Introducing our BJM summer interns:
Hello, my name is Thomas Panicucci, and I’m from Iowa. Last winter, I took a semester off from school to spend 3 months in San Francisco. The city opened my eyes and expanded my world views. Coming from a relatively small town in Iowa, I had never been exposed to many of the things I encountered in the city. In the Tenderloin, I saw poverty, drugs, and prostitution. All of these existed back home, but they were certainly not as prevalent. Not only did I see new things on the streets, though; I also became more aware of important social issues occurring in the city: homelessness, addictions, sex trafficking, and immigration. After my time in San Francisco, I spent a couple months in Morocco and Italy. It was in Morocco that I discovered a passion that I never knew existed; I wanted to be a teacher. When I returned home to Iowa, I went back to school to get a degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This was the perfect degree for me. I wanted to find something that would give me the opportunity to work in another country. Earlier this spring, I came back to San Francisco for a short trip. I was introduced to Because Justice Matters, and I heard that, among other things, they were involved with ESL programs in the city. As soon as I found out about the immigration focus, I wanted to be involved. It was an opportunity to be involved with a program that dealt with several passions of mine, so I contacted Ruthie and became an intern. Now, I am here in San Francisco for 2 1/2 months working with Because Justice Matters. My main focus will be working with the ESL Academy which we are starting in July. I am excited about being here in the city of San Francisco, and super pumped that I have the opportunity to be doing something that I love.
When I first learned about sex trafficking, it was in the context of my own faith. Through the story of Hosea, God was drawing my wayward heart to him. So aware of my own brokenness, I quickly identified with broken women. I knew about women standing in the windows of European Red Light Districts and desperately wanted to tell them the same story of love and compassion that God told me. I wanted to learn to communicate the worth that he bestowed on my tired heart.
Then, when I began to learn about the layers of corruption and injustice that surround sex trafficking, I was compelled to fight against it. During my first few years in college, I researched whatever I could to learn more about this modern day slavery.
Before I enter my senior year, and start thinking about jobs post graduation, I want to spend this summer absorbing. I am trying to learn all that I can about how to minister to women in prostitution, legislation, and the expansiveness of sex trafficking.
So far, I have been learning, in several different ways. There is a lot of information so soak in just through reading, so I have been pouring over some books and other material. I have also been researching different strip clubs in San Francisco, to discover which are guises for prostitution. Two nights a week, I go out at night with Rachael to reach to women on Broadway in the clubs. The boldness it requires is challenging for me, but I continue to push myself.
The first weeks of this summer have been overwhelming with all of the new information, but simultaneously exciting. It is good to spend these two months working for the freedom and restoration of trafficked women in San Francisco.