Westmont Magazine Bringing Hope to Victims of Trafficking
Dan DeSaegher ’82 learned about sex trafficking from his 14-year-old daughter, Riley. “It’s all over San Diego, Dad,” she said. Skeptical at first, he soon confirmed the shocking statistics. In his city alone, the business of selling girls—80 percent of them Americans—brings in $810 million, mostly from American buyers. Traffickers actively recruit on local junior high and high school campuses, becoming “boyfriends” to girls ages 13-16 and drawing them into the sex trade by asking them for “favors.” Shame, low self-worth and violence keep them enslaved. “This epidemic is going on right under our noses,” Dan says.
After 10 years in finance in the aerospace industry and 17 at Qualcom in business development, Dan left his corporate career in 2012 to do fundraising for Point Loma Nazarene University, where two of his children enrolled and his father taught English for many years. Then, in 2016, Dan felt called to help victims of trafficking and accepted the offer of executive director of GenerateHope (GH, generatehope. org), where survivors can rebuild their lives and make a healthy transition back into the community. “This calling came to me,” he says. “I didn’t seek it or expect it.”
Social worker Susan Munsey LCSW joined with Harbor City Church to establish GH in 2009 to assist women 18 years and older in breaking out of the sex trade. She had been trafficked herself at 16 and understands too well the challenges facing survivors. During an 18-month program, GH gives women a safe place to live, provides individual and group therapy, teaches them to think for themselves after years of manipulation, assists them in removing tattoos that branded them, and offers a range of other services. Susan oversees the program, and Dan raises the funds and seeks partnerships to serve more survivors.
GenerateHope belongs to the San Diego District Attorney’s Trafficking Task Force, which includes law enforcement officials, university researchers, and people serving victims. “This issue brings together people of all parties and faiths—and no faith,” Dan says. “The collaboration in the community is impressive.”
The unexpected gift of a mansion has helped GH expand services and raise its visibility. After renovation, the residence serves as a transitional residence for women who complete the 18-month program. “These survivors may spend a year preparing for independence by focusing on finances, jobs, college and internships,” Dan says.
Dan played baseball at Westmont, majored in economics and business and participated in the first International Business Institute, a summer semester based in world capitals. He appreciates the well-rounded education he received, which prepared him for his varied career. After graduating, he played baseball for a touring Athletes in Action team and spent two seasons coaching baseball in Sweden, living with a Christian family and learning the language. Outside of work, Dan spends time with his wife, Nichole, and their four children, getting involved with their schools and sports teams. His parents, Jim ’55 and Lou Rodin ’56 DeSaegher, met at Westmont and led the college’s alumni chapter in San Diego for many years.
“It’s amazing that God would take me from a corporate career to college fundraising and then to working with women who have survived trafficking,” he says. “I’ve never seen God do so much in two years, and He is far ahead of us. We’re just trying to keep up.”