Real Life Stories: People Trafficking in Canada (SafeHope Home)

The latest in our series of partner interviews is with Jasmine De Fina. Jasmine’s story was compiled by Liluye staff writer Sylvia Nalubega. Jasmine is the Executive Director of SafeHope Home, an organization with a long-term objective to break the cycle of exploitation by providing a way out for young women by providing a unique and comprehensive long-term recovery program of 3 to 7 years. They provide them with housing, help in getting post-secondary education, counseling, recovery, life skills, job preparedness classes, job shadowing, and on the job training.

How did you first get involved in being part of this work? In other words, what motivated you, or still drives you, to work on the issue of trafficking? Can you share a personal story?
I am a survivor of human trafficking, and I got involved with the work when I exited my situation. I told the officer that had helped me that I wanted to help other women that were in similar situations because I had watched…it was 2020 in America, about a woman who had gotten free from her trafficker. That gave me the courage to finally report to the police and get away from mine. So, I wanted to pay it forward in a similar way. That’s how I started getting involved in the work. My officer connected me with a survivor organization called Sex Trade 101 here in Canada. That’s when I started sharing my story and working on legislation with parliament, too; to help protect our women and girls. Then, I started working at SafeHome Home. They called me. I was a stay-at-home mom, and they called me up to ask if I would come in to be a peer mentor for the women occasionally. And, so I did. Then, one thing led to another, and I worked basically in a lot of different roles in the organization until I became the Executive Director a couple of years ago. At the same time, I also was called by victim services in the York region to come and help make some changes in that region, too. I’ve been with them as well for three years and working with the provincial government in Canada and Ontario to help do anti-trafficking training to service providers. 

Just in case someone doesn’t understand what human trafficking is, how would you explain it in simple terms?
I always say that it’s when someone is forcing you to do something against your will for their profit, whether they’re doing it forcefully in the sense of physically or mentally, such as playing mind games. It could be sex trafficking, working in the sex trade, giving them [pimps] money, labor trafficking, or even organ trafficking (when people’s organs are sold). One thing that I always help people to frame is what is a choice? Because oftentimes people say, “I chose to do it.” I believe that I chose to do it myself because that’s how good my trafficker was at manipulating me. A choice is not a choice unless you have an option of equal or greater value. That’s how I would describe it.

Tell us about the mission of SafeHope Home and the activities you’re doing. How many people have you reached?
SafeHope Home was founded eight years ago by three individuals. It was founded because they went on a mission trip to India, to Mahima homes. It shed light on human trafficking for them and they felt called to bring the model back to Canada. It was a home, not an institute. It’s a home where women who have been exploited or who are at risk of being exploited can come and rest and feel at home. It also helps them to stabilize and heal, or start to heal from all of the trauma that first led them to being trafficked but also the trauma of being trafficked. Now, SafeHope Home is a residential home that they call a “live-in program” where the women (survivors) live, and they learn life skills. They do cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and grocery shopping…that kind of fun stuff. That’s where they build a sisterhood, too, since it’s a group of six women who live in the home at any given time, sometimes seven since we have a transitional apartment in the basement. They all just kind of love one another and develop a sisterhood. There’s a sense of community and belonging. They also do day programs in an office that they attend Monday through Thursday called “day” programs. They go from, I believe, 9 a.m until 3:30 p.m. We try to do a holistic approach, which means they go to the gym doing physical, somatic movement, and then they get to choose what activity they do afterwards. They also do different programs at the office, such as self-esteem, relationships, healthy relationships, consent, childhood, family patterns, addiction courses, and stuff like that. The things that help to empower them and set them up for success once they leave the program. 

They can stay up to seven years if they like, too. We’ve had some individuals who have graduated from our programs which takes about a year. And, then sometimes they’ve stayed with us just to finish their university degree or to save up for a home since it’s really expensive. Then, they leave. Really, we’re creating that family environment for them, but in an ethical way. 

We also have an outreach program that we just really blew up with some additional funding. We were able to secure another location for our outreach drop-in center. And, through that we were able to help approximately 64 women through outreach this year, along with their children. We have two outreach workers who go out in the community; all over. They drive all over the province to love on these women and help them with practical needs such as groceries, clothes, toiletries, and whatever else they need. But, we also offer programming at the outreach office and online. They’re the same kind of programs that they do at the day program. In addition, we have different workshops they can attend for such things like eating disorders or whatever topics that they find they need to dive into. We also help them with their children, connecting them with parenting groups, offering life skills workshops, job readiness, and that sort of thing. The women that have graduated from us can be a part of those programs, too. They have that and also often come together to get to know one another. 

We also help to fund trauma therapy for all the women that work with us because we know that they need it and that it takes years to get ready to do the trauma therapy work. I think that’s pretty much our program in a nutshell, but really it’s just about loving on these women, helping them to realize who they are and what they’re capable of. 

What are the specific mission and goals of SafeHope Home?
Our hope is that one day human trafficking will end globally, and we’re committed to providing long-term help for those that are wanting to escape the entrapment. Our objective is to break the cycle of exploitation by providing a way out for these young women with a long-term recovery program. And, we provide them with housing, post-secondary school education, counseling, recovery, life skills, job preparedness, job shadowing, and on-the-job training. We provide them with a safe place to live and work, empowering them to transition into a healthy lifestyle within the community. Our programs were developed to help young women exiting the sex trade to rebuild their lives. 

What is the severity of human and sex trafficking in your area?
People always think human trafficking is an international thing and that it doesn’t happen in Canada, but it’s actually very prevalent here. It’s not what it looks like in the movies, either. It’s a very different picture. There are a lot of “Romeo” and “gorilla” pimps that pose as a boyfriend, luring kids online. It’s very prevalent, especially in the region that we serve in Ontario, Canada. I don’t have exact numbers because the statistics that we have come from police reports and most individuals who are trafficked don’t report it to police out of fear. I think the number was around 2,000 reported cases last year, but that’s a fraction of what actually exists because most people don’t report it. We see the majority of individuals being women and girls. And, the average age of somebody being lured into sex trafficking in Canada is 12 to 13, so young kids. We’re also seeing an increase in boys as well. The most vulnerable populations are those who are homeless, LGBTQ, BIPOC, black, indigenous women, and those with special or different abilities or exceptionalities. Those are the people that are preyed upon by traffickers specifically in our region. And, the indigenous women, specifically, they’re 40% of our trafficked people here, and they only make up 5% of our population. It’s a really big problem. And, with online capability it’s becoming increasingly worse. 

Can you share a success story with us? 
There are so many success stories. One that really stands out to me is this young woman that came in. She had a long road ahead of her. She essentially had started being groomed for trafficking by her mother. Then, she was trafficked as a child and struggled with addiction significantly. It was a rough road for both her and her sibling who were trafficked. When she came to us she was very quiet, nervous, and anxious. She used to dissociate multiple times in a conversation. Her health was in a really bad place. She was on all kinds of serious medical interventions just to keep her body functioning. She stayed with us until she graduated, and since her graduation she has completely transformed. We helped her to slowly transition to her own apartment, and now she’s living in a big city and working independently. She even started her very own peer program where she supports peers on her own. It’s a registered charity, not for profit. I’ve also connected her with a few other careers. She’s been helping so many people, including men, boys, women, children, and non-gender conforming individuals. She’s really doing incredible work in the community, and she’s been sober for years now. She graduated from her post-secondary education, too, and is very healthy and vibrant. Just looking at her you would never have any idea of the things that she’s been through in her life. She’s really a testament to the work that can be done. It’s just so beautiful. 

What kind of change do you want to see as a result of your work among the survivors of trafficking, or those who are most vulnerable to it?
Well, we are very client directed. So, when someone comes in we sit with them, ask them what they are working towards, and what they want to see change. It’s really about seeing them put that goal or those goals together, and to help them work towards them. It’s not always linear, and it’s not always uphill, but to see them conquer the mountains that come before them and achieve their goals, that’s the greatest change that we like to see. 

How can someone enroll at SafeHope Home?
We get referrals through community partners, either through victim services or through another community-based organization. Sometimes it’s through our social media; people will reach out for loved ones. This means that another agency, through a referral form that would be filled out with just basic information would be needed to get things rolling. And that’s it. We try to be as low barrier as possible in our outreach program. It’s a pretty minimal barrier. And, then the [residential] home is stage two so that people are more stabilized, and the group isn’t affected by somebody who’s maybe not ready for it yet. We’re currently working on opening up an emergency shelter where people can come live here, too.

What kind of support do you need for your work?
It costs a lot of money to do what we do. We’re always looking for donations. It’s very helpful. It truly does take a village to combat human trafficking. We really appreciate the financial donations, or even practical donations such as clothing, toiletries, and that sort of thing. And, we’re always appreciative of prayer, too.

For donations, you can go to:, or for packages and/or checks, send it to: SafeHope Home, Box 368, 15-75 Bayly St. W., Ajax, Ontario L1S 7K7.

We provide tax receipts for folks that are interested in that.

To find out more about SafeHope Home:
Visit SafeHope Home on the web: SafeHope Home
Visit SafeHope Home on Facebook: SafeHope Home
Visit SafeHope Home on Instagram: SafeHope Home
Visit SafeHope Home on Twitter: SafeHope Home

For more information about Liluye or to inquire about becoming a partner, please visit: Or, if you are interested in donating to Liluye, please visit:

Jasmine was interviewed by Liluye staff writer Sylvia Nalubega who also writes a blog, Sanyu Centre for Arts and Rights. Sylvia’s personal message to everyone is, “We live beyond ourselves by sharing our story to hopefully impact a person.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *