Sr. Ann-Marie Borgess
Meet Sr. Ann-Marie Borgess
“We are received very favorable most of the time,” said Sr. Ann-Marie. “We offer them items like toothbrushes, chapstick, and snacks and we ask if we can help them.”
The Sisters often spend time helping at Rahab’s Heart, a safe home in North Toledo that provides assistance to women working in the commercial sex trade. Rahab’s Heart is named for the biblical story about a prostitute named Rahab, who helped Joshua.
Rahab’s Heart operates on a drop-in basis, providing women with a place to stay for a few nights, to do laundry, and take a shower. Volunteers host free meals for the women and children.
“These women have been dealt a very difficult hand in life,” Sr. Ann-Marie said. “They are dealing with generational poverty, neighborhood violence, a lack of education, and many other situational challenges that are very hard to break free from. This life is not something women seek out because they want it,” added Sr. Frances Marie. “There are women as young as six who have been brought into trafficking and they can’t get out.”
“For many of these women, this is the life they’ve always known,” she added. “They may have been raped or even forced into trafficking by their family.”
The Sisters have also hosted day-long retreats at the Lial Renewal Center for the women, transporting them to the site and sharing meals and scripture readings that can help them reflect on their faith and God’s providence. ”With God’s mercy, and our help, these women want to make changes,” said Sr. Ann-Marie. “They are often women of tremendous faith.”
Sr. Ann-Marie and Sr. Frances Marie also believe educating youth about human trafficking will help stunt growth.
Sr. Frances Marie teaches students in grades five through eight about the realities of human trafficking. “Unfortunately,” said Sr. Frances Marie, “some of these children already know someone who may be Involved In trafficking.”
”We talk about red flags they should be aware of, like someone offering them a job that pays really well, the dangers of someone grooming them online, and safety at the malls and library.”
Sr. Frances Marie has also led workshops on human trafficking for parents and teachers in the Diocese.
She also assists with the SOAP (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) project. Last year she and other volunteers travelled to Detroit for a SOAP workshop in which they labeled bars of soap with the nationwide human trafficking hotline. They spent the day delivering the bars of soap to area hotels. Women who are trafficked are often taken to hotels and the hotline number on the bar of soap they find in the bathroom can be their lifeline.
The volunteers share the names of the hotels and managers they went to with the FBI, who follow up with those most likely to have traffickers in their building. Last year, by 10 p.m. on the day the volunteers spent distributing the soap, the FBI was able to save three young ladies from trafficking in some of the hotels they had visited.
“There is often a lot of judgment directed at these women, but it doesn’t have anything to do with their reality,” said Sr. Ann-Marie. “They are some of the most generous and kind women l have ever met.”
“This work has changed me for the better in so many ways,” she added. “It has impacted my teaching. I emphasize advocating for the underserved to children.”
“We try to help children and everyone remember that we are a world family. Our family is not just the people sitting next to us-it’s people everywhere.”
“Working with these women has made me even more aware that as a Sister of Notre Dame, I am working for the poor and marginalized. My sheer existence should be lifting up people who are in suffering and pain.”
“This is part of the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame,” added Sr. Frances Marie. “We do not wait around until someone need some help. We seek out those in need.”
Once when I was out in the evening with a volunteer, I felt compelled to stop and reach out to a woman who was alone,” said Sr. Frances. “When I asked her what I could do for her, she said, “What you’ve done for me is just save my life.” We took her to a family agency that helped her to find a safe place to live.”
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