Ambassador Jeanne Phillips is a Mom on a Mission to Stop Human Trafficking
by Karyn Brodsky
Did you know the average age of a child who enters the human trafficking trade in Dallas is 13 years old? When Ambassador Jeanne Phillips heard this staggering statistic, it struck her to her core. Phillips learned about the human trafficking problem from Katie Pedigo, current CEO of New Friends New Life (NFNL), and Nancy Ann Hunt, longtime friend and active member of NFNL.
NFNL is an organization dedicated to restoring and empowering formerly trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and their children (newfriendsnewlife.org). “My daughter Maggie was 14 at the time,” says Phillips. “When I heard the statistic about girls being sold in Texas who were younger than she, I literally felt physically sick.” She also learned that human trafficking is a $99 million business in Dallas, and Texas ranks second in the U.S. for the most occurrences.
When Phillips first served on NFNL’s advisory board, she started working to raise awareness of the problem and the amazing men and women working to change the situation. Just knowing that Dallas has such a problem with human trafficking was disturbing to Phillips, and she wanted to help these women who were facing such difficult circumstances. Then, she had a difficult situation to face within her own family.
Her husband David was diagnosed with a rare cancer that eventually took his life after a two year battle. Phillips was unexpectedly a single mother, raising a teen daughter. “People always ask me how I handled that loss and I tell them what I hope the women coming to New Friends New Life hear as well, ‘Life is full of challenges…but they can all be overcome with faith and friends, a sense of humor, and a determination to accept the responsibility that we can make our lives better, regardless of the challenges we face.'” For Ambassador Phillips and her daughter, Maggie, life was made better by adapting to a new normal: never forgetting David; and believing that there is a plan greater than we can imagine for each of us.
A part of Phillips plan, once Maggie left for Vanderbilt University in the fall of 2011, was to become more involved in community work and her career. In 2015, Ambassador Phillips agreed to chair NFNL’s annual Wings Luncheon. Special guest actor Kevin Costner proved an engaging speaker, and the event raised $1 million, exceeding the organization’s fundraising goal.
Last month, Phillips chaired the event for the second year, this time bringing in Amal Clooney, an internationally acclaimed barrister, human rights activist, philanthropist, and author. The 2016 Wings Luncheon again exceeded the fundraising bar, raising $1 million for the organization.
These fundraising efforts are vital in informing the public about human trafficking, which affects boys as well as girls. “It’s a societal issue, not a gender issue, and it happens in all communities, not just disadvantaged ones,” Phillips explains. In fact, both women and men helped NFNL lobby the State Legislature last spring to update Texas law to address what is becoming a growing problem in the state. House Bill 2290, which designates January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, was signed into law by Governor Abbott June 17, 2015, and House Bill 2286, which provides an avenue for victims to possibly overturn convictions of prostitution accrued if they were, in fact, a victim of human trafficking was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott June 19, 2015. In addition, over 20 other laws were passed addressing the rights of human trafficking victims in Texas.
While involved with NFNL, Ambassador Phillips has never forgotten her most important job: being a mom to Maggie. She advises parents to “find time to be very present with children and, most of all, enjoy every minute because the years fly by!”
“Maggie and I spend lots of time together and are very blessed,” adds Phillips. “We give thanks for David’s life and look for ways that this loss can make us better, more sensitive to others, and more appreciative of what is truly important in life.” She adds that one close friend told Maggie: “It’s not what card you get in life…it’s how you play the card that matters.”
Maggie is now involved in NFNL herself, working to raise more volunteers in the 21-30 age group. She chaired the Home Tour last fall and is actively engaging her friends to become involved with NFNL so that the next generation of young leaders can support the organization’s mission.
For her strong voice in advocating for those entangled in human trafficking and her involvement in raising funds to help them leave a web of degradation, while at the same time raising her daughter as a single parent, Good Life Family Magazine is honored to present this month’s VIP award to Ambassador Jeanne Phillips.
In addition to serving as U.S. Ambassador for President Bush, receiving a host of political appointments and chairmanships, and being active on numerous boards and committees, Jeanne Phillips is a prominent Dallas businesswoman, currently senior vice president for Corporate Affairs and International Relations at Hunt Consolidated, Inc. where she also serves as president of Hunt Global Partnerships, which oversees social investments around the world on behalf of the company.