By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities
ATLANTA, May 28, 2013 — Building working relationships with other advocates and organizations is important in any field of advocacy, including anti-human trafficking. Listening to and learning from others increases personal growth and perspective. Several advocates and organizations have shared their ideas, efforts, and achievements. Readers are encouraged to reach out to interviewees in order to learn more about their philosophies, goals, and strategies.
This week’s featured advocate is Mary Frances Bowley, CEO and Founder of Wellspring Living in Atlanta, GA. Mary is a founding member of the Governor’s Task Force for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence in 2010. Recently, Mary has been asked to be a part of the White House Blue Campaign fighting the domestic issue of sex trafficking nationally.
Mary, what would you say is your personal mission statement?
To walk alongside survivors and those who care for survivors through a holistic, relationship-driven approach that meets each one’s individual needs.
How did you get involved with anti-human trafficking advocacy? Did your faith play a role?
I began to work alongside many women 12 years ago seeking a way to help desperate women. I didn’t realize at the time that the first girl we served was a trafficked victim. Our heart was to bring hope to the hopeless in a professional and personal way. Faith is a huge part of my life. The way we serve is out of our faith and belief that there is HOPE in the midst of this horrific issue. The way we serve is based on “sensitive faith.” In other words, we serve everyone; through actions of faith, with few words, and with the understanding that faith is a highly personal choice.
If you are a speaker, on what specific topics do you speak?
I love to share stories about the amazing women and girls we’ve served and challenge everyone to do what they can. That is the reason we wrote the book, The White Umbrella.
What sets you apart from other speakers on similar topics?
Personal experience and passion for the girls we have the opportunity to serve. They have been in my home. They are the most courageous young women I know.
Are you working on any current projects?
We recently released The White Umbrella, a book that shares a compassionate and informative case concerning sex trafficking. It is a treatise that emphasizes that these are just girls. This book shares the medical and emotional barriers as a result of trauma, and it challenges the reader to open his/her white umbrella. We are presently using the book as a platform to encourage and equip communities for deeper engagement.
Please share any recent speaking events, awards, accomplishments, or experiences.
I had the opportunity to speak in DC at the White Umbrella Community Roundtable and Night of Worship. We were also in Texas the week of May 12th. We visited Austin, Dallas, and Tyler to support our partners whom we have been mentoring in order to build residential capacity.
What has been your greatest achievement or most meaningful moment while advocating against human trafficking, sexual exploitation, or a related human rights violation?
Seeing young women and girls move toward living life as it was meant to be: having careers, getting married, having children, and influencing others.
What message about human trafficking or human rights do you most want to communicate to the public?
Every person should have the opportunity to grow up with the same opportunities that any other American child has.
How can the public help you with your plight?
Become a voice for the voiceless, do what you can with what you have where you are.
Have you published a book?
Yes, two. A League of Dangerous Women (Random House; Waterbrook/Multnomah 2007) chronicles the true stories of women who have found new lives after living through troubled ones.
The White Umbella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking was published in the fall of 2012. It is a compassionate, comprehensive narrative that shares ways for the community to come alongside survivors of sex trafficking on the road to recovery.
What do you want the public to know about your organization?
Wellspring Living creates an umbrella of comprehensive care for exploited girls and women to journey from hurting, through healing, towards thriving.
Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?
Wellspring Living desires to partner with groups across the U.S. to create comprehensive care for exploited girls and women.