By Dave McCleary, Rotary Action Group Against Slavery Chair and member of the Rotary Club of Roswell, USA
Muniyra Thompson grew up in a dysfunctional family. She never had an understanding of what a healthy relationship looked like. Growing up, Muniyra’s mother was very sick so she took on the responsibility of being her mother’s caregiver. Munyira had dreams to attend college, but her mother insisted that she shouldn’t go. The only place that had any interest in employing Muniyra were fast food restaurants, so she worked in the fast food industry not even making a living-wage.
She began to look for love in all the wrong places. Muniyra met a guy who she married, but she really didn’t know what healthy relationships looked like. She started experiencing domestic abuse and the violence eventually led her ex-husband to jail. Muniyra then began to internalize her pain by developing self-destructive behaviors.
After this traumatic experience, Muniyra realized that all she wanted to do was save a piece of herself. She wanted to have a positive outlook on life so she started attending Korean meet-up classes to form healthy relationships and learn the importance of community. She met a woman who she connected with. After the women heard Muniyra’s story, she told her about the Women’s Academy at Wellspring Living.
The Women’s Academy offers life-changing programming to young women who have experienced difficulty gaining living-wage employment due to life circumstances such as poverty, sexual abuse, and trafficking. The Women’s Academy offers three programs – GED completion, career readiness and apprenticeship – designed to equip and empower women for success.
The Rotary Action Against Slavery (RAGAS) was involved from the inception of the Women’s Academy four years ago. Seventy-seven percent of the girls going through the Academy gain full time living-wage jobs. We partnered with Delta, UPS, Accenture, International Hotel Group and other companies to provide women with jobs. RAGAS also spent over 20,000 volunteer hours to assist with all the programs at the Women’s Academy and invested funds to sponsor many women going through the Academy.
We are working with Well Spring, the White House, and other NGOs to scale up the program. I serve on the White House Task Force for Human Trafficking and was able to arrange a visit with Ivanka Trump to Well Spring which resulted in one of the survivors being asked to join the White House Task Force as an adviser to the administration. RAGAS is also an advisor to the administration and are in constant communication with them sharing our ideas.
Munyira decided to attend the Women’s Academy even though she was hesitant. The program turned out to be life changing for her. She was impressed by the effort the staff invested in the women. She never experienced genuine support, love, and care growing up. One of the things she really appreciated was the individual therapy sessions, the career readiness tools, and the apprenticeship opportunity. The apprenticeship opportunity allowed her to make a living-wage. Munyira became an apprentice at Accenture and she is currently still employed there. She is thankful that Accenture took a chance to hire someone without a college degree. She is also enrolled in school at Kennesaw State University, Georgia, USA.
Munyira is thankful that Wellspring Living provides housing opportunities for women like her. She is currently a resident at the Graduate Village while she is working towards a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology.
Join us on 11 July, 2020 at 22:00 (UTC-5) to learn about modern day slavery and how youth are getting involved to make a difference. Register here for the Ending Modern Day Slavery, Engaging our Rising Rotarians breakout session. The session will focus on empowering our youth to make a difference. They are our future leaders and they will end modern slavery/human trafficking. The younger generation wants to change the world and care deeply about this issue. If we want to grow Rotary, we must take on issues like modern slavery/human trafficking.