As a survivor of human trafficking, Sharmila (Sam) Wijeyakumar wanted to find a way to help other people in similar situations. So, she founded Rahab’s Daughters to help save thousands of human trafficking victims. The non-profit also provides post-rescue resources to help survivors remake their lives, including access to safe homes.
Since 2015, Sam and her team at Rahab’s Daughters have rescued hundreds of adults and children with ground-level support and call outreach centers. Many of these rescues happen during the Super Bowl — in host cities, human trafficking can uptick 20% or more.
With only four employees, Rahab’s Daughters relies heavily on volunteers to make these rescues happen — they need hundreds of volunteers during their Super Bowl events. “[Volunteers] are the backbone of how we operate,” Sam explained. “Without [being able to] train them, we'd be in big trouble.”
Most of the volunteers help with the call center, making cold calls to massage parlors, online ads, or any other suspected fronts to seek out potential trafficking victims. Then, the ground-level team makes appointments with victims and plans the rescues.
Sam had always been in charge of volunteer training. But in 2021 during the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida, she was overwhelmed with the responsibility of training over 400 volunteers both in-person and online — all amidst an ongoing pandemic with COVID restrictions.
“I went a week early to do the [hybrid] training,” Sam said. “[It was] six to ten hours of [physical] training every day for a week while also [juggling] remote people online.” Dealing with burn out from the three-week operation, Sam decided to find a more effective way to train volunteers.
Adopting a more effective training system
Sam discovered Trainual after tasking a colleague to find the easiest solution. After trying out a few options, they found that Trainual was the best choice. “Our folks aren’t super technical,” Sam explained. “But once I [used Trainual], I thought everyone could use this.”
Once they adopted Trainual, Sam uploaded 10 hours of volunteer training videos — and just in time for the 2022 Super Bowl in Los Angeles. “We trained all of our volunteers online and only had to do [in-person] training for field people,” Sam said. “That cut down on preparation considerably.”
This year, during the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, Sam said all they had to do was update their Trainual with any changes — and they were able to put even more of the training online. “We’ve added more pieces to [our Trainual] to make us [that] much more efficient,” she added.
Now that volunteers can be properly trained without Sam’s physical presence, she can focus more of her energy on fieldwork and victim resources.
“[Trainual] makes [volunteer training] so much more efficient.”
<blockquoteauthor>Sam Wijeyakumar, founder of Rahab’s Daughters<blockquoteauthor>
Supporting volunteers to free up field workers
During Super Bowl outreach, Sam and her team make an average of 35 rescues (and within only ten days). At the same time, their call center team makes over 20K outbound calls and takes over 650 inbound calls. That means it’s a high-velocity situation for everyone involved.
“Making and taking that many calls, events are going to happen, and [volunteers] may not remember what to do,” Sam explained. “[Trainual] prevents them from [asking us questions] during an extraction because we can link to the training in our project management system.”
With Trainual, volunteers have a resource they can check when necessary, giving the ground-level team more time to focus on complicated cases and rescues. Having Trainual as a resource also allows the non-profit to have a completely remote call team.
“We couldn't let people work remotely before because we needed to be there when something happened,” Sam said. “Now that they have the ability to look for the advice they need [with Trainual], they can work remotely effectively.”
Plus, Sam has also added training for her call center captains. These individuals can step up and help other volunteers when call center situations become a little more complicated. “We can put live recordings in [Trainual], so captains can experience [past] calls live and get more of that training.”
Thanks to Trainual, Rahab’s Daughters can continually support volunteers — even after their initial training ends. This means volunteers are better equipped to help victims, and ground-level team members are free to focus on more in-person rescues.
“When volunteers can self-help, I don't have to take myself away [from rescues] to answer questions that could be answered through the video.”
Attracting more volunteers with flexible training
Before Trainual, volunteers had to either schedule an in-person training or be present during a video call. It wasn’t ideal for volunteers since they had to schedule around their own commitments to do the training. But now, volunteers can train anytime, anywhere, and at their own pace.
“Some people [complete the training] in a weekend while others take more time,” Sam explained. “But it's helpful that people can do it at their own pace.”
That way, volunteers can fit the training into their schedule without having to move around appointments or make accommodations.
Sam says they’ve found that volunteers are more likely to complete the training since it’s easy to fit into their schedules. Plus, more people are volunteering in general since it’s so easy to get trained. That means there are more people in place to take more calls and reach more victims.
“People want to volunteer because [Trainual] doesn't cause any scheduling problems.”
Since adopting Trainual, Sam has been able to continue Rahab’s Daugther’s mission without burning out — and she’s been able to improve her volunteer experience overall.
“It's been a wonderful experience [working with Trainual],” Sam concluded. Because now, she can automatically train all of her volunteers online, continue supporting them after the training, and attract more volunteers to help her fight human trafficking.