It may be hard to believe that sex trafficking exists in the United States or that it could be as close to home as our state of Pennsylvania. However, the truth is that the horrific effects of sex-trafficking reach everywhere, including right here in Lancaster County. On March 24th, 2022, the newly launched Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force announced their very first successful operation, arresting 14 individuals associated with the trafficking ring.
For every trafficking ring taken down, more and more women are freed. But they’re not really free. Homeless, traumatized, and addicted, most end up back on the streets.
They need immediate help, as well as long-term solutions. North Star Initiative provides restorative services to survivors of domestic sex trafficking by providing physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual care through a Christ-centered focus. Because we believe in the power of Jesus Christ and the effectiveness of restorative work, we own and operate The Harbor Restoration Program.
In December 2017, we opened the doors of The Harbor, located in Lititz, PA, and became one of the few in the entire region and Lancaster County’s ONLY long-term restoration home for survivors of domestic sex-trafficking serving females ages 18-35.
Trafficking literally and figuratively destroys these women, their identities, and their futures. The Harbor seeks to repair and restore what has been stolen, putting her on a path to find true freedom. The Harbor gives her a safe place to rest, and the support she needs to address her complex trauma. We provide her with the therapeutic tools and resources she needs to transition from victim to survivor.
We also work with each survivor to re-establish their practical needs. We provide her with the necessary identification, education, job skills, and the life skills she needs to ensure a life of sustained independence.
I want to share just how much of an impact our program has had on one of our graduate survivors. She says...
“The Harbor gave me a quiet, safe space to process the truth about the abuse I was subjected to and how it framed my worldview. The Harbor gave me all the time I needed to heal. They believed my truth when I didn’t even believe it myself. They loved me until I could learn to love myself again. They were my strength before I knew I could become strong. They truly were my rock, the soil where I learned to plant roots and trust God to water them again. I began to lose the fear of my sober consciousness there. I lost the fear of change and the fear of being alive all through the care and compassion the staff at North Star showed me. The opportunity to heal at this program is the greatest gift I have ever been given.”
We have had the opportunity to be a part of the GTGH fair for the last 3 years and have been blessed to be able to reach our community through this event. There are quite a few of our current donors who first heard about us just by coming to this gift fair and stopping by our table. Lancaster is a hub for sex trafficking, and the more our community hears about this important topic, the more they understand the need for an organization like North Star Initiative. We are so grateful to be a part of Lancaster’s annual Gifts that Give Hope Gift Fair and are excited to continue meeting our community members and educating them about the important work we do. Together, we CAN make a difference in the lives of sex trafficking survivors!
Ethical Fashion, Socially Conscious, Sustainable Fashion
By Luisa Tapia, founder of My Peruvian Treasures.
As a native Peruvian, I grew up in a culture with a great exposure to ancient textiles techniques and some of the best natural fibers you can find- such as Organic Pima Cotton and Alpaca Fiber.
Coming from a family of artisans of textiles, pottery and all sorts of handcrafted items, it was inherited in me that same appreciation for our traditions and our natural resources. I started to sew my own clothing at a very young age and my interest for the Art of Fashion grew when I was in High School. By the time I started college I knew I wanted to be part of the Slow Fashion Movement for the rest of my life.
Back in those years, I visited a sweat shop outside of Lima for the first time and it finally hit me the impact Fast Fashion could have in the lives of young factory workers and our community.
During the 80's and 90's when terrorist groups were more violent around the country, many families mobilized out of the most dangerous areas; and some of us young individuals, even looked for new opportunities out of the country.
Those were the years when most of the clothing factories with poor working conditions were booming and still now are part of our reality.
Developing countries are the perfect incubators for these types of practices, where young women are desperate for job opportunities to feed their families, falling into exploitative factory hands.
In my case, after years of managing my family's small business and losing everything; I was left with no other choice than leaving my home in 1996 to be starting a new life in New York City.
By myself with a strong desire to succeed for my family, all that I had with me was a Fashion Design Degree, $300- from pawning my own sewing machine, and a small suitcase filled with dreams.
A few weeks later, I was working during the day and attending school at night at FIT Graduate Program; with the help of a lady neighbor from childhood.
Due to my immigrant status, I was unable to get a fair wage job within my field, since undocumented immigrants also suffer exploitation as factory workers in the USA.
During those years I found joy working as a Nanny, helping families raising their children. Those children became then my family and I had to put on hold my dreams for a while.
It took me 10 years to finally legalize my status and travel back to Peru to seeing my parents and siblings again. And in the Summer of 2009 moving to Lancaster County - Pennsylvania brought me new opportunities. By the end of that year, I was making garments for a local theater company while starting collaborations with women artisans back in Peru.
On weekdays I had my theater job, and on weekends I was promoting our products at Artisan Markets; until 2015 when I took a leap of faith and left the company to fulfill my dreams of becoming a full-time social entrepreneur.
As Peruvian, I wanted to give back to my community by creating job opportunities and offering fair wages to artisan women. Also, I wanted to help on passing along our traditions to future generations.
As American, having a small business focused on ethical practices and sustainable products that could make an impact not only to our local economy, but to the lives of consumers and the environment. I wanted to be a contributor to a greater good!
After the pandemic, with all the travel restrictions; I was unable to travel to Peru as I was accustomed. At the same time, I was experiencing a growing awareness for the needs of artisans in other Latin American countries and Asia.
During those difficult times, I felt in my heart that against all odds I needed to reach out to these global connections and transform "My Peruvian Treasures" into a Peru and beyond journey. That's when new partnerships with organizations from Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, India, Indonesia and other countries started. And these partnerships have given me the opportunity to support different local and global social causes.
Through these years as BIPOC and Social-preneur doors have opened to work with many local organizations including Lancaster Gifts that that Give Hope, by sharing with our neighbors about the benefits of Fair Trade, Ethically Made, Sustainability and more conscious consumer choices.
From makers to consumers, the Fashion Revolution Movement is here to stay and transform the World of Fashion as we knew it. Would you be part of this movement?!