The mission of Refuge for Women is to help daughters of God heal and recover from events in their past. But did you know that part of that is giving them opportunities and experiences they didn’t have? At Refuge, part of the healing process, along with recovery from traumas and substance abuse, is having celebrations and events that bring redemption to years of missed chances.
Statistics show that the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old, but often abuse and exploitation begin even years before that, meaning many of our residents didn’t get to do some of the best things we might remember from childhood and time with our families. Most survivors are not only facing what happened but also grieving the loss of things that didn’t. That’s why Refuge has worked hard to bring redemption to some of these missed experiences in a unique and joyful way.
Refuge understands that laughter and simply having fun are pivotal elements in healing from complex trauma and having hope for the future. Along with therapy and education, residents are sharing how simple, joyful events are helping them heal. When the staff hosted an Easter egg hunt around the house for the residents, some shared how they had never done anything like that before. One woman said, “It was easy at first but then became challenging, how fun! I never had that growing up.”
A birthday cake may seem simple, but for someone who never felt celebrated by her family or friends, a chorus of “Happy Birthday To You” can be a sign of God’s love and power to redeem all things. For one resident, she chose to have just one candle on her cake, saying, “We celebrated it as my first birthday as the ‘new me!’”
Holidays in broken or unhappy homes are devastating and can leave a lasting sense of hopelessness around certain times of the year. At Refuge, we aim to nurture joy, peace, and love during the holiday season. One resident mentioned how nice it was to celebrate Christmas in a home with her “new” family, after years of holidays in unsafe or chaotic situations where she didn’t want to be. For thanksgiving last year, volunteer Jan opened her home, and the residents ate with her immediate family. Someone shared that everyone was so warm and kind. It made her feel at home, something she didn’t have growing up.
It’s also important for our residents to learn that life is a celebration, even when the calendar doesn’t say so. Two of our SoCal staff members, Alison and Lauren, recently took the residents on a day trip to Los Angeles. The ladies enjoyed games at the park and sightseeing around the city. Some were amazed that they could have so much fun not only sober but also without spending any extra money. They saw that enjoying life in this way is not only possible but within their reach.
For our next adventure, we’re working on plans to bless our residents with a retreat out of state. Some of these women have never been on a family vacation or traveled just to see more of the world. Their excitement and gratitude for these experiences truly show the power of community and love to change a person’s story. One resident shared her thankfulness “to be here at Refuge and make really good memories that I never had before.”
We thank you for your support and prayers which make these kinds of events and this redemptive healing possible for our residents. We pray that God continues to bless our houses and these beautiful souls with healing, education, and FUN!