This month’s Good Neighbor Spotlight, Tiffany McGee, has dedicated her life to fighting human trafficking, an issue affecting millions of people worldwide. And with a little help from her neighbors, she’s positively impacting the lives of dozens of young women in the greater Hampton Roads area.
Tiffany’s early career focused on counter trafficking at large throughout Africa and Europe. This experience gave her a deep understanding of the issue, and why it prevails in communities across the globe. For many victims of human trafficking, breaking free isn’t as easy as people often believe it to be. Human traffickers prey on single mothers, homeless youth, and other vulnerable populations, and hook them on a lucrative industry that is difficult to walk away from.
Tiffany realized that to truly help victims of human trafficking reach freedom, she had to help them reach economic stability. So, in October 2018, Tiffany started a nonprofit called Survivor Ventures, which aims to provide human trafficking victims with the support and resources needed to attain economic empowerment.
There are many factors working against human trafficking survivors in their journey to creating a new life. First, most survivors have arrest records due to the industry they were forced into, and these arrest records keep them from two things: shelter and employment. Criminal records can keep survivors out of groups homes, women shelters, and human trafficking centers. Without shelter, it’s nearly impossible for survivors to work or create stability in their new life, so many fall back into human trafficking.
Aware of this vicious cycle, Tiffany knew that she first needed to help survivors attain shelter. So, she turned to her neighbors on Nextdoor for housing recommendations and donations, and was overwhelmed by the response. Dozens of neighbors offered suggestions and dropped off donations, and each interaction gave Tiffany an opportunity to educate her neighbors about her work and how to get involved. From just one Nextdoor post, Tiffany furnished a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house with an estimated $10,000 in furniture. Additionally, she received and stored enough to furnish another 2 bedroom home and a 1 bedroom home, and received two sets of washers and dryers.
One neighbor even purchased custom curtains for the home of a survivor, allowing the survivor to pick out the colors so that she’d feel ownership over the design of her new home. “There is so much social capital out there,” shared Tiffany. “Our neighbors can help us overcome some of our biggest obstacles in life, and this was tremendous proof of that. There is something very special in knowing that your donations are helping someone recover.”
In addition to housing, Tiffany is also working to give her clients employment opportunities. Tiffany learned early on that working for large corporations can often be triggering for survivors, but working for small businesses allows for a more controlled environment. While working as a grant writer for small businesses in the Hampton Roads area, Tiffany realized there were a plethora of small businesses who were struggling to reach the point where they could hire employees and open store fronts. With a group of small businesses in need of employees and a group of survivors in need of work, Tiffany quickly connected the dots and began connecting survivors with small businesses around town.
Tiffany’s unique model is already proving to be a success for both survivors and small businesses in the area, and continues to grow. In addition to shelter and employment, Survivor Ventures also offers education and vocational training, as well as entrepreneurship guidance.
If you’d be interested in learning more about Tiffany’s work and how to get involved, visit survivorventures.org.