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St. John's-based program aims to help people leave sex trade

By Sadie-Rae Werner/Special to the Telegram

Published on August 8, 2017

An image of a blue door created by program director Cheryl Coleman for Thrive’s Blue Door Program.

©Submitted photo by Cheryl Coleman

In May, Thrive, a local organization that helps youth to reach their full potential and overcome social and financial obstacles, launched its Blue Door Program to help individuals leave the sex trade and sexually exploitive situations, including sex trafficking.

The program primarily targets individuals ages 14-29 of all gender identities and sexual orientation.

Thrive has worked with people who have a connection to the sex trade for the past 15 years, but the idea for the Blue Door Program came from a report they were made aware of about seven years ago that claimed a program was needed to help people leave the trade.

“We wanted to create a program that specialized in providing those support services,” says Thrive executive director Angela Cockwell.

Thrive expects the Blue Door Program to serve a minimum of 15 people at any given time and will increase that capacity so long as the quality of support they are able to offer is not diminished.

The program is tailored to the needs of the individual and can provide them with counselling, housing support, addiction and mental-health support, educational support, life skills and community outreach. Individuals working with the program can be involved on a daily or weekly basis, depending on their needs.

 

“We really want people to be able to discover their full potential,” Cockwell says about what they hope survivors of the sex trade and sexually exploitive situations will gain from the Blue Door Program.

One of the goals of the program is to help those leaving the sex trade to reintegrate into their communities.

“Often, we hear people talking about feeling really stigmatized when connected to the sex trade,” says Cockwell, who hopes the program will broaden those community connections.

Despite the project not being officially launched until Aug. 17, the outreach they have being doing over the summer has already engaged some individuals looking to leave the sex trade to join the program, and others are showing interest.

“We didn’t anticipate doing intake until September … but we already have 10 people in the program and we are getting five-plus inquiries per week since we started,” says Cockwell.

Verafin, through its charitable initiative VeraCares that has been regularly aligned with Thrive, will host two events to raise money for Thrive’s Blue Door Program this fall.

Verafin is a local tech company that works on fighting financial crime, and has worked hard to extend this mission into the community through its VeraCares charitable program, which has helped to raise millions of dollars to support various local causes.

“Verafin’s mission is to fight financial crime, and one of the most heinous forms is human trafficking,” Suzanne Stanley, chair of the VeraCares program, says about why they felt it was important for VeraCares to support Thrive’s Blue Door Program.

On Sept. 8 and 9, Verafin will host a charity softball tournament. Corporations or groups of friendly co-workers can enter the tournament or purchase a signage sponsorship. The tournament will take place at the Team Gushue Sports Complex in Mount Pearl, with all proceeds going to the Blue Door Program.

 

On Sept. 24, Verafin will have a 5-km walk/run in Bowering Park to raise money for the program.  It is a family friendly event intended to appeal to adults and children.

Through entry fees, Verafin hopes to raise $15,000 for Thrive’s Blue Door Program.