In 2007, when International Sanctuary’s founder, Stephanie Pollaro and Sunita Khursule, Director of Operations, began digging deep into the local work of the anti-slavery movement in Mumbai, India, she noted a glaring gap: after-care resources for rescued victims were limited in diversity, resources, and accessibility. With initial guidance from International Justice Mission, Stephanie launched iSanctuary with the intent of providing holistic rehabilitation—economic viability, education, personal growth, therapy, healthcare, and training in life skills—to ensure comprehensive restoration and sustained freedom.
International Justice Mission (IJM) has devoted almost two decades to researching, combatting, and mobilizing a movement against modern-day slavery. Since the organization’s inception in 1997, IJM has grown into the world’s largest anti-human trafficking group, fighting against traffickers, corruption, and broken justice systems in eighteen locations to rescue victims of violence and exploitation across the globe. We are grateful for our partnership with IJM and acknowledge our efforts wouldn’t be possible without them.
As allies against the atrocities of trafficking in Mumbai, iSanctuary and IJM have developed a fond and impactful partnership since Stephanie started her aftercare community. Last week, I met with an IJM Mumbai staff member, Shalini Newbigging, aftercare manager, to learn more about the significance of our organizations’ allegiance. (The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Kate: How would you characterize the current partnership between IJM and iSanctuary?
Shalini: Once the girls are in the iSanctuary program, typically we don't really have to do a lot of follow up; we don't have to worry in that sense, because it's a very holistic program that takes care of education, financial needs, shelter, and home needs. So, I think once we know that the girl is referred to iSanctuary, we know that a lot of her needs are being taken care of. It's really neat to have that.
Kate: What role do you think that community plays in rehabilitation for survivors participating in our organizations’ programs?
Shalini: Community is an important role in the healing process. You know we all say that no one can live alone—we can’t be our own little islands. Especially for people who have had so much taken away from them, it is an uphill battle to find even simple joys and simple things in life that make them happy. We have to be intentional about having community support. We truly believe in transition homes and group homes because there's such a sense of camaraderie, of belonging, of friendship and we all need that regardless of what we've been through. They need much more support and community work. It's a big need, and we do our best.
Kate: What are the best qualities that have come out of partnering with iSanctuary, and do you think any of the programming at iSanctuary has informed your work at IJM?
Shalini: The advantages of iSanctuary are that we have so many independent girls now who are earning well, living independently, and have really great solid lives. And who are just doing well without a lot of follow up and support. A lot of the older girls—it's really beautiful see how far they've come, their growth and their journeys and their success stories. And so that definitely is a high point of our partnership, to have that physical representation of a restored girl, living independently, doing something that she really loves, and moving forward in life. It's really cool to know that you guys keep growing, that you have your education program now, and we support what iSanctuary does, and we support the business as you can see [she shows me that she’s wearing Purpose Jewelry earrings!], and we check online and read the blogs. I even talk to my friends in California about iSanctuary because I think it's just so brilliant, I love the quality of products and I love that it directly benefits these girls. We've seen our girls and they're very happy. They enjoy what they do, they're so confident and so independent, so we really appreciate the work that iSanctuary continues to do in the city.
Written By: Kate Poor, India Communications Liason