Project iRISE was founded in 2020 by Rhonelle Bruder, a passionate human rights advocate and community leader. Born in the Caribbean to an impoverished single mother, Rhonelle was adopted when she was three years old by a white Canadian family. Growing up in a small town, Rhonelle was one of the only people of colour in her community; She experienced consistent racism, discrimination and bullying throughout her childhood.
At At the age of 16, depressed and socially isolated, she dropped out of high school and left home. She ended up on the streets of downtown Toronto, where she was lured into the sex industry and trafficked in strip clubs. During this time, Rhonelle was exposed to psychological and emotional abuse and constant threats of physical and sexual violence. After managing to escape, Rhonelle became pregnant, had a child and found herself raising her daughter as a single mother. As a struggling single parent, Rhonelle was forced to go back to working as an exotic dancer to provide for her child, a predicament many survivors of human trafficking face.
However, Rhonelle knew that she wanted a better future for herself and her daughter and that education was the key to achieving this objective. She completed her high school diploma with a G.E.D and then went on to earn an Honours Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration. With her education and newfound confidence, Rhonelle worked as a business analyst and researcher before returning to school to complete a Master of Science in Health Informatics from the University of Victoria, British Columbia.
Today, as the Executive Director of Project iRISE, Rhonelle works to help educated and empower vulnerable youth and survivors of trafficking through skills-based learning workshops, mentorship, training, and community building. In addition to her work leading Project iRISE, Rhonelle regularly speaks at high schools, universities, faith groups, conferences, professional groups and events, to educate and bring awareness to the fight against human trafficking.
“We are not empowered until we start empowering each other”