This past year, local non-profit Hope Refuge opened its doors to its first group of child survivors of sexual exploitation.
The new residents, girls between the ages of twelve to seventeen, participate in Hope Refuge’s licensed Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program. For six or more months, they have resources and space to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced—all while tucked away on 214 acres in the beautiful rolling hills of Santa Barbara! One of the largest facilities of its kind, Hope Refuge offers this program for up to 24 child survivors of sex trafficking, a much needed resource in cities across the United States. While there are likely 300,000+ trafficked children in the United States, there are not many facilities dedicated to the needs of children who have been sexually exploited (in 2013, one study found there were only 511 beds nationally).
Human trafficking, and especially the sexual exploitation of children, has been an issue close to the hearts of many Zia Group team members for a long time. “As soon as I heard that this was a Santa Barbara problem, my heart and hands had to get involved. This has been a focus of my charitable giving for years internationally—how could I not have known in my twenty years in this city that it was happening in my own community?” says Realtor Partner Kimberly Rockwell. And so, the Zia Group has gotten involved! For the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work alongside this organization as they approached their goal of opening a residential program.
In February this year, we had a special and unique opportunity to bring our friends, families, clients, and vendor-partners together to help raise the funds needed to finally open the residential program. The Zia Group pledged to match $50,000 in donations from all of you, resulting in a total $100,000 gift to Hope Refuge. As a part of the fundraiser, we also collaborated with other impact-minded businesses in our community to host our first ever Impact Event. Together, we created an opportunity for the team at Hope Refuge to share their vision, plans, and impact with others in our community who might get involved in their work.
Thank you, from all of us at the Zia Group, to everyone who contributed to the success of our Impact Event, and to the success of the fundraiser. You made it possible for the team at Hope Refuge to welcome its first residents, and help them transition from slavery to freedom.
As soon as I heard about Hope Refuge, and the terrible injustice it strives to fight, I was ready to join the solution. Knowing that this is a Santa Barbara problem, my heart and hands had to get involved. How could I not have known in my 20+ years in the city that this was happening in my own community?
Being able to tour the retreat center, to get to know the charity founders, and to pledge $50,000~ and to raise $100,000+ ~ with Zia Group has been a true honor. With tears in my eyes and light in my soul, I know that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Working hard in order to support those most in need in our community and beyond is what MY life is all about.
I am forever honored to be a part of Zia Group and their deep calling for community impact. I cannot wait to do MORE for Hope Refuge and the girls they serve. I look forward to supporting this local organization and so many more, both financially and with hands-on work, for many many years to come.
Update from Hope Refuge
Since opening, a lot has happened at Hope Refuge! Our team recently had an opportunity to hear from the Co-Directors of Hope Refuge, Sally and Chuck Cook, and wanted to share some of the impact that has resulted from the incredible gift in February.
“When the rest of the world was shutting down, we decided to open!” laughed Sally. Indeed, opening a specifically residential rehabilitation facility in the middle of a global pandemic posed quite a few unique challenges. For example, Sally and Chuck explained, “Zoom therapy and Zoom group therapy doesn’t really work for teenagers.” Not to mention, many staff members and volunteers have had to come and go from the facility safely. And yet, none of the unexpected—or even expected—challenges have deterred the morale and success of Hope Refuge. At every turn, Chuck and Sally shared, the Directors and other staff have come up with creative, effective, and safe ways for the girls to receive the mental health and emotional support they need to heal and look toward their new future.
As of November 2020, four girls have graduated from Hope Refuge’s recovery program, with many more residents making progress daily. The directors and staff have seen incredible transformation in these girls, as they take the opportunity to “focus on themselves” for a change, Chuck shared. While the work itself is challenging—for both the staff and the girls—the day to day relationship building, learning, and growing leads to restored hope. And at the end of each day, that is what Hope Refuge is all about.