Founded in April of 2018, Saving Jane is a non-profit that deals with human trafficking awareness and provides a safe haven for survivors. I had the opportunity to interview the founder, Kathyann Powell, who used to live on the Upper West Side, as well as CEO Rosie Von Lila at Birch Coffee on Friday, November 2nd.
Evan: Tell me a little bit about why you founded Saving Jane.
Kathyann: Before, I was a personal shopper. I went to an empowerment training program and I realized that I liked my job but I didn’t love it.
Evan: What didn’t you like about your job?
Kathyann: I liked it but it wasn’t my passion.
Evan: What was your passion?
Kathyann: My passion was to help human trafficking survivors. I travelled and did whatever I wanted but others did not have a choice.
Evan: How did this passion arise?
Kathyann: It aroused from watching a lot of documentaries.
Evan: What was your “a ha” moment that made you found the non-profit?
Kathyann: When I woke up at 4:30 in the morning one day.
Evan: When was that?
Kathyann: In February of this year.
Evan: Tell us a little bit about the infrastructure of the organization.
Rosie: We are made up 3 people and a good team of volunteers. Thomas Elser is our Director of Storytelling. We are putting together board of directors.
Evan: How long did it take you to start Saving Jane?
Kathyann: 1-2 weeks. I went online and filled out 1023.
Evan: What is the 1023?
Kathyann: Form for non profit for IRS, 501-C3.
Evan: Were there any other steps?
Kathyann: I started an Instagram page and I had a few people send me private messages to ask how I could help them. I gave my telephone number to find out what they need in terms of providers. They need a safe place to go, help with trauma, healthcare, childcare, social work, GED, etc. I partnered with organizations in California and Florida.
Evan: Rosie – when did you join and what made you decide to do so?
Rosie: Kathyann and I were in the same leadership program and partnered on a community project. Within a couple of months, she needed some help and I came on as an interim CEO. I just transitioned to being the CEO. In this early startup, we are using the Abolistionista comic book. We are printing 50,000 copies to distribute across the US, starting with New York and Las Vegas.
Evan: Why these locations?
Rosie: There are 7 major cities that we are interested in targeting: NYC, Las Vegas, Houston, DC, Atlanta, Miami and San Diego. These cities are all major hubs for human trafficking. We’ve done our first three fundraisers. We are doing a $5,000 fundraiser to do our first round of comics.
Evan: What is the best way for people to donate?
Rosie: Through savingjane.org.
Evan: What makes these cities more prone for human trafficking?
Rosie: Big events, sporting events, conventions, tourists, transient people, when people are away from their families and hire prostitutes and do things they would not normally do. The Super Bowl is when there is the most human trafficking. We are interested in working on it from beginning to end:
To teach students aged 10 to 14 about prevention, we use our comic book Abolitionista. We offer educators workshops and companion books. We also partner with churches, youth groups and community organizations. Teachers get insights on what are key words for manipulation and red flags.
Evan: To take a step back, what is human trafficking?
Rosie: Using people to make money off of them, often in a fraudulent manner:
Labor, commercial sex work, running of weapons, drug running, often conducted through fraud and force. What does it look like to be vulnerable? Problems at home, low self esteem, abuse, mental health, etc.
If a man were to say “I’ll be your friend” and gives you gifts and provides for basic needs, they have created a bond. Victims start to rely on that person.
Seduction: Older person will have younger person fall in love with them. Then he’ll say “ You just need to do this one thing- just go on a date”. That is when the predator gets paid.
Evan: What is the top goal of the organization?
Rosie: Educating youth. Social media causes predators; it’s not clear who’s behind a telephone or computer.
Evan: How can students monitor who they are communicating with?
Kathyann: Parents need to have conversations and let them know they don’t know who’s on the other line.
Rosie: Kids are smart. They need to be provided with the information about what communication is like. The person might not be what he is representing. He may look like a girl but he’s a man in his 20s. They can look out for their friends. We can tell kids what to do when they see changes in their friends’ behavior.
A long term mission is to transform survivors into leaders. We are working on prevention programs with comics. In 2019, we will open a campus facility that will offer comprehensive services for formally trafficked people- short term housing, long term housing, emergency care, childcare, healthcare, mental health care, and then as they continue on healing journey, offer education, economic development opportunities and career skills. We want to help these people who have gone through horrific experiences and employ skills to return to being part of the greater community.
We will build relationships with agencies organize research roundtable events, and facilitate research.
Evan: Where will your physical location be?
Rosie: We are looking at options.
Evan: Estimated time?
Rosie: Planning for 9-12 Months, fundraising for 1-1.5 years, 2021 opening. We are inviting people who want to be involved; if anyone has experience with someone getting trafficked, we would love to talk with them. We are building relationships and an ecosystem.
Evan: Have you noticed human trafficking on Upper West Side?
Kathyann: It’s hidden in plain sight but does exist. Think massage parlors.
Rosie: Look out for young students who are subdued; they are emotionally shut down. I saw something like that. I was walking on a subway platform and I saw this guy with this girl. By the time I thought to watch further they are already got on the train.
Evan: Do you have any events coming up?
Rosie: 4 workshops coming up:
- November-NYC Court Judges
- January- Workshop with NYC Dept of Youth and Community Development for service providers
- Las Vegas: Workshop
- Online Fundraising Campaign
Evan: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know?
Rosie: Go to www.savingjane.org for more information and resources. This is something that is really important and is something that very few acknowledge. Our lives are touched by slavery everyday, whether it’s from the coffee we drink, shoes, clothes, electronics, etc.. They are not coming from sources of specific supply chains with slavery; that is embedded. It has always existed. It’s something that we can stop now because of the collective power of technology. What will help eradicate slavey is stronger communities and education of adults.
Kathyann: Saving Jane is about community, workshop, distribution of comic books, and education for youth. The comics help them be smart with social media.
Evan: Thank you for your time. Keep up the great work!