SPEARFISH, S.D. — After seeing online content of organizations fighting human trafficking, the founders of PREP wanted to make a difference, and in just two months, started up a non profit called PREP, which stands for Phoenix Rising Education Program.
They held their first board meeting on Monday, October 5 at the BHSU campus.
The depiction of the phoenix rising from the ashes symbolizes renewal. PREP plans to assist survivors in creating a new life for themselves through the power of higher education.
Pamela Lee, Co-Founder PREP- Phoenix Rising Education Program, says, “For the side of Phoenix Rising Program that is going to be providing high education or college degrees for survivors of human trafficking that is what that [the phoenix rising] represents, so it’s giving them a second chance at a different life.”
PREP has two missions to help survivors of human trafficking earn a college degree and educate communities on the dangers and prevention of child exploitation.
Lee says, “Because it is on a spectrum, on one end of the spectrum, you have just kids getting online and putting themselves at risk. On the other end of the spectrum, we are trying to help survivors who have gone through that so we want to kind of impact both ends of it.”
Their aim is at raising the level of awareness and education for parents, caretakers and children about the dangers of the internet and how to keep themselves safe from predators online.
“While there is not a lot of people who would qualify as being human trafficking victims that remain in the area, I do think there is exploitation that can happen anywhere because all it takes is an internet connection, ” says Lee.
Local groups are already backing the efforts.
Matt Symonds, with Northern Hills Militiamen (a veteran motorcycle group), says, “Unfortunately, a lot of the events that motorcycle enthusiasts go to do have this issue that happens in the way things go on, and so I definitely think it would be a huge eye opener for us and the training aspect of this for us to keep our eye out on stuff and things that can happen and we just have the knowledge with that.”
Victims in the program would also receive housing, living assistance and counseling elements with a treatment plan.
Doris Cardwell, PREP volunteer, says, “Often times when people think about trafficking and they think about trauma, maybe they don’t understand the long lasting effects of it, so by our being able to help with providing a college education, that will be able to help survivors go a long way to rebuilding their life. I love the symbol of the phoenix and coming out of the ashes so I think that that is very significant.”
Co founders of PREP are also Kelly Gould and Devon Nelson. PREP has been incorporated in September of 2020 and are working on obtaining 501(c)(3) status.
PREP is looking for volunteers and financial donations.