50 MIW honoree: Rachel VerWys

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Rachel VerWys. Courtesy 616 Media

Rachel VerWys

Executive director

Safe Haven Ministries

 

Rachel VerWys is battling an issue in West Michigan that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves: human trafficking.

VerWys is the executive director of Safe Haven Ministries, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering all survivors to find freedom from domestic violence while working to prevent and end relationship abuse.

She’s also board chair of SEE Human Trafficking Coalition.

“We organized a collective impact strategy which mobilized policy change to bring accountability to an exploitative industry in labor trafficking,” VerWys said of her work with SEE. “This collaborative framework brought in a $1.5 million human trafficking youth prevention grant to Kent ISD and recently leveraged a new federal grant to increase a cross-sector collaborative response strategy for human trafficking victims.”

Human trafficking is a subject that doesn’t get much exposure due to its secretive nature. VerWys is eager to change that.

“I am so proud of the work that I have done with partners and leaders the last four years to leverage imagination and possibility to bring over $4 million in new revenue to prevent human trafficking through education, increase access to trauma-informed services and training, expand housing options for those experiencing violence, and coordinate a multi-sector coordinated response to serve survivors of abuse and human trafficking,” she said.

For VerWys, it’s a labor of love.

“I love West Michigan. The work I lead … is about community development, which honors dignity in each person recognizes one another’s strengths.

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