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Meet Tera Hilliard of Forgotten Children in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tera Hilliard.

Tera, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always had the heart to help people; especially girls that have been victims of violence, or assault. I’ve made it my mission in life to bring hope whenever I can, to whomever I can.

On May 13, 2014, I was in prayer and was led to a scripture (Isaiah 61). After reading the scripture, I begin to pray for direction and clarity. During this time, I took the scripture and turned it into programs and services for disenfranchised women and girls. The programs including housing, education, life skills and re-entry. The only problem was, I didn’t know who or what population we were going to serve. Then one day, when I was going home, I saw a prostitute walk in front of my car and my co-worker, exclaimed, “hey, we need to add feeding and helping prostitute to our services.”

As I continued to flush out the details of the programs and what the ministry would do, I met a woman by the name of Pastor Paula Daniels, President and Founder of Forgotten Children, Inc. She was helping prostitutes and victims of human trafficking out of her drop-in center located in Lynwood, Ca.

I knew she would be the one to mentor me and help bring my vision to life. During that time, I learned about the impact human trafficking was having on our communities, and that underage girls were at risk. I couldn’t believe it and wanted to do more.

With the help of our new partnership, Pastor Paula allowed us to use her drop-in center to host, “First Friday’s” a feeding program for prostitutes and victims of human trafficking. Every month, we would set an elegant table filled with home cooked meals and desserts, prepared by volunteers. Our goal was to let the girls know, that they were loved and supported.

Over the course of the year, it became apparent that the programs and services offered by Forgotten Children, Inc., and Pastor Paula mirrored everything I outlined in Isaiah 61. I also noticed, there were several similarities in our goals and mission. Suddenly the light went on, and I thought, instead of reinventing the wheel, I should collapse “I61” under Forgotten Children, Inc. Little did I know, Pastor Paula was praying and hoping for the same thing.

On July 1, 2015, I stepped into my role as President/CEO of Forgotten Children, Inc.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has not been smooth! As a faith-based non-profit organization, we don’t qualify for many public and federal funds. Thus, we raise 100% of our monthly $25,000 budget by soliciting funds from individuals, private donors, foundations, churches, companies, and by hosting several fundraising events throughout out the year.

We have experienced months of financial drought which brings discouragement among the staff and keeps us praying. I’ve not been able to pay my staff on several occasions, bills were backed up and the road ahead looked bleak.

But truly by God’s grace, we have made it and continue to make it! We’ve also watched girls walk out of our doors and return to the life we worked so hard to keep them out of.

Please tell us about Forgotten Children, Inc..
For more than 12 years, Forgotten Children, Inc., (FCI) has attempted to combat the growing issues of human trafficking and prostitution by providing comprehensive programs to communities most vulnerable to human trafficking.

The mission of FCI is to rescue, restore and educate victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Our services include housing, awareness workshops, community engagement, diversion classes, reentry/post-release services, street outreach, and community resources.

Our resource and drop-in center is located in the city of Lynwood which borders Compton, WATTS and South Los Angeles. These areas combined harbors more than 61 known gangs. Many of the girls that frequent the center for services disclosed they were trafficked and many others are currently being trafficked by known gangs in the area, and many of them express their concerns with gang retaliation if they try to leave the life.

In 2017, we launched the “Freedom Initiative,” in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to provide 8-week classes, case management, and outreach to female inmates at the Central Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) in Lynwood, CA. Classes are specifically for inmates who have been identified and classified as having a history of prostitution, trafficking or sexual exploitation. Through the Freedom Initiative, we also provide “freedom bags” to more than 100 inmates per week. Bags are completely stocked with: tops, bottoms, hygiene items, gift cards and a resource guide to accessing post releases services. With the addition of this new program, there has been a noticeable increase in the request for victim services and education support.

I am most proud of our continued financial and program growth. Over the last three years, we have added more than 100 community partners, provided services to more than 4,000 girls and our giving has increased by 80%. I believe the one thing that sets us apart from other human trafficking organizations is that we have a team of dedicated and caring people. Our staff and volunteers are fully committed to our mission and they truly love helping the girls.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My birthday is the day after Christmas. When I was a kid, I never received birthday gifts, because of Christmas. When I was eight years old, my mother brought in the biggest blue Christmas tree and plopped it right in our living room. When I woke up on Christmas there were tons of Christmas and birthday presents! I cried because everything I ever wanted was under that tree and for the first time, I had birthday gifts!

Pricing:

  • For just $10 day, you can help us rescue a victim of human trafficking.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Natural Eye Photography

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