Another day, another partner to introduce! Today we're chatting with Rhonda of Pink Door to hear more about the incredibly important work they are doing in Berlin, Germany.
Pink Door is a faith-based, not-for-profit organization in Berlin, Germany that provides a long-term recovery program for women transitioning out of prostitution and sexual enslavement. They value personal empowerment, restoration, advocacy and connections to significant support. In January 2016, Pink Door opened its first safe house/transition home for women exiting sexual exploitation. Pink Door also operates a day school and offers classes to help women regain independence and dignity.
ANGELA: How did Pink Door get started?
RHONDA: Yeah…that takes us back to 2013. A group of us were serving at a drop-in café in Berlin’s red light district. This is a place where women who are sexually exploited can step in and, for a few minutes to a few hours, find relief from the nightmarish world they live in. The problem was that after those brief moments in the café, they had to go right back to the street. There was no safe place to send the women who truly wanted to escape from the street.
Well, we decided to do something about that. This has taken a lot of sacrifice from so many, but our safe house and day school opened on January 20, 2016 and now there’s a place for sexually exploited women in Berlin (and all over Europe) to find long term healing.
ANGELA: Who is your client?
RHONDA: I think you’d be surprised that our participants are women just like you and me. The exception is that they never experienced the innocence of childhood. Most have been exploited from a very young age, but behind those years of trauma, is that incredibly resilient woman created in the image of God.
ANGELA: How do women end up at Pink Door?
RHONDA: The phone rings and it’s a referral from another German orEuropean organization that we network with or maybe a social worker that knows Pink Door. They have a woman who wants out and the assessment and intake process begins.
ANGELA: How do you serve them?
RHONDA: That’s a great question: (without getting into a lot of sensitive details) we provide a long-term recovery and integration program. This includes a safe and caring home, staff that are committed to walking with our participants every step of their journey to wholeness, and a job readiness and recovery /day-school program.
The program is really cool! In the recovery/day school program, we offer classes on various topics, such as healthy relationships, basic German language skills (if needed), health, job readiness, art therapy, horse therapy, theater, budgeting, basic math skills, communication skills, etc. and the women have access to a therapist. God is doing some amazing things through all of this.
ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges Pink Door has faced?
RHONDA: As with any not-for-profit who is reliant upon donations, funds are always an issue. And the topics of sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and prostitution are not so easy to communicate. Some just don’t want to hear too many details on this subject, so this makes it challenging to raise the needed funding.
Another challenge is, the emotional toll this work has on our staff and volunteers is significant, so constant encouragement and support is always needed.
And of course, navigating the bureaucratic system here in Germany is like anywhere else--time consuming!
Unfortunately, being a faith-based organization in a very secularized context, we must always fight against the stereotype that we are “unprofessional” or “religious fanatics”. It’s not a level playing field, to say the least.
Then there are the prejudices and misinformation about sexually exploited women that our women must constantly struggle against.
ANGELA: How has your work with Pink Door impacted you personally?
RHONDA: Wow, where do I start?I have been impacted in so many ways, but probably the biggest is that I see we are all the same…we are all broken and in need of recovery and healing. This has pushed me into recognizing my own brokenness and to do something about it. Pink Door fosters a culture of recovery for staff and volunteers as well as for the participants in our recovery program. This is an important part of our value of RESTORATION for all of us. This has taken my personal faith to a whole new level.
ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through Pink Door, what is a particular woman or situation that has stayed with you?
RHONDA: The woman who chooses not to stay with her recovery process and returns back to her former life is the most heart-breaking for us. But it has taught us that we cannot make decisions for them nor can we be the ones who give them the motivation to persevere through the pain of recovery. That must come from within themselves.
The best part? It’s witnessing the one who IS committed to recovery and perseveres through the pain to realize her God-given gifts and how she can use them to build a new life. Watching the miracles of those small steps of recovery is amazing, like the woman who finally sees her value and becomes more and more empowered to be the woman she was created to be! These women have come through horrendous circumstances and yet, they are compassionate toward others beyond those whom we encounter in our daily life. They laugh, they are kind, they are grateful, they are empathetic. They are among the bravest and most resilient women we know.
Another really cool way we serve is being a part of stopping the cycle of abuse and exploitation in families by helping the children of women in our program. One way we are doing this is by providing needed funds for the college education (very affordable by western standards) of a bright and beautiful child whose risk of being a victim of a sex trafficker was very high. Every time we receive an update on her grades and progress, we stop and celebrate!
ANGELA: How do you define success at Pink Door?
RHONDA: When women understand their value, experience restoration, and are empowered to live out their purpose.
ANGELA: How do you evaluate the work that is being done there?
RHONDA: We have a system of benchmarks to track progress:
When women in the Pink Door program:
Permanently walk away and stay away from their old lives
Are no longer addicted or reliant on drugs or alcohol
Live crime-free lifestyles
Maintain school and/or employment
Are living independently and handling their own personal finances responsibly.
Are emotionally stable to the point that emotional issues no longer interfere with day to day living
Are responsible, nurturing parents
ANGELA: Last year was Pink Door’s first year with Forget the Frock. What were you able to accomplish as a result of the campaign?
RHONDA: Last year, we really didn’t know what to expect from Forget the Frock. So when the finally tally was made, we couldn’t believe it! We had enough to immediately assist two additional women to enter the Pink Door Program. These two women remain in our program and are making good progress in their recovery. Thanks to Forget the Frock! What an encouragement and incredible blessing for our ministry!!
ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals for the coming year?
RHONDA: We need to hire a Program Director to oversee the Pink Door House, the day school and assist the social workers. Also, because jobs are essential to an independent life, we plan to further develop our job readiness program.
ANGELA: How will the funds from this year’s FTF campaign enable you to accomplish this?
RHONDA: Our goal is always for our women to become strong, healthy, empowered women. Moving into their own living space is a huge step toward that goal. In Phase II of our program, women move into an apartment, while we continue to provide various levels of support for them. This year’s FTF campaign will help to fund women moving into Phase II.
ANGELA: Speaking directly to people considering buying a shirt to support Pink Door, what would you say to them?
RHONDA: Well that’s easy. “Together We Can Make a Difference!” This is a difficult, dangerous and complicated battle and we cannot do it alone! Wearing FTF t-shirts not only shows your commitment to fighting injustice, but also gives you the chance to DO something about it! You are heroes in the fight for freedom for the women who come to Pink Door.