Kimberly Williams is a project coordinator in the spiritual care department at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston.
By Bob Kehoe
The process of identifying, treating and connecting with sexual exploitation victims is no simple matter for any health care organization. For Kimberly Williams, project coordinator in the spiritual care department at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, it’s not about “rescuing” victims.
“I’m not rescuing people, and I would hope people in the hospital would not use that term. The hospital setting allows me, as a project coordinator, the opportunity to listen and provide a space for these patients to share their stories with no judgment and to reconnect with their spirituality and, hopefully, that is something they can build upon as they recover,” Williams says.
“There was a home in my area for minors who were sexual exploitation victims. I went to the home and got to meet some of the young ladies who were victims. I felt compelled to do more,” Williams says.
She started planning events and asking friends to contribute money to fund trips to the zoo, the museum or to a college campus — anywhere to open the young women’s minds about possibilities for a better life.
“I wanted them to see that college could be an option for them — no pressure,” Williams says. “I wanted these young ladies to be loved and cared for. My goal was just to open them up so that they could see there was something else they could do with their lives.”
After a while, people who had heard about what Williams was doing would put money in her mailbox to support these activities. “My husband would say, ‘That’s not going to work,’” she laughs. But it did work, and it provided a springboard for greater outreach on Williams’ part.
She and her husband and three children opened their home to provide respite care for the girls during holidays.
“The girls would come to our home and stay during the Christmas season, Thanksgiving or when they had no place else to go. This also gave the staff at the home where the girls lived time to be off, while giving the girls a semblance of what Christmas or Thanksgiving might look like,” Williams says.
She has continued raising awareness about human trafficking in her role at Baylor St. Luke’s. She’s also doing a different kind of outreach these days as an active member of the Houston Area Human Trafficking Health Care Consortium. The group comprises representatives from Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital, Houston Methodist, Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Memorial Hermann Health System and San José Clinic. The consortium members meet regularly to share insights and information about how their institutions identify, treat and offer services to human-trafficking victims.
“We want the consortium to be a place where people can come and share what they’re doing at their organizations. We set a really good example of how hospitals and organizations can come together for the greater good of our community so that we can provide world-class care to the most vulnerable in our society,” Williams says. “We want no one left behind or forgotten or feeling that they may not be important enough or not on our radar for the best research in our area.”
Williams and her husband have also started a nonprofit, The Faith Collaborative, an organization that provides pastoral care for victims of human trafficking. For Williams, this work won’t end.
“I’m sure I’ll be involved in this work until I die. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.