“My own life experience gave me the passion and energy to fight the evil of sex trafficking of children. Although I cannot rescue all the girls, I can stand beside some of them and be a part of their restoration to wholeness. They know that I understand what it’s like to be held at gunpoint, to be demeaned and called unprintable names, to be afraid all the time in your own skin, to be repeatedly violated and tortured and then to be blamed for it all.”
The newspaper story and photo haunted Lisa – a shackled 10 year-old girl arrested and charged with prostitution while those who committed the heinous crime against her were free to continue their criminal activity. Lisa knew she had to take action to help save the lives of sexually exploited victimized children. The avenue to do it had already been paved.
For her birthday eight years prior, Lisa had invited a group of women to her home to acknowledge those who had encouraged her as she moved past the trauma of her childhood. They were asked to bring a friend, no gifts for Lisa, but a gift to bless a woman in transition. Circle of Friends Celebrating Life, began as this initial group of 23 women reaching out to others in need.
When Lisa learned Atlanta was a hub for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), Circle of Friends launched awareness and fundraising campaigns. Two years later, they opened Living Water for Girls in January 2010. Living Water provides safe refuge and therapeutic and educational services to girls ages 12-17.
Sex trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry, is second only to drug trafficking. Nearly 300,000 American children are at risk of being victims of sex trafficking.
Lisa inspires a team of 60 volunteers and a staff of 8 as she turned tragedy into triumph. Her stolen childhood is now the catalyst for giving these girls back their lives, their value and their voices. Lisa has established relationships with local and federal law enforcement to build legal cases against those who buy, sell and rape children for profit.
Taking no salary, Lisa spends more than 60 hours a week to ensure the girls are rescued and restored. She has increased awareness in nearly 20,000 people, raised more than $500,000 and logged more than 72,000 miles.
In Lisa’s words: “My compensation comes pouring in when I see our girls just being children, when they play hopscotch, when they find joy in planting flowers. My bonus comes every time I hear them giggle, like little girls should do when they don’t have a care in the world.”