By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities
LOS ANGELES, August 31, 2013 — Two Wings is a nonprofit organization located in downtown Los Angeles that aims to serve the greater Southern California region. Their mission is to use education, mentoring, and life coaching to empower at-risk youth and young women survivors of sex trafficking transitioning out of shelter services. In the following interview; CEO Elena Bondar shares more information about Two Wings. Elena Bondar, MBA, founded Two Wings in late 2011.
Holly Smith: Elena, what inspired the creation of Two Wings?
Elena Bondar: After doing thorough research, we noticed that most shelters had similar needs. There was often a lack of assistance with transitioning clients to independence. We are here to bridge the gap between life in a shelter and independent living. It is important that these women find stability and can rely on people other than the harmful personalities they have been exposed to in their past. Our mentors form valuable relationships with our clients to build them up to a point where they can feel self-sufficient.
We have two client-centered programs: educational workshops & life coaching. The workshops are available to everyone in the shelter and focus on building survivors’ knowledge, confidence, and skills related to independent living, career development, and educational advancement. Our life coaching program is designated for survivors who are further along in their recovery and are ready to consider a transition into a career or higher education.
Over the past 1.5 years, we have been able to gain strategic partnerships with shelters to provide services for their clients; and we have had three life coaching clients so far. All three are currently in the process of selecting their internships and awaiting their career mentor.
Holly Smith: How are clients referred for the life coaching services?
Elena Bondar: Clients are identified by shelter directors as someone who has resided there for more than 6 months and is regularly seeing a mental health professional. Once the client has gone through an assessment process with Two Wings, we partner them with a life coach who will work with the client for an entire year. During this process, the coach is there to guide and help the client identify a dream career or education they would like to pursue. When a desired career is identified, the client is then partnered with a career mentor for 3 months in that field. We partner with local businesses in order to ensure our clients will receive interviews and job placement opportunities.
Our mentors offer tremendous support for clients through their transition into employment and independent living. They strive to develop ongoing relationships with the women as they continue on their journey to a new life.
Holly Smith: Is your organization currently working on any project(s)?
Elena Bondar: We are excited to move into the next phase of our vision – prevention of sex trafficking victimization. We are currently in the process of partnering with local prevention agencies to reach minors at high risk for trafficking along with minors who are at risk to be re-trafficked.
Holly Smith: Are you also involved with advocacy?
Elena Bondar: Our organization works to raise awareness in our communities; we speak at religious centers, universities, and companies. We also recruit new team members, interns, and volunteers on an ongoing basis. As part of our training, we educate new members on the multifaceted complexities involved with recovery from sex trafficking. Not only do we prepare them to function in their role with Two Wings, but we also prepare them to raise awareness about sex trafficking within their own social systems.
Our Family Dinners are also an excellent example of how we develop a personable and inviting environment to educate those who are unaware and to discuss this sensitive issue. Social media is another outlet used to spread our message. Aside from our website, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Holly Smith: What has been the greatest achievement or most meaningful recognition or experience for your organization?
Elena Bondar: Our greatest achievement so far has been watching our life coaching clients transition from being a person who had a desire for independence but felt lost and uncertain of how to attain it, to someone who is confident and ready to pursue the career of their choice!
Holly Smith: Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?
Elena Bondar: Our goal is to provide services nationally and eventually internationally. It would be great to not only expand our services to shelters outside of Los Angeles but further begin programs that will help in terminating the issue altogether.
Holly Smith: What do you want the public to know about your organization?
Elena Bondar: Our focus at Two Wings is engaging the community in every area of our clients’ journey. We encourage artisans, business professionals, and community members to use their skills and talents to inspire our clients to pursue a new future. We work to show that everyone can inspire change in a variety of ways and that, with the help of our community, we can accomplish anything.
We are always looking for volunteers for our various programs, from educational workshop facilitators to life coaches. We have a variety of opportunities for every profession and background and encourage anyone interested to see our website at: withtwowings.org/get-involved
Holly Smith: Is there anything else you would like to add, Elena?
Elena Bondar: Our website is up and flourishing with new posts related to advocacy every week from our very own writers from Two Wings. We like to discuss topics where our readers can learn more about the issue and learn to relate to these women in a new light. We hope to hear from your readers as well. If we fight together, sex trafficking doesn’t stand a chance.
For more information or to reach Two Wings, please visit their website at www.WithTwoWings.org or email them at Info@WithTwoWings.org.