Written by Kim Merrikin
on November 20, 2017
Every single person is worthy of love.
That is the belief that drives our work at REST, and that was the theme of the evening at our fifth annual A Night of REST fundraising gala on Saturday, November 11.
And we heard all 600+ attendees boldly declare with us that they, too, believe that survivors of commercial sexual exploitation are worthy of love. We heard them through their presence, through the conversations we had throughout the evening, and through their immensely generous giving. Together, A Night of REST guests gave over $532,000 to offer pathways of freedom, safety, and hope to the women and men that REST serves. That is huge.
It was incredible to see 79 guests give $1,000 each during the fund-a-need portion of the evening—which meant also being given a $50,000 matching gift. In about five minutes on Saturday night, A Night of REST guests gave $128,000. In just the fund-a-need segment alone, guests gave over $267,000. This kind of generosity is absolutely astounding. We are so encouraged, and grateful.
The highlight for many at A Night of REST, however, was the story told throughout the night. It started with experiential art installations that depicted different common themes that we’ve heard over the years from survivors. Artist Reformation created three installations that featured different “at the edge of my bed” scenes—from childhood, to hotel rooms, to jail cell rooms—and ultimately to their bed at the REST house. The vignettes took attendees through things many victims of trafficking feel: unseen, unheard, and unloved.
But that was just the beginning.
For the first time, survivors from the REST Restorative Housing Program took the stage and presented. We’ve long been cautious of doing this, because we want to honor our clients’ privacy, and avoid re-traumatizing or re-exploitive experiences. But, over the last few months several survivors asked to share their stories, to use their voices to reclaim their experiences and highlight their strengths in a healing and empowering way.
A Night of REST 2017 was a beautiful example of their bravery, as they shared in pre-recorded spoken word poetry about their past—and stepped to the podium to share with attendees how their life has changed since coming to REST. The room was still and silent as each survivor talked about her life now—at the edge of her REST bed.
“At REST I have been able to paint a new picture of what I want my life to be. I am discovering a new perspective—full of choices I never knew were available to me. I feel unconditional love and acceptance. I have reconnected with my faith and spirituality. For the first time in eleven years I have stable housing, food, and a supportive staff that helps motivate me to meet my needs. I have found my voice, and I am now establishing who I am.” —REST House Resident
“I feel safe at REST. I don’t have an organization behind me, I have a family. I don’t stay at the rest house, for my daughter and I, that’s home.” —REST House Resident
“Since I came to REST I learned to maintain sobriety, a job, a healthy relationship, and a car. I take pride in everything I have earned, I can’t believe I’ve come so far. I am proud of who I am, and now know the woman in the mirror. I am worthy of love, honor, trust, dignity, and respect. I have never seen anything clearer.” —REST House Resident
Each of their speeches concluded with the same refrain—that same belief that drives all of the work we do at REST—and each of their speeches was met with a standing ovation and the support of the over 600 people who gathered to support them—and others with similar stories.
“I deserve to be loved. I am loved.”
Thank you, to everyone who came together at A Night of REST 2017, to declare that every single person is worthy of love.