our agencies both won Rauschenberg Foundation grants. She was using theater to work with high school students grappling with their LBGTQ identities and HTAP was using visual art to help middle and high school students learn to prevent trafficking and to teach their peers.
A seed was planted. Months later, I was approached by a friend who knew the producer of an original play, “Body and Sold”. The producer asked if I were interested in producing the play in Florida. I said I knew the perfect person to work with – Ms Trossbach.
Annette and I discussed the possibilities. Soon we had a proposal to reach students in Lee County Middle and High Schools, using a 3-prong approach: classroom programs, assemblies and scenes from the play, followed by play readings in the schools. This led to us becoming members of this year’s Community Impact CEO group with the mutual goal of creatively reaching as many students as possible with information about human trafficking in the schools.
The schools were fertile ground for this information. The most targeted group of potential victims of sex trafficking in Florida is young American children between the ages of 11 and 14. Schools are the one place where children these ages gather.
The ground had already been plowed by the Florida Department of Education (www.fldoe.org) which encouraged schools to get involved in human trafficking prevention education in the schools. Schools have so much demand on their time that it isn’t easy for principals, teachers and parents to consider human trafficking a priority considering curriculum requirements, testing and all the other demands.
We called on the connections and experience we had acquired through our previous experience in the schools. Together we met with school district leaders, principals and in-school resource teachers and informed them of the availability of the programs. A number of schools responded and we have seen the fruit of our labors in these schools, but we want to reach more schools and more students.
Meanwhile, the play, “Body and Sold” which features professional actors and young actors from the schools was performed at the Laboratory Theater in May and is ready to be incorporated into the schools.
We hope that when school starts in the fall, there will be more classes scheduled and more students reached. Please let your child’s school know you support these programs and want your children to grow up knowing how to protect themselves from the plague of human trafficking.
Teamwork is essential in any important pursuit and we hope that principals, teachers, parents and students will recognize the need for these prevention programs and reach out to us at [email protected] or call 239-415-2635 for more information.
This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2017 competitive grant cycle. We have asked our 2017 grantees to send us their stories. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $106 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.