We’ve all see the billboards for anti-human trafficking, or a TV commercial here and there. But the idea of human trafficking is so far removed from most of our daily lives, that it’s hard to imagine that it even exists in this modern era.
Human trafficking is very real, however. It’s the reason that Kelly Diane Galloway has dedicated her life to rectifying the scourge that haunts her, not because she has been trafficked herself, but because she has met others who have been subjected to this ugly form of modern day slavery.
Kelly – a traveling missionary and founder of RAMP Global Missions – is the founder of Project Mona’s House, which is composed of an outreach department, meeting place, and residence. Project Mona’s House also has a drop-in center called the FreeTHEM Center.
But first, let’s start with Project Mona’s House. I felt that if I could find out the namesake of the organization, I would probably have a better understanding about the mission. It turns out that, years ago, Kelly was selected to move to Greece to work for The A21 Campaign, an anti-human trafficking organization that was co-founded by Christine Caine. That’s where she met Ramona (“Mona”), who hailed from the Dominican Republic. Kelly told me that in order to make a better life for herself and her family, Mona had applied for what she thought was a legitimate job in Turkey, for a one year time period. The objective was to earn $15,000, which she and her husband were going to use to start up a taxi company. Upon arriving to Turkey, with promises of legitimate work, she was told to go to work in a brothel, and when she refused she was beaten. Eventually, Mona made her way to Greece and to the refugee camp at A21. That’s where she and Kelly first met.
According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking globally generates $150 billion annually.
“It was her outlook on life that sobered me up,” said Kelly. “Even though I was working at A21, until I met Mona I didn’t realize how lucky my life was. Here was this woman who had been separated from her husband and three small children – a woman of faith – who told me that although she was suffering, she felt that her current position was nothing compared to her bright future.
“As I stared out of my room’s window, at Mt. Olympus, realized that I was still finding reasons to complain about my own life, when here was this woman who had suffered so much, yet had an incredible outlook towards her future, when she would be reunited with her family. For me, she is the embodiment of what hope looks like. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to open a center in Buffalo… and that’s why I named it after her.”
Project Mona’s House, built with support from celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, is dedicated to women and girls who have faced sexual exploitation and trafficking, forced slave labor, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, medical experimentation, child soldiery… all of the faces of modern day slavery.
The Center is a safe place for the women and girls – not only for those who have been victimized, but also for those who are susceptible to being victimized (statistically from low income neighborhoods, refugees, foster children, runaways, black and brown, LGBTQ+, etc.)
Kelly told me that one of the keys of the Center is to “… spot it, to stop it. We didn’t want everything to be reactive. What would happen if we took a more proactive approach? The goal is to do such a good job that one day there will not be a need for the Center… to actually work our way out of a job.”
The FreeThem Center is the sister-location to Buffalo’s only human trafficking restoration home, Project Mona’s House.
At the Center, an objective is to build up the women and girls’ esteem. To restore their dignity, to coach them, to education them, to mentor them, to show them the possibilities, to help them get jobs, to provide mental health and addiction counseling, to make them physically and emotionally stronger… to keep them away from dangerous situations that will lead them down the wrong paths, and into the wrong hands. At the Center, the women and girls learn about teamwork, and are taught entrepreneurial skills. They are also taken on field trips, to open their eyes to unfamiliar worlds that are within reach.
“We want them to get to know us, and make friends,” Kelly told me. “Then we encourage them to take advantage of the programs that are offered at the Center. We partner with Community Centers, and work with foster care workers. The more that we can spend time with the women and girls, the better chance we have of saving them.”
Project Mona’s House and FreeTHEM Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
On Thursday, March 4, at 1:30 pm, Kelly and her team will be hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony to announce the grand opening of The FreeTHEM Center.
Location: Outside of the Center, 852 Kensington Avenue (the Center is found on the first floor of the Eight Days of Hope building