Jessica provides a wealth of experience and research in human trafficking prevention education, social sustainability, program and non-profit management. Jessica has worked with RJI since its infancy while supporting multiple anti-trafficking projects locally and nationally. She joined as RJI’s second full-time staff member in 2013 to manage the organization’s budding prevention education efforts and in early 2016 was elected Executive Director. Through Jessica’s leadership, RJI’s signature and award-winning prevention education curriculum, the Prevention Project® program, has expanded from a pilot project to a national, fully developed, interactive curriculum reaching nearly 10,000 students to date in schools, churches, and after-school programs in seven states. She loves building relationships with advocates throughout the United States through sharing how each person can make a difference, partnering together, and equipping others to ultimately reach teens and adult leaders with anti-trafficking prevention education.
Jessica is a dynamic speaker who has addressed groups at national and state-wide conferences, schools and universities, churches, and professional associations on leadership, prevention education, social responsibility, and other anti-trafficking topics. Serving on the advisory committee for the National Educators to Stop Trafficking (NEST) and as a founding steering committee member of Fair Trade Towns, Richmond, she has long been well-invested in the anti-trafficking community. Whether at work or at home, she can usually be found savoring a warm cup of fair trade coffee.
Joell Maisano Denison
Prevention Project Manager
Joell has been involved in anti-trafficking efforts since 2012 and joined as one of RJI’s first interns. She contributed to the beginnings of the Prevention Project program framework, of which she would later see its fruit. Based on her experience and as a graduate of the University of Richmond, she endeavored on a career that she knew would be strenuous and daunting - one in the field of justice. She had a heart for the oppressed and the moxie to believe that her efforts could make a difference. She interned with International Justice Mission in their Zambia field office. There she worked in Communications, experienced cross-cultural life, and grew an understanding of unjust systems and harsh power dynamics. After her overseas assignment, she rejoined RJI in September 2015 and soon thereafter was promoted to a full-time role as Prevention Project Manager.
Since moving to this position, Joell has had multiple public speaking engagements to Universities, churches, schools, Rotaries, and other passionate community groups. She has personally trained over 100 individuals to either teach the Prevention Project curriculum or propose it to new schools/organizations, and she has helped spread the curriculum to two new states. Joell uses her passion and creativity to embolden students as leaders in their community, using education to catalyze their actions in mending the fabrics of justice rather than contributing to the problem. She longs to see the younger generation participating in the fight against human trafficking, caring for their fellow neighbor and using their voice to promote change. If you catch Joell outside of work, she will gladly respond to a story about an awkward moment, comments on her Shih tzu CJ, or anything with Basil in it.
Operations and Engagement Manager
Heather Caleb is the Operations and Engagement Manager for RJI. Her responsibilities include developing strategies and systems for engaging the community both locally and nationally. She is the power behind our fundraising development, expressing her creativity and passion through campaigns to fund the work she believes in.
She started out as a RJI volunteer in 2014, coming on staff in January 2017. Heather trained as a nurse, graduating with her BSN from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked with Bon Secours Health System since 2012 and continues to help fill in staffing needs at the hospital. In 2016 she was honored with the Annual Bon Secours Dedicated Service Award. She has been instrumental in raising awareness of human trafficking in the healthcare system through presentations and providing in-services to healthcare professionals. In 2015 she spent three months in Thessaloniki, Greece with the A21 Campaign serving survivors of trafficking in a safe house and working with refugees from the middle east.
Core Volunteer Team
Marjorie first learned about human trafficking at the Passion Conference in 2013 and has been learning more about the issue and how to fight it since. She loves helping out in the RJI office and getting other people connected to the mission of ending modern day slavery! She believes in the power or prayer and encourages others to join. She looks forward to the day when all captives are released, all prisoners are freed, and all who are brokenhearted are comforted (Isaiah 61). Outside of RJI she works at VCU, volunteers with Young Life Capernaum, and goes hiking as much as possible.
April first learned about human trafficking after watching a documentary on child sex trafficking in the United States. She knew before the film ended that she had to be apart of the movement to end human trafficking. Upon researching the topic she found the Richmond Justice Initiative and started volunteering doing odd jobs and shopping for supplies (she still loves shopping for RJI and herself). She is now our Administrative Coordinator; handling the email server, serving on volunteer teams, and leading the visuals for events. While serving God and RJI is a blessing; knowing the injustices people of this world face can become daunting. She draws encouragement from knowing that the God she serves loves justice more than anymore and that placing hope in Him and His plan never disappoints.
Fun facts about April: she is a single mom to a teenage son and 2 adorable furry girls with whiskers (yes, the latter are cats). She has been in the Richmond area since 2007 when she started nurse anesthesia school at VCU. She loved the area and stayed after she graduated. Other loves include bird hunting, hiking, hanging with family, reading, and worshipping The Lord.
Diane joined RJI as a volunteer to perform the bookkeeping tasks and support the Board on financial matters. She learned of RJI and was motivated to support its mission to battle against human trafficking . By trade, Diane works in Finance and Controlling and is currently Regional Controller for Evonik Nutrition and Care in Chesterfield county. She has also served on the Board at her church and Henrico CASA, as well as spending 10+ years as a Girl Scout leader.
Faith Community Mobilizer
Tom Lynch lives in Richmond, VA with his wife and two children. He became involved in the anti-trafficking movement in 2001 while working for a U.S. Congressman on Capitol Hill. He is the the pastor of students and family life at First Baptist Church – Ashland, VA. He holds a master of divinity from the John Leland Center and a Master of Social Work Administration, Planning, and Policy Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University where he also teaches as adjunct faculty. In addition, he was awarded a bachelor’s in communication from Michigan State University in 2000. Tom has been published in journals and various periodicals and serves as the vice president on the board of directors for the Network for Theological Education.
As Founder, Sara had the privilege of mobilizing and educating the Commonwealth’s community on the issue of modern day slavery in Virginia, and most importantly, how they can take action and affect change in our state. She has spoken at universities, colleges, hospitals, pregnancy clinics, churches, forums, and symposiums on the issue. As the Richmond community began to take action other communities started to take notice, which resulted in the planting of 5 additional Justice Initiative teams who are thriving in and greatly impacting their respective communities around the Commonwealth. Sara has also been a driving force behind improving our states grade by partnering with a bi-partisan coalition of the Virginia General Assembly, and advocating the passing of vital state legislation that has strengthened the ability of our commonwealth to effectively prosecute those who enslave and treat others like commodities as well as to secure rescue and safety for the oppressed. Sara is also the Virginia State Justice Advocate for . IJM is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Sara was born and raised in Michigan and has resided in Richmond, VA since 2002. Sara served as Executive Director of RJI since its founding until January 2016.