Circle of Friends Announces new Impact Scholarship to educate and empower female survivors of child sex trafficking and exploitation

**UPDATED**  Circle of Friends Launches New Impact Scholarship to Educate and Empower Female Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking and Exploitation

Inaugural Award Doubles to $20,000 Since Initial January Announcement

(Atlanta, GA- March 8, 2017) Circle of Friends: Celebrating Life, Inc. (COFCL) today launched its new Circle of Friends Impact Scholarship to assist young, female survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation pursue post-secondary education and workforce skills in pursuit of self-sufficiency. 

“Circle of Friends has a long-standing history of offering programs and services which enrich the spirit, soul and well-being of young women seeking to reclaim their power and transform their victimization into the springboard for their own self-actualization,” said Lisa C. Williams, founder of Circle of Friends and Living Water for Girls program. “I am greatly humbled that we are now able to add this scholarship program to our roster of services, as its contribution will make important educational resources available to young women who need increased access and opportunities to cultivate a promising future.”

The online application submission process opens today, Wednesday, March 8, 2017 (International Women’s Day), with a deadline submission date of Monday, May 8, 2017. COFCL may award up to twenty (20) new scholarships in an aggregate amount of up to $20,000 each year.  The scholarship funds will be disbursed directly to the educational institution that the recipient is attending.  Applicants may apply for the following scholarships:

(a)   The Maria Duenas Calvo Scholarship (the “Calvo Scholarship”) is awarded to those qualified individuals interested in attending a technical school or a two (2) year college with a focus towards majoring in horticulture, allied health, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or another major closely related.

(b)   The Honorable Nina R. Hickson Scholarship (the “Hickson Scholarship” and, together with the “Calvo Scholarship”, the “Scholarships” and each, a “Scholarship”) is awarded to those qualified individuals interested in attending a four-year college with a focus towards majoring in journalism, social work, government/law, allied health, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or another major closely related.

(c)    The Lisa C. Williams Scholarship (the “Williams Scholarship”) is awarded to those qualified individuals in need of assistance in paying for housing or public transportation while attending college.  This scholarship will provide for a one-time-only, on-campus housing deposit and or one month's rent or two semesters of public transportation.

COFCL Board Members announced the formation of the Circle of Friends Impact Scholarship at their office located on the campus of Atlanta Metropolitan State College (AMSC). Atlanta Metropolitan State College is a unit of the University System of Georgia. AMSC focuses on excellence, where outstanding faculty members and committed staff teach and facilitate the successful academic matriculation and holistic development of students. AMSC offers an affordable liberal arts education and prepares students from a diverse urban community to function in a global society.

About COFCL, Inc.

Circle of Friends: Celebrating Life, Inc., was established on September 12, 1999, with a focus to serve, educate, equip and empower women to make a positive difference in the lives of other women and girls. The COFCL mission is to assist youth and young women survivors of violence, street life and human trafficking in their efforts to pursue educational endeavors and to acquire skills allowing them to become self-sufficient.

 In 2017, COFCL celebrated an impactful legislative victory, the enactment of Georgia Constitutional Amendment 2- SR7 or “Rachel’s Law/Safe Harbor Act,” which provides much needed resources to survivors of child sex trafficking and exploitation throughout Georgia. The law is named for COCFL graduate Rachel, and is the first Safe Harbor law in the nation to be named in honor of a child sex trafficking survivor.

 COFCL has received numerous awards and recognitions for its restorative and rehabilitation work with young women and girls and was also profiled in the 2015 CNN Special Report, Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking.”

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RACHEL'S LAW is official!

This law wouldn't have passed without fellow Georgian's uniting for the future of our children. We celebrate with you this day, this new year.

Key Provisions of SR7, Rachels' Law

  • Requires the development of a statewide plan for the coordinated delivery of services to sexually exploited and trafficked children.
  • Establishes a Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission using fines from convicted traffickers.
  • Improves the legal standing of youth who have been identified as sex trafficking victims.
  • Extends the statute of limitations for the victims of child sex trafficking to file civil actions against their traffickers to age 25.
  • Expands forfeiture and seizure laws related to sex trafficking and related offenses– allowing any proceeds from trafficking, and the vehicles operated by a person who is guilty of trafficking, to be subject to forfeiture to the state.
  • Amends the State Sexual Offender Registry to now include convicted offenders of trafficking a person for sexual servitude.

Transformative Justice Symposium and Candlelight Vigil

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 | 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

  • Venue: Spelman College, Sisters Chapel
  • Address: 350 Spelman Lane
  • Location: Atlanta, GA

A gathering of faith, hope, and action in recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  The keynote speaker is Malika Saada Saar, senior counsel on civil and human rights at Google. She will be joined by survivors, community leaders and legislators.

The symposium is free and open to the public, and will be held in The Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center Auditorium.

This is event is hosted by Spelman College Sisters Chapel, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights International Human Trafficking Institute, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Interfaith Children’s Movement and Circle of Friends/Living Water for Girls.

L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth...Honors Lisa Williams as First-Ever Impact Award Winner

NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- L'Oreal Paris honored 10 women pursuing their passions and improving the lives of others through giving back to their communities at the 10th anniversary Women of Worth celebration last night. The company named Schinnell Leake, founder of Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, dedicated to providing homeless children with birthday parties, as the National Honoree of its signature philanthropic program. Former Honoree Lisa Williams received the first-ever Women of Worth Impact Award in celebration of the 10th anniversary to recognize her continued work in protecting sex trafficking victims.

CNN, Jada Pinkett Smith Join Forces for Special Report on Sex Trafficking

In a CNN Special Report, actress and long-time advocate Jada Pinkett Smithtravels to Atlanta – a trafficking hotspot – to try and unravel the complicated web of human trafficking that’s happening right here in the United States. The hour-long special report is a gritty, raw look at the human trafficking industry in the United States, the lives of children caught in its web, and those fighting back against this form of modern-day slavery. Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking airs Tuesday, July 21 at 9pm ET/PT on CNN, CNN International and via CNNgo.

In this powerful report, Pinkett Smith and CNN delve deep into the heart of this heinous crime, following undercover officers on raids and rescues of underage victims, accompanying aid workers on outreach missions, and spending time with the survivors in shelters as they share their harrowing stories.

AJC: Legislation targeting sex traffickers gains final passage

Georgia senators gave final approval Thursday to legislation that would toughen penalties and fines against sex traffickers.

Senate Bill 8 and the accompanying Senate Resolution 7 would require convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders, and pay into a new Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to help victims with housing, health care and other services.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, is known as the Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act in honor of a sex trafficking victim who testified during a hearing earlier in the legislative session.

Safe Harbor/Rachel's Law on WXIA News

The #IamRachel movement amplifies the voices of Rachel, all children, and all of us, collectively, to take a stand for Survivors of child sex trafficking. This movement is founded on the belief in healing and in hope. This 2015 legislative season, the Safe Harbor/Rachel's Law Act, has been proposed. It would significantly aid victims and further the fight to end trafficking. Your role in this movement can and will make a difference in having our voices heard. Below is the link of WXIA's news coverage by Blayne Alexander and an interview with state legislators who fight for this bill, the interview explains the legislation and highlights the courage of Rachel and the young people she and we collectively stand for.


Lisa Williams and Stephanie (Client at Living Water for Girls) on V103

In Lisa’s 1st segment, she explains how our language victimizes girls and indemnifies traffickers and rapists.  She also debunks some of the myths surrounding sex trafficking in affluent neighborhoods.

In Lisa’s 2nd segment, she informs parents and concerned individuals of the tactics used by pimps and traffickers to lure girls and boys into the sex trade.

In “Stephanie” interview, she courageously shares the story of how she was forced into the American sex trade at only 13 years of age.  Stephanie, now 18 years old, gives much-needed insight into the reality of trafficking, but she also gives hope, through her example of healing and advocacy.

Lisa Williams sits down with Rashan Ali and Atlanta & Co.

Yesterday, people all over Metro-Atlanta were able to get a glimpse of the spirit and strength behind Circle of Friends as they tuned in to Atlanta & Co. with Rashan Ali. Our Founder, Lisa WIlliams, spoke about the adolescent girl pictured in the media with shackles and being charged as a prostitute that became the catalyst for her to create our organization. “I had to. You can’t see a picture of a ten year old girl being charged with a crime committed against her, and do nothing,” Lisa shared.

It was very exciting to have the chance to share the impact and growth of our programs: Living Water for Girls, Living Water Learning Resource Center, and Living Water Training Enterprise with the community. The resources and wrap-around services being provided for our beautiful girls are just so awesome and the very personal testimonial of one of our girls that Lisa shares brought both women to tears.

Many of Lisa’s pivotal moments as a community leader were also highlighted including her trips to speak at the United Nations on the elimination of violence against women and girls, the White House to address the eradication of modern day slavery; as well as being honored as a “Who’s Who” in Atlanta amongst other civil rights trailblazers and thought leaders. The interview is brief and you can view the video below.

Lisa Williams and a Living Water LRC Student highlighted on AIB TV

Lisa Williams and a Living Water LRC Student highlighted on AIB TV

AIB celebrates their latest Spirit Award winner: Living Water for Girls. The video profiles the inspiring founder, as well as one of the young women whose life was transformed. Watch AIB Presents: From Horror to Hope/Living Water for Girls. take a moment to watch the video and learn more about the Living Water Learning Resource Center and the impact it is having on individuals and the community alike.

Lisa Williams to be honored at the Costen Awards during the “Tribute To Excellence

Lisa Williams to be honored at the Costen Awards during the “Tribute To Excellence

April 18, 2013, Atlanta, GA – The annual observance of the founding of the ecumenical consortium of six different seminaries chartered as The Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in 1958, 55 years ago, will continue that tradition on Thursday, April 18, 2013. During the Charter Day and James H. Costen Awards Gala at 7:00 p.m., at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, eleven persons whose professional contributions to the local and national community have been found worthy of the annual “Tribute to Excellence”, and will be honored.

Lisa Williams is a Ford Freedom Unsung Award Winner

Lisa Williams is a Ford Freedom Unsung Award Winner

Lisa Williams, President and Founder of Living Water for Girls, is among the winners of this year’s Ford Freedom Unsung Award, presented by Ford Motor Company. The award celebrates individuals who have made significant contributions in their communities. Honorees will be recognized for their outstanding achievements at the Historic Academy of Medicine at Georgia Institute of Technology on Dec. 7.

Lisa Williams Receives a Proclamation from the Atlanta City Council

Lisa Williams Receives a Proclamation from the Atlanta City Council

The 2011 Top 25 Women of Atlanta honorees Sheila Tenney, Atlanta Metropolitan College; Shanti Das, Press Reset Entertainment; Miranda Mack-McKenzie, UNCF; Tracey Jennings, Liquid Soul Media; Annette Jackson, The Ken Ford Foundation; and Lisa Williams, Living Water for Girls, joined Steed Media Group executive Brenda Hull, Melinda Johnson and this writer to accept the honor. Each of the 2011 Top 25 Women of Atlanta awardees received a customized Proclamation for their personal libraries.

Lisa Williams Pens Book on Child Sexual Exploitation

Lisa Williams Pens Book on Child Sexual Exploitation

Lisa Williams, the executive director of Living Water for Girls, a nonprofit organization that cares for victims of sexual exploitation ages 12 to 18, has been busy. She’s authored a new book, Beautiful Layers, and on April 1, launched a match-grant challenge in collaboration with the Quest Foundation for $40,000 to fund two critical staffing positions at the LWG home for girls.