WHO WE ARE

Heart Works is an NGO that was founded in 2007. We work together with people from many different denominations and are under Austria’s umbrella organization for social services: “Diakonie Österreich”.
It is of the utmost importance for us to take a holistic approach in our work. We view the people we encounter as people in prostitution, not prostitutes. Our interest in each person goes beyond his/her current role as a “prostitute.” We care about each individual’s story, his/her current condition, as well as his/her dreams for the future.
From our experience over the past years, most of the individual cases we encounter involve some kind of personal dilemma which led to this work. Therefore, we have set our focus in particular on forced prostitution and human trafficking. By building relationships of trust with those we encounter, we discuss other possible options and support each person on an individual basis. We promote self-empowerment, and we will walk beside a person leaving prostitution, if that is desired.

Heart Works team workers and volunteers offer counsel and care to every person who wishes this form of assistance, including those who decide to remain in prostitution and are not currently looking to exit.

Building and maintaining a strong network is essential to our work. It is especially important for us to have good connections to shelters and counseling services, particularly in Austria, as well as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, China and Nigeria.

OUR WORK

Outreach/Social Work
Heart Works teams visit the street prostitution zone, brothels, clubs, and studios in Vienna and its surrounding area (including Lower Austria and the border to the Czech Republic) several times a week. We distribute hot beverages and chocolates, as well as our business cards and an invitation to our Heart Works “TreffPunkt” (English: “Meeting Point”) * drop-in center. We are available to chat, and at times set up appointments to accompany someone to a doctor’s visit or for further consultation and counseling.
Advice and Support
We offer a broad range of psychosocial services. We are equipped to provide crisis intervention and individual counseling. We also help people to register for German courses, provide referrals and accompany people to health care services available to uninsured individuals ( e.g., AmberMed clinic and a gynecologist who works with us). We accompany people to various official offices, help with the registration for social insurance, and can advise concerning the record-keeping requirements which were enacted in 2016
We are currently able to offer translation services (by appointment only) in the following languages (primarily through volunteer staff workers):
• Englisch
• Romanian
• Hungarian
• Spanish
• Chinese
Every Thursday afternoon, we hold our Heart Works “TreffPunkt” (drop-in center), where people who are just looking to have a place to go for a cup of coffee or are seeking support and advice can simply drop by without any appointment. Other appointments, such as a doctor’s visit, require a scheduled appointment.
Our program entitled “Education for Integration” takes place at the same time as Treffpunkt every other week. This program is geared towards asylum-seeking women. We want to support them in their efforts to achieve an official asylum status in Austria. Our main objective is to foster empowerment, and it accordingly requires a tremendous amount of personal commitment and engagement from the participants. The prerequisites for this program include an initial interview and placement in a German course if one is not already being attended. In addition, each participant receives psychosocial counseling. Our schooling program includes topics like self-empowerment, HIV prevention, politics (e.g, democracy, EU, Nigeria), Austria, health, and child rearing.
We at Heart Works walk beside those who are seeking to exit prostitution. We procure a safe shelter for them, support them as they consider other job possibilities, help them to return to their homeland, if that is what they want and put them in contact with a partner organization there. We offer our counseling and support on a long-term basis—even long after they have left prostitution and have begun a new life.
Our Self-Empowerment Training (SET) is part of the long-term care we offer. As a result of what many people who have been in prostitution have experienced, they often confront specific challenges as they attempt to enter into the “normal” work environment with regular work hours, performance expectations, team work, etc. In addition to its standard components, SET includes topics such as handling sex discrimination at the work place, establishing a sense of one’s self, self-assertion, and boundary setting.
Public Awareness and Prevention Work
In order to raise awareness in the general public about topics related to our work, we give presentations about prostitution, human trafficking, and the work that we do.
At schools, we also take a preventative approach. We want to make students aware of how prostitution is connected to pornography and sexual abuse. We also address the roll of men (“no demand – no supply”) and the so-called “Loverboy” method. (“Loverboys” are young men who pretend to be in love with a young woman in order to later coerce her into prostitution.)
We have produced a brochure which addresses this issue, which is now available in German, English, Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, and Bulgarian. It serves as an explanation for teenagers and those working with them about the dangers of the “Loverboy” method, sexual abuse, pornography, etc. These brochures are useful in schools and in prevention work with marginalized people in the countries of origin.
In churches, it is especially important for us to emphasize the role of the church and its responsibility within society.
To aid in this effort, in 2014 together with two other Christian organizations, the “Schluss mit Schweigen (SMS)-Netzwerk” (“Break the Silence” SMS-Network) was founded. Our vision is that men and women in the church stand up for healthy sexual values and the equal status of men and women. At the present time, 11 organizations belong to the SMS-Network. All of them deal with various aspects of sexuality—sexual abuse, pornography, human trafficking/forced prostitution, and sexual education.
Advocacy Work
Our political work particularly involves representing the interests of people in prostitution and victims of forced prostitution and human trafficking on a national and international level.
For that reason, we are, the co-founders of the Austrian “Platform Against Exploitation and Human Trafficking,” and we are part of the EU “Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings,” which meets twice a year in Brussels.
Research Work
Heart Works is currently participating in an EU-funded research project entitled “BINI-Best practices in tackling trafficking Nigerian Route,” which began in January 2017 and will continue through December 2018. As part of this two-year study, we conduct research, together with other NGO’s from Italy, Malta, Spain, Germany, and Finland and compare effective approaches to integration and the safe return of victims of human trafficking from Nigeria.

HISTORICAL TIMELINE

2007
» Heart Works was founded in response to several informational events and a multi-confessional prayer meeting on behalf of people in prostitution in January in Vienna.

2008
» Heart Works is accepted under the Austrian umbrella organization “Diakonie Österreich” for social work.

2009
» Heart Works gets its own office.
» Heart Works political work begins.

2011
» Preventative work in Nigeria begins.

2013
» The Heart Works office moves to Beheimgasse 1 in the 17th district.
» The Heart Works drop-in center (TreffPunkt) opens.
» Heart Works joins the EU Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings.

2015
» The “Education for Integration” educational program begins.
» Heart Works co-founds the Austrian “Platform against Exploitation and Human Trafficking.”
» Heart Works co-founds the “Break the Silence Network” (SMS)

2017
» Heart Works celebrates its 10-year anniversary.