Eden House: Addressing the Human Trafficking Crisis One Victim at a Time

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient, Annalise Harknett, joined Eden House for a fall semester internship. Annalise is a senior (Class of 2o21) studying public health. 

When I first heard about Eden House back in 2019, I was immediately drawn in by their mission. This New Orleans-based nonprofit is dedicated to eradicating human trafficking by providing comprehensive, transformative recovery services, like long-term shelter and mental health counseling, to survivors. Human and sex trafficking is an extremely complex, daunting, and emotional issue, and I found Eden House’s passion and commitment to helping victims really admirable and important. That’s why, when I was sent internship information by my advisor at Tulane, I knew I wanted to apply. I originally sent in an application for the summer of 2020, but my plans were put on hold when I had to return home to Tennessee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I couldn’t intern with Eden House over the summer, I was offered a fall internship position for the coming semester. I was originally granted a Changemaker Catalyst Award from the Taylor Center for the summer, but they kindly let me transfer it for my fall internship instead. I am so grateful that they made my internship with Eden House possible, as it has been a really impactful experience for me.

I continued my internship into the spring, and I have worked as a general intern at Eden House for nine months now, providing administrative, day-to-day support to help the organization work towards their mission and best meet their residents’ needs. As an intern at a nonprofit whose work primarily takes place in and revolves around an in-house residency program, my position entails a variety of things. Up to eight women can participate in Eden House’s program at a time, and they live full time within the residence. Because these women have gone through difficult, traumatic experiences and are on the road to recovery, building a supportive community in their residence is really important. Their house, although temporary, should feel like a home. As interns, our jobs are to facilitate this and provide the resources and hands that Eden House needs to give the residents the best experience they can.

On the more domestic side of things, I have driven residents to their doctor’s appointments, made grocery runs with them, baked apple pies, and cleaned and organized different areas of the house and backyard. On the business side of things, I have communicated and engaged with stakeholders, written and edited grant proposals, assisted with outreach during fundraisers, provided organizational support to the Executive Director, and written a preliminary report on the Return on Investment (ROI) of Eden House’s programs. Because my position involves such a variety of tasks, I walk into each shift with a positive attitude, ready to take on whatever they may need. Luckily, the staff members at Eden House make this so easy to do. There are five amazing women who work full time within the residence, and they create an extremely welcoming and encouraging space for their interns. I have never felt uncomfortable coming to them with questions, and this is a really important part of an internship or job experience for me. When I feel comfortable, respected and valued as an intern, I am better able to make an impact within the organization.

Since August, I have been working on a long-term project for Eden House called a Social Return on Investment (SROI) Analysis. This analysis is an outcome-based measurement tool that helps nonprofits quantity the social, environmental, and economic value that they create. It can be useful in helping the organization understand what parts of their programs are working well and which ones need to be restructured. Moreover, SROIs can communicate a nonprofit’s impact with investors and stakeholders, therefore justifying their financial contributions to the organization. When I first started this project, I was optimistic about my ability to get the data that I needed to reach a complete, insightful SROI report. However, as an undergraduate without any formal training in this specific process, I soon learned that there were some limitations to the analysis. For example, the past residents that still keep in contact with Eden House’s staff members are ones who are doing well and have succeeded in their recovery outside of the residence. Because of this, it would have been difficult for me to get an accurate picture of Eden House’s impact on residents’ post-graduation – our data would be skewed in favor of the organization. As much as I love Eden House and admire the work that they do, this would have been an unethical and inaccurate measure of their impact. Because of these limitations, my long-term project has shifted gears into a preliminary report on the financial difference between the annual cost of a resident participating in Eden House’s program and the annual cost to the government of a typical resident before entering into a recovery program. I am really excited to finalize my research into a publishable report that will show just how important the work done at Eden House is.

The past nine months at Eden House have been incredibly rewarding and impactful for me. The staff members, residents, and interns that I have been able to work with and alongside for the last two semesters have made my experience better than I could have imagined. As a public health major and SISE minor, I have always had an interest in the nonprofit sector, and my internship has further cemented that interest. In my future career, I want to help people and make a real, meaningful impact. I hope to be able to create the same type of change in the world that the Eden House staff members have created for our residents.