GenerateHope: A Smithie’s Fight Against Sex Trafficking
Susan Munsey ‘93
Founder & Executive Director of GenerateHope
Susan Munsey ‘93 has had a fruitful career in the healthcare industry after receiving her MA in social work at Smith. Her professional experiences range from working in a psychiatric unit at a hospital to working directly with her community to help those who are struggling with mental illness. Susan eventually went into private practice, and quickly became aware of the gravity of the sex-trafficking network – a social justice issue she cares about deeply – in her hometown of San Diego.
To combat sex trafficking in her community, Susan started GenerateHope – a non-profit organisation that helps sex-trafficking survivors recover and heal in a safe and supportive environment. Speaking on her motivation to begin this venture, she says, “really all of the things I had done in the past came together to help me start GenerateHope.” The program occupies a property with a large home and separate treatment buildings. They have two residence moms that live on-site, and each day residents of GenerateHope participate in a program that consists of education to help the survivors get either a GED or a high school diploma, and psychotherapy to help survivors cope with the trauma of their experiences. GenerateHope also provide five weekly group therapy sessions, one individual therapy session, and adjunct therapies such as art, yoga or dance. Lastly, GenerateHope collaborates within the community to provide care for medical, dental, psychiatric and tattoo removal for the women they serve.
Susan’s non-profit is now a success, but it was not an easy journey. One of her biggest challenges was “first and foremost the finances,” she laughs wryly. The need for financial resources and the successful management of these resources is a challenge that every social impact entrepreneur faces. While Susan admits this isn’t her strong suit, she emphasizes that these are things that can be learned, and that delegation of resource management to staff that are good at such tasks is both a great way to organize and to learn. For Susan, though, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks:
“I think it’s just so rewarding to work with the women and help them grow and develop and make up for lost time.”
Another challenge that is fairly unique to the non-profit sector is organizing volunteers. The sheer number of community members that want to help requires adept coordination skills. This is another area that Susan has been particularly successful in: engaging and organizing the community. Managing relationships is essential to non-profit work. Additionally, starting GenerateHope required an immense amount of research. Susan didn’t want to ignore programs that were already doing great work with rehabilitation, instead she focused on taking cues from them. She also dove into what exactly women who left sex trafficking wanted, listening to them tell it in their own words.
All the therapeutic knowledge she gained from Smith, the research she conducted, and her own personal experiences joined together to eventually help her launch GenerateHope. In the end of our interview with Susan, we asked what she thought we should know about her work.
“It’s important to know that sex-trafficking can happen to anybody. A lot of times the assumption is that it’s only people of lower-economic status who might be trafficked. And they do prey on that area, but it could be anybody.”
Susan pointed out that as women, being aware of one’s surroundings is especially important. Like her organization, though, she ended on a note of hope, “Always know that there is help. There are a lot of different resources out there.”
Resources for sex-trafficking survivors:
Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-737-888
Susan Munsey ‘93
Susan Munsey received her Masters is Social Work from Smith in ’93. She is the founder and Executive Director of GenerateHope, a residential program in San Diego that provides support, education and rehabilitation for women who have been sex-trafficked. She is passionate about education, awareness and community. She’s has a successful career path that has focused primarily on psychiatric work with women & teens.
Connect with Susan on LinkedIn