Prayer Garden Comforts Human Trafficking Survivors

BALTIMORE, MD Catherine’s Cottage residents often visit the prayer garden in search of peace and comfort.

Since the grand opening in May 2017, The Salvation Army of Central Maryland’s Catherine’s Cottage has served as a safe place for human trafficking survivors to call home in Baltimore. One of the main characteristics of the home that provides the residents with security, is the prayer garden.

Human trafficking survivor “Hailey” recently came to Catherine’s Cottage for services. Despite having her reservations about entering the program, “Hailey” found Catherine’s Cottage to be a peaceful environment. She was eager to escape her situation and begin her path to restoration.

To prevent the transfer of bed bugs, each resident is asked to wash their clothes upon admission into the program. While “Hailey” was in the basement doing her laundry, staff noticed that she was gone for an extended period of time.

Fearing that she might have run away, staff members went to check on her, only to find “Hailey” crying in the prayer garden. Ever since, the garden has served as a comforting space for “Hailey”.

“It’s so peaceful over there,” said “Hailey” about the backyard.

According to Anti-Trafficking Program Director Shamere McKenzie, other residents at Catherine’s Cottage find solace in the prayer garden as well.

While preparing for therapy, Catherine’s Cottage resident “Ms. Jay” had an emotional breakdown after recalling the traumatic slaying of her best friend. Growing inconsolable, Ms. Jay visited the prayer garden, where she became more serene and relaxed.

When asked why the site might be such a common place of comfort for the residents, Shamere replied “I believe it’s because it’s the only place in the house that has no connection to a trafficking experience. It’s just nature.”

“Hailey” now meditates in the backyard every day. She has found the garden to be a comfortable place for her to release her emotions. So much so, that when the  flowers recently wilted, “Hailey” informed staff that she intends to re-plant new flowers herself.

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