We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessa Dillow Crisp and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessa Dillow, what matters most to you?
Recently, I found myself in the middle of a conversation where my mind transported me back to when I was a young adult, homeless in Vancouver, BC. Those days were hard and traumatic. People would stare at me, undress me in their imagination, or turn their eyes away in disgust. I felt invisible within society. It was during those days that a smile from a social worker at the youth shelter I went to permeated my heart and gave me the ability to walk into another day. Her smile was much like the gentle touch of a woman who worked for the Salvation Army that made me feel seen and loved—reminding me that I was human. Due to the kindness of others, almost eleven years later, I am sitting in a beautiful place that is overlooking one of our majestic Colorado sunsets with my dog gently snoring at my feet. I currently hold a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I am the co-founder of BridgeHope (an anti-trafficking non-profit in the Denver region that helps individuals coming out of exploitation), and I have spoken around the world on topics associated with human trafficking, trauma recovery, and the development of resilience. Although the life I am living now no longer mirrors the dichotomy of the realities I have endured, I no longer regret the things I have experienced. Rather, pain has given me the eyes to see both the dark evil and the beautiful goodness of humanity and the gift to see the hurt others carry. It has enabled me to find hope in the kindness I have been shown by others. Ultimately, teaching me that recovery is not measured by the ability to forget both the grotesque sights and putrid smells of our history, but it is the decision to not be defined by it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a survivor of human trafficking and the Co-founder and Executive Director of BridgeHope (www.bridgehopenow.org), an anti-trafficking non-profit in the Denver metro area, my story paired with educational experience is embeded into everything that we do… from the programs we offer to survivors around the US, the trauma-informed approach that we have fostered, as well as to the dreams the non-profit holds for the future. Yet, even though it is essential to do things well, behind every email and interaction is the fact that we want to give kindness to every human being that engages with us. If we seek to create change and collaborate resources for others without kindness, we are failing to not only speak the language of humanity, but we are missing what it truly means to foster hope in the lives of others. Personally, fostering a culture of kindness within BridgeHope has been challenging since society often indicates that quantity is more important than relationships. I beg to differ, as changing culture can only happen by mindfully engaging with those who are forming it—the people around us. I want to be a person that sees the invisible, believes in the possibilities other humans hold, and celebrates the baby steps of change one boldly takes into their future.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I wish you could see me laughing right now as I have no idea how to answer this question. Maybe it’s because I have been living in a pandemic over the past year with the rest of the world or perhaps it’s because I define myself as a nerd and am self-conscious that others might not enjoy the things that bring me pleasure. Hopefully, my friend would enjoy my plans! I would take my friend for a hike around the Deer Creek Canyon Loop (https://dayhikesneardenver.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a shoutout to Covenant House in Vancouver, BC (https://www.covenanthousebc.
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