By Ashley Dittmar
PCI empowers people around the world to lift themselves out of poverty and to live happier, healthier lives. As a PCI fundraiser based in San Diego, I’ve seen first-hand how our local programs have made a meaningful impact with the communities where we work and the impact philanthropy has made on the lives of PCI beneficiaries. Along with several global programs, PCI has five local programs in the United States making a positive difference on hundreds of thousands of lives.
One of the San Diego-based programs that I’ve worked closely with is PCI’s Girls Only! (GO!) program, an anti-trafficking after-school education program for at-risk girls ages 8 to 15.
In the United States, one out of every six women and girls will be a victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives. Pre-teen and teenage girls are particularly vulnerable, especially those who come from a background of sexual or physical abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence, foster homes or have history as a runaway. Many of the GO! participants are within this vulnerable group. In San Diego, one in five runaways have been approached to engage in acts of prostitution.
The GO! curriculum explains the dangers of human trafficking. More importantly, the curriculum teaches the girls about positive self-esteem, loving yourself, making and striving for short and long term goals, and to be smart, strong and confident young women. Through the program curriculum, PCI empowers girls to overcome the hardships they face, allowing girls to be girls, instead of victims of human-trafficking.
GO! seeks to build resiliency in girls by providing them with inspiring mentors and community volunteers, collaborative peer guidance, interactive lesson plans and a place to be understood and feel safe.
This week, Girls Only! graduated a class of strong and confident girls. And as a GO! volunteer and PCI employee, I could not be prouder to witness this group of girls graduate from our program.
I’m particularly proud of Jasneek, an 11- year old GO! participant who has worked with me to share her story with PCI supporters. She began participating in the program when she was nine and is now involved as an older student helper. Recently, she won the Student-of-the-Year award at her school and continues to thrive as a strong young woman.
Jasneek’s story is documented in a Virtual Reality film, demonstrating the importance PCI’s programming has on her life and her community:
At PCI, we have seen tremendous progress in the decline of girls being trafficked due to our prevention program. Our Girls Only! program recently expanded from one to four locations and resources to support the growth of the program are needed. Because of philanthropy, PCI has been able to be proactive about making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable, a theme that runs through each of our programs regardless of their geography.
Together, we can empower girls to be change makers in their communities instead of finding alternatives to the kinds of abusive relationships that often lead to involvement with gangs, substance abuse, sexual assault and, eventually, the criminal justice system. We believe girls should be girls, not victims of human-trafficking.
Ashley Dittmar is an Annual Programs Development Officer for PCI.