U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, had been inside House of Hope for less than 30 minutes when he asked the pertinent question.
What could he do to help?
At this point in his visit Friday to the House of Hope, a therapeutic home for victims of sex trafficking, Carter had toured the home, where six girls currently live. He’d sat down with the girls, who are ages 12 to 18, and spoken with them about their experiences. And he’d been informed about many of the horrific realities faced by sex trafficking victims.
“We just can’t ignore it anymore,” said Darcelle Burandt, founder of House of Hope, located in Glynn County and the only center of its kind in this part of the state. “The communities can’t ignore it.”
Many others have had the same initial response when they discover the truths of this widespread crime that exists mostly in the dark.
Locally, that desire to provide some kind of support to the fight against human trafficking resulted in House of Hope’s creation. Burandt first felt called to help address human trafficking after she went through training two years ago. She then called upon her community to turn that call into action.
“We have a great story behind House of Hope,” Burandt told Carter, as they began a tour of the house Friday. “We knew the Lord was calling us to do it, a couple of years ago … We didn’t really have any money at all, but yet he said, ‘Just go ahead and press through,’ and we did. And the community came behind us big time.”
Burandt showed Carter her plans for a capital campaign that will raise funds for a larger house that can serve more girls, as well as smaller transition homes for girls when they leave House of Hope’s program.
“This house is too small for what we need and what our community needs and what our state needs,” Burandt said.
Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp visited House of Hope and offered similar sentiments as Carter. They wanted to help and needed to know what support they could offer.
The Kemps have plans to make the fight against human trafficking a priority in Georgia, Burandt said.
“Mrs. Kemp wants to be part of the rehabilitative services, and Gov. Kemp wants to be part of making sure the pimps are put behind bars,” she said.
The governor’s office and other state leaders working to address human trafficking need on-the-ground support in communities, Burandt said.
“The second part of (House of Hope’s) mission statement is to fight the factors that encourage trafficking to thrive, which is raising community awareness,” Burandt said. “If we don’t do that, then everybody stays in the dark, thinking not only that this doesn’t happen here in our state, but in our county.”
House of Hope has recently expanded its effort for outreach in the community. Those wishing to be a part of this effort can learn about opportunities to do so at houseofhoperefugeoflove.com.