In an effort to make a difference in the lives of human trafficking victims, Cadwalader’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) hosted a BBQ at Covenant House New York on Thursday, July 17. Covenant House is the nation’s largest privately funded agency serving homeless, at-risk, and runaway youth ages 16 to 21, many of whom have experienced trafficking or engaged in survival sex. More than 56,000 homeless people are served each year at 21 Covenant House locations in the United States, Canada and Latin America.
Women attorneys and summer associates donned aprons and hairnets that night to serve dinner to hundreds of young people. A magician entertained older youth and their babies and toddlers in tow during dinner.
Jayne Bigelsen, Covenant House’s Director of External Affairs and Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives, said that residents enjoyed the barbecue so much that they asked the next night when they could have burgers, hot dogs, and snow cones again. “But it is about so much more than the food and the show,” she said. More importantly, it is “about our young people understanding that they are a part of a New York City community who has not forgotten them.”
After dinner, WLI volunteers took a tour of the shelter to learn more about the services Covenant House provides. “It was a moving experience to see this facility in operation and participate in the BBQ for their young people. Their mission is impressive and their attitude and resolve to execute that mission is awe-inspiring,” said WLI Partner Chair Dorothy Auth.
The WLI first became involved in anti-human trafficking efforts back in 2012 by launching VS: Confronting Modern Slavery in America before it became a pro bono project of the Cadwalader Center for Community Service.
Bigelsen said, “I am especially grateful for Cadwalader’s work in the field of anti-human trafficking. Up to a quarter of our young people have experienced either trafficking or survival sex, and no young person should ever be in the position of having to exchange sex so they have enough food or a place to stay. I am still dreaming of opening a safe home for young trafficking survivors in conjunction with the LifeWay Network and look forward to working with Cadwalader on Covenant House’s many anti-trafficking and legal programs.”
(Photo: WLI Attorneys and Summer Associates at Covenant House New York. Back Row: Ellen Halstead, Christina Martin, Dorothy Auth, Elaine Baynham, Tanvi Mirani, Heather Murray and Tali Panken. Front Row: Tianyin (Nunu) Luo, Ailsa Chau, Karen Anzalone, Angela Wu and Brittany Schulman.)