Did you know there were different forms of human trafficking that happen in the United States? For my practicum this summer, I was introduced to a world that has become a part of my developing mission to improve the lives of women through public health, public service, and advocacy. Eden House New Orleans is a non-profit organization that provides in-house services to women who were victims of human trafficking and commercial sex exploitation. I chose Eden House as a practicum site to work with an underserved population of women and learn how public health practices in their program help them heal and become empowered.
The women of Eden House receive services through their two-year in-house program. Throughout that time, they develop skills that will allow them to become self-sufficient once they graduate from the program. As one of the resident support interns, my primary responsibility was to assist program staff with various resident needs. I was tasked with accompanying residents to their various appointments, supporting them while there and in the house, working on research projects, and developing projects to give the residents new skills they could use after the program finished.
My practicum was split into two responsibilities: creating a new resident activity and conducting research. As part of Eden House’s Health Initiative, the residents and I collaborated on healthy cooking classes to teach them healthy recipes, how to manage healthy eating under a budget, and community engagement. After I created a recipe for their lunch, the residents gathered together to cook the recipe and eat as a community. They provided me weekly feedback to tell me which recipes they enjoyed and which recipes they would like to try for the following week.
The research project, given to me from the executive director, explored the connection between missing black women and girls and their possible involvement in sex trafficking. The project culminated from the national coverage of the missing black and latinx girls in DC and the lack of attention being paid to the overwhelming number of black and latinx persons who go missing every year. I used qualitative and quantitative information to draw a connection between the statistics of black women and girls who go missing nationally every year and the black women and girls who are victims of human/sex trafficking.
As a rising public health professional, I enjoyed being able to use my knowledge from the classroom, along with my own personal experiences, in my activities at my practicum. I didn’t realize how much I would utilize my skills and public health knowledge, but at Eden House my responsibilities allowed for me to understand what it meant to be a public health professional. I have come to love program planning and implementation, as well as conducting quantitative research. The practicum at Eden House not only allowed me to contribute to their program, but I also gained new skills and knowledge. The hardest lesson was learning how to communicate effectively and carefully around the residents. Because these women were essentially powerless in the trafficking experiences, they were testing the power of autonomy and what it meant to make their own decisions. I had an overall excellent experience at Eden House New Orleans and will continue to support their work to bring awareness about human trafficking and commercial sex exploitation.