Local organization makes dreams come true with rooms for human trafficking victims

PHOENIX - Living a normal life can be a complete nightmare for victims of sex trafficking, but one organization is hoping to make their dreams come back to life.

The Rescue Project, part of the Phoenix Dream Center, aims to rescue victims of sex trafficking and help them recover from past dangers. One of their goals is to create a safe haven for the women and girls affected, while also getting them off the streets.

The Rescue Project has recently completed seven new Dream Rooms- small places for victims to call their own. They're called Dream Rooms since they look like something you can only envision while sleeping and they offer women a place to feel safe and get their life back.

Luxury design firms, architects and builders in the Valley contributed to these 500 square-foot rooms where women usually stay for a year or so while they get back on their feet.

"They first walk in with awe and often tears,” said Kathie Gadberry, the chief operator of the Phoenix Dream Center.

But those tears are not coming from a first time homeowner. They're tears from human trafficking victims, who for the first time, will live in a finely furnished apartment.

“(The victims are shocked) that somebody would do something of this significance for them and want nothing in return,” said Gadberry.

Not only do Valley workers build these spaces for women to live in, but they also compete to build the best spaces, according to Mark Donnelly with The Rescue Project.

The new rooms are equipped with living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and child care spaces, as approximately 30 percent of the women and girls coming into them are pregnant. There are also 10 other rooms that were built in 2012.

Many of the victims that may use these Dream Rooms are between the ages of 14 and 25 and come from right here in Valley.

According to the Department of Justice, Phoenix is one of the top 20 cities for human trafficking in all of the United States.

The Rescue Project and Phoenix Dream Center also provide other resources to get the victims back on their feet.

"Part of that curriculum, as far as classes go, are anger management, how to make healthy choices, and stress management,” said Gadberry.

They've done this for close to 200 human trafficking victims in the past five years.

Donnelly serves as a board member for the project. He's in charge of getting the valley's top architects to design and create the rooms. He says his past work as an author of the inspirational “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books, led him to the project.

"We love overcoming obstacles stories. So when we came down here and saw how these young women's lives were being transformed, we said, we have to get involved,” said Donnelly.

These dream rooms offer much more than just a roof over their heads, but they also provide hope and motivation.

Gadberry has seen firsthand what these “dream rooms” can do. Simply put, they bring an end to a past life of nightmares.

“Now they're married, they're going to college, they have children, they have light, they have hope…they have dreams for a future,” she said.

The hope for these rooms and these projects is that more people will understand the struggle that many girls and women go through, even right here at home.

Members of The Rescue Project hope that other community members will get involved to help, too.

For more information on how you can volunteer to help with the organization, visit http://www.rescueprojectphx.org/.

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