Written by Erica Boniface, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Staff

Sometimes helping others in the community isn’t always easy. It takes bravery. Compassion. And more strength than Superman, Wonder Woman and the Hulk combined. It is not an overstatement to assert that 2017 Livingston Fellow Nina Martinez embodies everything that is good in this world; she takes her job at Street’s Hope and turns it into something positive for everyone she encounters through her strong leadership, dedication and heart.

Street’s Hope helps women escape the commercial sex industry and sex trafficking by empowering them to transform their lives.

Nina has a lot going on in her life. She’s about to become a mom, she contributes to everyone’s important work at Street’s Hope, and she must find time to undertake her Fellowship work. Yet,  she maintains a certain grace about her that is often hard to come by these days. We wanted to get to know Nina a bit more, so we sat down and visited with her on everything from her work at Street’s Hope, to her thoughts on leadership, how the Livingston Fellowship is going for her so far–  and what her superpower would be if she had one.

BSF: Tell us a bit about your role at Street’s Hope – and how you find the day-to-day strength to help women who have escaped sex trafficking.

NM: One of the biggest ways that I’ve been able to find the strength to serve this special population of women is to remind myself daily about how much trauma and hardship they have gone through in their pasts, yet they still find the courage to work hard each and every day to build a new life for themselves.

Nina MartinezIt reminds me that through the support of one another in community, we are able to overcome our past and truly create a future that brings optimism, peace and fulfillment into our lives.

My role at Street’s Hope for the past year has been Director of Special Projects. Rather than having a direct leadership position within the organization, like I did in my role as Executive Director [when I was selected as a Fellow] for the 4 years prior, I have been able to offer support in an indirect way to the staff, board and interim Executive Director.

While it’s been a challenge at times to step away from playing such a large role on the forefront of anti-trafficking work, it has been rewarding to be able to serve in a different capacity, one that allows me to leverage my strengths in organizational capacity building, project management and strategic planning. The fact that I am still able to be a part of such life changing work is very important to me and getting to celebrate the small (and big) successes of the women in the program makes it so worthwhile.

BSF: It has been almost a year since you were announced as a 2017 Livingston Fellow. What were some of your early Fellowship goals that you set for yourself? Have you achieved them so far?

NM: They say ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ and I feel that saying rings true for me as a Livingston Fellowship recipient.

The year has been full of amazing opportunities for professional development and personal growth, and I’m so thankful that I have been able to set (and meet) many of the stretch goals that I set for myself through the Fellowship. A few of my early goals included: Attending a Digital Storytelling Workshop, doing a service project trip to Reynosa Mexico, becoming a Vlogger (of sorts!), traveling to various countries in Europe over the span of a month to observe the Red Light Districts, learn more about faiths outside of Christianity and attend a professional development conference in Manchester.

While it feels surreal that I have been able to achieve all of my goals thus far, through the amazing support of Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, I absolutely feel honored to be able to dedicate this time to pushing to become the best version of myself possible, strengthening my leadership abilities in a variety of ways that I never imagined, and becoming a part of a network of such dynamic leaders in the sector.

It’s been such a great process over the past year and I’m encouraged to know that the journey is not yet over!

BSF: Have your views on leadership changed over the year? If so, explain what you’ve learned.

My views on leadership have definitely changed over the last year. Since transitioning roles at Street’s Hope, I’ve come to realize that it’s not your title or position in the organization that makes you a leader. It really comes down to the time you invest in yourself as a leader, the professionalism and leadership qualities that you exert in any situation you find yourself in, and the relationships that are being built or strengthened throughout this process.

While I still value the roles that various individuals have in leading an organization, it has been inspiring to find myself taking a leadership role in other areas of my life that I had been hesitant to in the past because of whatever apprehension that may have come with it. I still very much respect those in authoritative roles, put a personal emphasis on continuing education and thrive on professional development, however, it’s become apparent that it’s so much more than your title or accolades that make you a great leader.

Part of being a great leader is the effort that you put in to improve yourself, whatever that means for you personally, and realizing that you can lead others simply by exemplifying that you are in the continuous process of creating the best version of yourself, which I think we all need to reminded of every now and again.

BSF: What’s one inspirational/motivational quote that you live by?

NM: ‘Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader…they set out to make a DIFFERENCE. It’s never about the role, it’s always about the GOAL.’

BSF: If you had a secret superhero power, what would it be – and why?

NM: Mind control would definitely be my superhero power. That way meetings with funders and donors would always be a piece of cake! J