Eighteen years old is a pivotal time in every person’s life. The excitement of starting our journey into adulthood is matched only by the wave of pure anxiety when we realize “ Holy crap! I’m on my own!” For Abigail Howard, 18 years old came with those emotions of course, but it also came with a series of events that changed her life and so many other lives for the better, forever. Abigail is the founder of “Project Micah”, a non-profit organization that supports, educates and cares for safehouses across the country that are home to victims of human trafficking. Now 22, Abigail sat down with me to discuss how “Project Micah” came to be and the impact they are making around the country and beyond.
In a time where it seemed she didn’t know which direction she wanted to go, Abigail was approached with an offer from an old friend. The offer was for a spot on a missions trip to Mexico to visit a safehouse home to survivors of human trafficking , and little did she know, this offer would change the course of her life forever. “I was offered the opportunity from an old friend who used to go to the same church I went to! There was one spot left that randomly opened up on a missions trip and I was very nervous to attend! The cost was $600 and I told God that if he was real he would be able to provide for the trip. Just like that, the whole trip was paid for!” The trip to Mexico began light-hearted and filled with smiles, laughs and fond moments. However, the closer they crept to their destination, the more reality set in about the situation they were about to enter. “ We began to travel through the red light district in the City of Tijuana. We saw children, little kids in high heels, hustling and offering themselves to men everywhere. The entire van went silent. We quickly grasped the reality of the situation. It remained stone cold quiet until we reached our destination.”
The next morning, it was time for the group from the mission to meet the residents. At first, there was a typical, tentative nervousness among them. “We weren’t quite sure how to approach. We were also separated by these partition doors. I quickly approached the doors and swung them open as my peers followed. From that moment, things were never the same.” Abigail was introduced to survivors from all walks of life, but one special bond she made has lasted until this very day. “There was this little girl, just 4 years old. She had been trafficked and abused by her mother, literally sold out of a hotel room night after night. She had been through an unimaginable amount of pain due to her mother’s habits. The most amazing and beautiful thing was you would have never known. She was always happy. Always smiling. Even though there was a significant language barrier, her and I grew very, very close.”
The trip came to a close. As the group began their journey back to their respective lives, everyone seemed to slowly start to return to their normal behaviors. The smiles returned. The laughs were back. Not quite as much for Abigail. “I had no intentions of letting one moment of my trip be forgotten. Not one face. When I got home, I couldn’t sleep. I remember my parents trying to calm me down and tell me it was because it was all fresh. That it would just go away. I knew God had different plans for me. He had put me on this path and on that path, I glady walked. I got right to work. I researched and studied and figured out a way that I could really make a difference in these survivor’s lives.”
Once Abigail had an exact vision of what it was she wanted to accomplish, it was time to come up with a name. She drew inspiration from the same place that sparked this sudden shift in purpose just months earlier. ” The little girl who I had connected so close with back in Mexico. When we were going to say goodbye, she reached out her hand and in mine she placed a bracelet. I had worn it every day since and while I was thinking of a name, I realized that I was playing with said bracelet around my wrist. The bracelet read Micah 6:8, like the bible verse.” Alas, “Project Micah” was born. Abigail explains “ We want to fight every day to give a voice to the survivors and victims of human trafficking. Too often, when they escape that life, there are places to go but no programs to successfully educate and mold them back into society. That is where we come in. We partner with safehouses internationally and nationally to provide support and to ensure these programs are being instilled. Each house we partner with is vetted thoroughly before they become a partner. I personally travel to each safehouse that we consider and connect and make sure this is where we want to align ourselves.” As soon as they had gained enough support and leapt through all the hoops to officially become a non-profit, “Project Micah” was ready to make a difference. Abigail’s first stop to fund and pledge support? You guessed it. That same safehouse down in Mexico that started it all.
To date, “Project Micah” has partnered with safehouses in 4 different states and the goal is to partner with at least one in all 50. Abigail has returned to school at Florida Atlantic University and while juggling a class load, still runs the day to day operations of the foundation. She is never alone though. They now have 12 amazing volunteers who help out across the nation. Abigail Howard and “Project Micah” are just another example of the unsung heroes of our world who deserve to be recognized for their unwavering efforts to combat the epidemic that is human trafficking. Their passion, love and work they put in is beyond admirable and exactly the type of organization we take pleasure in aligning ourselves with here at Strangers 2 Changers and The Hue Jackson Foundation. For more information on how to donate or even be a part of their team, please visit projectmicah.org