In 2023, Dallas, Texas-based New Friends New Life (NFNL) celebrates its Silver Jubilee. Over the past 25 years, the leading nonprofit agency has helped restore and empower women and girls who have been trafficked or exploited.
As the group’s mission states, “By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty and limited opportunities.”
“Since 2018, the Santander Consumer USA Foundation has partnered with New Friends New Life, providing transformative financial and volunteer support to help remove the legal and economic barriers faced by sex trafficking victims,” New Friends New Life CEO Bianca Davis said.
“Additionally, Santander actively follows NFNL’s No Harm Network which is a corporation’s agreement to adopt, maintain and enforce policies that combat sex trafficking through proactive measures to help reduce the demand.”
Santander also has sponsored NFNL’s annual luncheon, supporting the Youth Resource Center, which restores and empowers youth survivors of sex trafficking as well as girls at risk of exploitation. At last year’s luncheon, NFNL awarded Santander the 2022 ProtectHER Award for Corporate Partner of the Year. This award recognized Santander for not only shining a light on an industry that is victimizing 25 million people around the world, but also for providing transformative contributions as advocates, volunteers and donors.
Projects funded by Santander’s grants address economic and legal barriers facing survivors in NFNL’s Women’s Program. Financial grants support the Economic Empowerment for Survivors program which provides financial literacy, employment coaching and benchmarked financial incentives to help 250 survivors with expenses like rent, food and transportation as they move through four phases of NFNL’s program.
Funding from Santander also has enabled NFNL to launch and maintain The Legal Advocacy Clinic, which has a staff attorney to help review criminal histories, create a legal action plan, lead cases on behalf of members and maintain a Legal Advocacy Fund helping with fees associated with clearing criminal histories.
According to Davis, since its emergence in 1998 when a woman entered a local church seeking help from their women’s group, the organization has grown into the largest Dallas-area organization offering comprehensive, trauma-informed programs for adult and youth survivors as well as vulnerable, at-risk girls. NFNL also facilitates anti-trafficking education and advocacy programs to raise awareness about the prevalence of sex trafficking in the Dallas community, and the role every citizen can play to interrupt this illegal industry.
“New Friends New Life is continually growing our reach and services to meet the needs of survivors,” said Davis. “In 2022, we served 357 women and girls. NFNL debuted our new on-site Legal Advocacy Clinic providing survivors who attend our programs, 60% of whom have a criminal history from acts they were forced to commit while being trafficked, with free legal aid.”
“Additionally, this year in 2023 we will break ground on the Liberty Street Garden, an opportunity for survivors to gain employment experience and education,” Davis adds. “The problem of sex trafficking in Dallas is indisputable and the need for organizations like New Friends New Life is evident. NFNL’s programs meet survivors where they are and enable each survivor to soar above the limitations of her past to achieve her dreams.”
Santander employees have provided volunteer services through multiple avenues including hosting a “Buying a Car” workshop for survivors, teaching finance classes and assisting with mock interviews for NFNL program members. Volunteers also serve evening meals for members attending classes, provide professional coaching like résumé help, assist in donation drives to supply the resource closets available to the members and provision of gift cards to be used by members to purchase professional clothing for upcoming interviews or job promotions.
The volunteers foster healthy relationships with members and help with social interaction. Volunteers also assist with special events NFNL coordinates for its members including Easter Baskets, Back to School Drives, Thanksgiving Dinner Boxes, Fall Trunk or Treat and Angel Tree programs. And our Santander Consumer team members, including CTO Don Smith, have taken the time to participate in the NFNL bus tours to better understand how trafficking happens in our community.
“My journey with New Friends New Life began in 2022 and has been nothing short of amazing,” said Robert Flores, Dealer Operations Lead at Santander Consumer. “Through the amazing Santander Consumer Conexión Business Resource Group we have been able to take part in multiple events held by NFNL, positively impacting the lives of these women and young ladies. The relationships built and the understanding of circumstance is eye opening and thoroughly humbling. It has been truly an honor to be able to help with their Mock Interview program, Fashion Fridays and other events. The work we have done is not thanks to just one person. I would like to personally thank my colleagues Krystal Sostre, Alexandra Warren, Myrna Rivera, Ruth Parada, Fernando Valenciana, and Cristina Blanch for their support with the group as well.”
According to Davis, “with the support from Santander Consumer USA in 2022, NFNL leveraged this relationship to secure new partnerships including a grant from VOCA’s General Victims Assistance Fund. This allowed NFNL to hire a second Economic Empowerment Specialist, increasing our capacity to provide job skills training and financial literacy education to more survivors, as well as the Texas Bar Foundation supporting our new Legal Advocacy Clinic. Further investment in our organization from the Santander Consumer USA Foundation has enabled NFNL the opportunity to establish relationships with other funding entities. These entities have focused their attention on key areas of legal aid, advocacy and education … securing ongoing grants and donations to continue the important work of serving survivors.”
This September, NFNL formally celebrates 25 years during its annual luncheon featuring a keynote from Emmy-winning actor Kerry Washington.