Tucked away in a non-descript store front, without sign or adornment, is a haven offering hope for a new life to young women and girls trying to escape commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), prostitution, and sex trafficking.
Project Genesis provides “needed services to survivors of CSE and sex trafficking in a three-phase approach including immediate shelter, education, job skills training, and long-term safe houses. Ultimately, this love, support, and care will draw women toward a future of hope,” says the organization’s website.
It’s one of a number of non-profit organizations supported by the Emilie Gamelin Mission Fund. The Fund was first established by the St. Ignatius Province. Sacred Heart Province had an alms fund but had not designated a name for it. When the two Provinces created the Mother Joseph Province, they combined their efforts and selected the new name.
The fund is a vehicle for distributing money for charity and social justice, and specifically makes contributions to organizations and causes that help the poor, work for social justice, and move the world toward peace. The funding comes from the Sisters of Providence but others are encouraged to make contributions as well.
The Genesis Project first came to the attention of the Fund through Elinor Alexander, Provincial Secretary and part of the Province’s Leadership Team.
“A friend introduced me to the organization because she knew I was passionate about such causes,” explains Elinor. “After visiting, I was so impressed by how they serve the women who come to them.”
Sponsored almost exclusively by private donations (e.g. the Mission Fund and small fund raisers), the Genesis Project “serves without preaching and provides whatever the survivor needs.”
Elinor started volunteering in small ways as she got to know the organization, eventually, presenting a workshop on empowerment.
The work of the Genesis Project so impressed the Leadership Team that they established a fund specifically for providing baby showers to women who are expecting. Some women say they have never witnessed such caring and compassion as they have when their motherhood is celebrated with a baby shower.
Behind the non-descript storefront are a wealth of services in a busy, but neat-looking space that maximizes every square foot for service of some kind. Women can train to be a barista, a solid entry-level job in the coffee-addicted northwest. Staff is now setting up a cosmetology training area to provide another means to employment. In other rooms are clothing, food, and basic supplies. And, in this age of video everything, a small studio-like space is available for recording and hosting monthly training programs.
In addition, the project provides counseling, substance abuse support, job and life skills classes, paid internship opportunities, transportation to medical appointments and court, free legal counsel, and access to educational programs such as GED completion. But the most important aspect of the drop-in center is the safety it provides for women caught in trafficking.