contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

17935 Sky Park Cir
Irvine, CA, 92614
United States

(949) 752-7788

india.jpg

Blog

Filtering by Tag: International Sanctuary

The Gratitude Series: Uganda

Lindsey Malcolm

gratitude1-01.jpg

Not too long ago, in Spring 2017, we welcomed our first cohort into the Kampala, Uganda Sanctuary. A culture of support, perseverance, and joy must be established for long-term success and, over the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen proof that these seeds have taken root.

Each week, we receive an update from our Program Coordinator in Kampala and with every email, we are overwhelmed with gratitude. Here are some of the excerpts and reasons we give thanks for what is happening in Uganda:

“I wanted to stop, but, Mary, she believed in me. She kept working until I succeeded.” -a participant who struggled making the Mira Cuff and was encouraged and coached by her fellow participant, Mary, for hours under the mango tree

“During the last storm, the power went out and we were all huddled around two small desks with a couple of flashlights; the participants seemed to feel a lot more comfortable with us in such close quarters. They spent the day asking us all kinds of questions: Does it snow in the U.S.? Have we ever seen a bear? Do bears eat people? What do animals eat when everything is covered in snow? They’ve heard that in Alaska, there are sometimes days without night. Is it true? How do people know when to sleep, when to go to work? It was a pretty fun day!” -Emily, our program coordinator

“When we first started making Olivia earrings, everyone was terrible at them and got really frustrated. I saved everyone's first attempt in a little bag with their names attached. After we'd been making them successfully for several days, I handed the first attempts back and everyone had a good laugh at how bad they were. At the end of the day, we asked what they learned and a few of them drew lessons about how it's important to keep with something, even when it’s difficult.” -Emily, our program coordinator

“I enjoy it when things are easy, and when they're hard. When they're hard, I learn and improve my skills; when they're easy, I feel good about how quickly I finished something.” -a woman rebuilding her life in the Kampala, Uganda Sanctuary

“My birthday was yesterday. Several of the participants surprised me with cards, which was sweet and totally unexpected. After lunch, a bunch of them disappeared. We started to wonder if we were going to have give a lecture about attendance, when suddenly they came in singing Happy Birthday, dancing, and showering my head with flower petals.”
-Emily, our program coordinator

During this season of gratitude, we hope you’ll join us in giving thanks that support, perseverance, and joy are alive and well in the Uganda Sanctuary.

If you’re interested in keeping up with the goings on in the Uganda Sanctuary, email ashleymccully@isanctuary.org and she will add you to our Uganda email list.

A Farewell From Our Founder, Stephanie Pollaro

Lindsey Malcolm

It with equal measures of sadness and excitement and that I share with you the next chapter in the International Sanctuary story. Our founder, Stephanie Pollaro, has decided to remain on the board but no longer work for iSanctuary in order to pursue another calling.  This outcome is not a surprise but a planful change with intense preparation over the past two years in order to position the organization for the next season of growth. We are incredibly grateful for Stephanie, not only for her commitment, dedication, and sacrifice in founding International Sanctuary, but for her continued strength and passion to ensure her transition occurred at a time when the social enterprise and social program and supporting organization are thriving and stronger than ever before. To better understand this change, I am honored to share Stephanie’s reflections on her decision and the implications for iSanctuary going forward. -Wendy Dailey, President

Thirteen years ago, I was called to start an organization to help a group of women I had never met and knew relatively nothing about. All I was given was a name, Sanctuary, and a place, India.  I could never had imagined then that I would be standing on the other side of a 13 year journey reminiscing on all the adventures had, obstacles overcome and relationships made while preparing to close that chapter only to begin the next adventure God has in store for me.

Over the last 13 years, I have seen my dream become a reality... actually iSanctuary is much more than I ever dreamt it could be.  It is a place of safety and  comfort, challenge and acceptance for all who walk through the door.  It was an idea that  ignited change both in the aftercare world and in people's lives.  It is  a description of strength like the time I heard “T” say, “we are not weak we are iSanctuary girls!” It is synonymous with quality and excellence,  whether it be in the design and craftsmanship of our jewelry, the innovation of our education program or the way we care for each other.   

I’m honored to have been partnered with two amazing women, Wendy and Sunita.  Both of them believed so deeply in me and the calling I received that they literally walked away from their lives and joined me on this journey. Their individual stories of joining iSanctuary are tremendous testimonies to their faith, loyalty, steadfastness,  and commitment. I could not  have done this without them and am thankful that we got to do this together-- there is no one else I would have rather done it with!

Of course iSanctuary quite literally would not exist  if not for my parents’ immense generosity . They opened up their home and their hearts to not only me and Wendy but to mountains of jewelry, cards and the countless volunteers that were so willing to come by and sit with Wendy and my family as we tagged jewelry, cut fabric for cards or packed boxes.  

And to all of  you, who have faithfully supported iSanctuary, thank you! Thank you for your prayers, your service, your generosity with your finances, your time and your talents.  And most of all, thank you for  your commitment to these incredible women.  I had it easy; I had the opportunity to know these incredible, resilient, kind, quirky, sassy, smart, talented women, so love and devotion came easy to me. However, I am in awe of those who have served in faith, believing in the life changing impact that iSanctuary is making without getting to witness it first hand.

And of course, to you, the ladies of iSanctuary,  THANK YOU! Thank you  for profoundly impacting my life. Thank you  for trusting me and teaching me about forgiveness, redemption, reliance, joy and hope.  Knowing you has been my greatest honor and my life’s blessing. You are my heart!

As I transition out of my day to day  managerial role with iSanctuary, I look forward to being an active part of the board and supporting the organization through my position as Founder as we grow the organization. I wholeheartedly believe in the team that God has put into place and I am confident that together we will be able to serve many more people in the years and Sanctuaries to come.

So to everyone who has helped make iS possible, thank you for your friendship,  your partnership, your service, your generosity, your passion and your commitment  through the years.   God has abundantly blessed me with the honor of serving alongside of you.

Grace & peace,

Stephanie Pollaro

Stephanie’s leaving an incredible legacy where the lives of girls and young women will be transformed for years to come. Early next year, I will be reaching out once again to share how we are expanding our impact through our program and realization of our dream for new sanctuaries. Your partnership – past and future – is essential and we look forward to standing strong in 2017 as we live out Stephanie’s legacy. - Wendy

Victories & Challenges

Lindsey Malcolm

Since we featured the voices of our Mumbai staff to give you a peek into the inner workings of our India office, we wanted you to hear from the young women we serve. We sat down with the students and artisans participating in iSanctuary programs to talk about their biggest challenges and achievements right now. The following is a glimpse into the hearts and minds of our brilliant participants! 

Aditi

Challenge: It is a hard challenge for me to accomplish my project in three hours since the Academy has started.  And I had some work and was thinking, “when it will get finished?”

Victory: But finally I got finished those projects so that is my victory. So I will call it a victory and a challenge.

Sanyugita

Challenge: Production is hard because new models have come and that gives me difficulty because I have to learn new designs. Otherwise, everything in work is fine.

Victory: I’m always on time for school. I’m happy that I never miss class because we have to come early in the morning. And at first I was thinking, “Oh my god, I have to get up early” but it never gives me difficulty. I’m proud to never miss class.

Gamani

Challenge: My challenge is to finish a lot in one week. I am just trying to finish everything.

Victory: I like to work hard and there is a lot to do so I am happy.

 Divya

Challenge: It’s hard for me today because of the new models (new jewelry designs). So this is a lot of pressure for work.

Victory: I’m lucky to have work to do, because lots of people don’t have jobs, so I’m very thankful for that. Every time I feel down about work, I say “don’t be sad,” because you have lots of things to do in your future.

 

Like the stories of the staff, our participants show common themes in their descriptions of challenges, as well as shared themes in their narratives of celebrations. Our community thrives on the collectivity of hardships; we help each other get through tough times through empathy, mentorship, laughter, listening, creating safe moments to talk, and building spaces for growth and learning.

And while we prosper in the collective resilience against shared battles, we also grow from our differences—the unique nuances that disrupt the temptation of complacency, push us to see another perspective, and humble us in the wake of victories and challenges we might not have acknowledged. The mélange of voices and experiences push us to challenge assumptions and strengthen us in the lessons we learn from each other. Our individual experiences compel each of us to face variant challenges, but the beauty of the iSanctuary community is that no matter our differences, we rise up together.

Building The Academy

Lindsey Malcolm

Each morning, young women gather around a big table in our airy aqua-colored classroom. Large windows frame the table on two sides, bequeathing gracious views of the railroad and adjacent flooded salt flats that glint placidly under the languid Monsoon mist. The teacher begins the day with a check-in, reflection, and mindfulness exercise, in which students follow the flow of their breathing, get in touch with the present moment, and gather a peacefulness and focus to prepare for a day of conscientiousness and creativity. And from that moment, opportunities abound.

At iSanctuary, we know that school is a powerful defense against human trafficking, revictimization, intergenerational abuse, and poverty. We’ve developed The Academy so that the survivors we serve can arm themselves with education, gaining skills for upward mobility and economic autonomy, while strengthening their sense of self, purpose, worth, direction, and fulfillment.

 Few resources like The Academy currently exist for survivors of human trafficking in the rainy, marigold-speckled streets of Mumbai. After rescue, many survivors go to safe houses where they are out of immediate danger. But with resources stretched to serve an enormous population of survivors, education and vocational training programs are limited and crowded. At iSanctuary, we are establishing this missing resource. This was not a simple achievement. We know that a one-size fits all approach cannot affect the sustainable change that iSanctuary aims to create. So we committed ourselves to doing it right. Through meticulous quantitative assessments, interviews, and focus groups, we gauged participants’ current interests, knowledge, abilities, and mental state to construct an individualized program. We also asked participants about their priorities and hopes for their futures and for programs offered at iSanctuary. The information we collected helps us to identify appropriate learning resources, track individual participant progress, and contribute to program monitoring and evaluation. After examining the information gathered from our participants, in conjunction with best practices in the field and consultations with educational experts, we ascertained our specific programmatic and organizational needs. Our staff then developed curricula, policies, and benchmarks for The Academy.

To prepare for the launch of The Academy, we gradually introduced more class time in a variety of areas (self- defense, geography, English, goal-setting, health, and yoga, to name a few) to ease our participants into the transition and get excited about learning. This gave us an opportunity to observe their learning styles and make necessary adjustments to our plans. We will continue to develop and improve the efficacy of our learning environment through observation, assessments, and feedback.

After a rigorous hiring process, we welcomed a new teacher, social worker, and administrator to our team. From their first days on the job they have been hard at work developing and revising lesson plans while building a connection with our participants. Their training and expertise, as well as their sensitivity to participants’ needs, shared language, and common cultural upbringing position our new staff members to effectively and thoughtfully engage the students, identify and address their needs, and help iSanctuary achieve our long-term goals. Eventually we will bring on an additional teacher and social worker to ensure that we meet the widely varied needs of our participants.

With our new Academy, iSanctuary aims to provide resources for survivors to pursue their academic dreams and to obtain access to diverse jobs, higher salaries, and greater defense against future poverty and violence. Breaking down barriers to education—the hurdles both large and small that preclude girls from attending school—allows our participants to gain entry into an array of previously unattainable opportunities, safeguard their freedom, and realize their dreams.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer

Finding Power Through Education

Lindsey Malcolm

 
 

The iSanctuary Academy broke ground one month ago. Before the first day of class, we earnestly anticipated opening the doors—exhilarated at the prospect of introducing our meticulously hewn, cutting edge program, but also a smidge nervous about jumping into unexplored territory. Today, we already see the budding successes in the growing interests and capacities of the young women enrolled in the learning community. Our students arrive promptly at 8:30 every morning—some bouncy and ready to go, some still sleepy and stirring gradually through the infectious energy of their classmates. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen shier girls begin speaking out more in class, and watched apprehensive students willingly ask questions, offer responses, and engage in intellectual exercises. Garnering a committed base of eager learners, who arrive each day with completed homework and a motivated attitude perhaps appears a small milestone. But right now, we are celebrating these small victories. These are the signifiers that girls whose educations have been cruelly interrupted can have a second chance. These fledgling successes demonstrate that our students are learning every day life skills—habits that people without histories of trauma might take for granted, such as arriving on time, consistently completing assignments, and taking initiative—that will propel them forward in their education and social experiences. The daily attendance and engagement of our young women in the classroom show us that they are willing to confront challenges and committed to improving their lives through education. 

At iSanctuary, we believe that education equips students with the tools to understand perspectives and experiences beyond their own and to advance their communities. Many studies indicate that access to education diminishes poverty, reduces gender-based violence, and lowers risk of enslavement. Based on an ardent faith in the power of education to act as catalyst for change, we have spent the last year researching, planning, designing, evaluating, and (just recently) launching The Academy—an educational space built for and by the specific needs of our iSanctuary community.

Most of the survivors at iSanctuary have not completed elementary school. Traffickers who forced our participants into bondage and families who did not see the value in educating girls put an early and unjust end to many survivors’ educations. In hopes of fortifying the scope, diversity, and sustainability of the possibilities in our participants’ futures, The Academy intends to give our participants another chance at the education they were denied. Through a varied curriculum of basic math, science, social studies, computers, English, Hindi, writing, health, life skills, and financial planning classes, participants in The Academy can now fill in the gaps in their education, while developing their academic interests, personal strengths, and professional skills. Our objective is to prepare participants for independent lives by developing critical thinking, decision-making, emotional wellness, community building, creativity, and leadership.

In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed, “Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace.” As we foster an empowering and supportive environments for the girls to explore their curiosities and dreams, together, we push towards a more peaceful and enfranchised future.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer

A Thousand Thank Yous!

Lindsey Malcolm

In this season of gratitude, I’d like to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has been a part of iSanctuary.  It has been an incredible journey so far, filled with a cornucopia of experiences and stories both hope-filled and heartbreaking.  If you had asked me 12 years ago what my dream for iSanctuary was, I would probably have simply said, “to help the survivors of human trafficking.”  I wasn’t sure how that dream was going to be realized, or even why such a daunting endeavor was placed in my heart.

 
 

Now I know that God gives us bigger dreams than we could ever imagine on our own.  He also equips us and places people in our life to help bring those dreams to fruition. For everyone who has been on this journey with iSanctuary, there will never be enough words to convey the immense gratitude I have for the amazing talent, endless work, passion for giving back, and innumerable sacrifices you have all contributed to iSanctuary’s cause. 

A thousand thank yous to our U.S. team members, who keep this train moving; to our India team members, who are in the trenches and literally touch the hands of angels; to our countless volunteers, who always come through for us time and time again; to our generous donors, who enable iSanctuary to continue our work and to our loyal retailers and customers, who faithfully spread the word about iSanctuary’s work.  I am incredibly grateful for you!

May the love of your family and friends surround you on this Thanksgiving Day.

Grace & Peace,

Stephanie Pollar, iSanctuary Founder 

Rebuilding Trust through Resilient Community

Alexis Miller

Our community reinforces the idea: You belong.

In a recent survey of iSanctuary Mumbai participants, 77% described the community environment as the element they value most about their experience working at iSanctuary. Over half described the Sanctuary as family. This data is exciting because it shows that our program is working.

Many human trafficking survivors have complex social histories that may include neglect and betrayal from those close to them beginning at a young age. Isolation from others is one of the primary means that traffickers use to coerce and dominate their victims.  Any sense of belonging to a community that they previously had is stripped away.

Being a part of the iSanctuary community reduces isolation and allows for self-development, team work, and improved social skills. Resilient community support empowers people to follow their dreams and make positive choices for the future. We rally together to encourage each iSanctuary woman to become the best version of herself, and the community allows safe space to consider how she can successfully achieve her dreams.  

Forming a strong community during reintegration for human trafficking survivors is critical to healing. It is important for iSanctuary to cultivate ways for the women we serve to heal. Simply providing employment, support, counseling, or education is not enough; it is the community that ties each of these things together and creates a long-term impact. We recognize that while they are ready to move ahead with new chapters in their lives, the young women are still struggling to formulate their identities and learning to relate to others without mistrust, fear, and confusion.

As we develop The Academy, we are exploring ways to purposefully build on our current community by incorporating group belonging and healing into all that we do. The Academy will strengthen the community through intentional focus on rebuilding trust and fostering essential character traits such as integrity and gratitude.  

With each birthday that we celebrate, with each English lesson, with each opportunity for the young women to teach and guide each other in work activities, we seek to cultivate community membership, responsibility, and care.

Join us in creating a thriving, healing-focused community with The Academy. Give a gift today and help us reach our goal of $35,000 this July!

Co-Authored by: Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Development Specialist and Alexis Miller, Development and Fundraising Coordinator

From Trauma to Motherhood: Health Care in the Sanctuary

Alexis Miller

No two iSanctuary women are alike, including their unique needs when it comes to health care. For survivors of human trafficking, health care consists of physical, mental, and emotional components, and requires consistent long-term, quality care. It is necessary to focus on immediate physical needs resulting from trauma, but counseling and addressing emotional wounds is a long process which requires patience and stability. In the Sanctuary, we aim for personalized health care which meets each young woman’s unique needs.

This year, the Mumbai Sanctuary is walking through a new chapter: pregnancy and motherhood. In just a few short weeks, Ana* is having a baby! For a young woman who has experienced trauma and abuse, pregnancy explores the limits of physical, mental, and emotional health. From doctor’s visits discussing the physical development of the baby, to processing the emotional shift to caring for another life, pregnancy tests what it means to be fully healthy.

Community support is central to the development of each young woman’s personal health. Staff accompany participants’ doctor visits to ensure the best care is being provided. Each week, iSanctuary staff discuss with Ana how her baby is growing, the importance of nutrition, and provides space for the emotional processing for how she and her husband will care for their child. Like other first-time moms, Ana dreams of her baby’s future and is learning how to make the best choices for her child.

The Academy will provide specific care for each young woman in the Sanctuary through addressing physical and mental health needs, as well as fostering the vital trait of knowing one’s inherent value, that each young woman is worthy of quality medical care, loving community support, and bright futures. It is our desire that each program participant comes to believe in their value as a woman and learns to live according to this truth.

We have reached 75% of our goal to raise $35,000 this July for The Academy! Will you join us in meeting our goal with a gift supporting healthy young women in the Sanctuary?

*name changed

Beyond the Product: Why Income Matters

Alexis Miller

PURPOSE Jewelry is beautifully handcrafted, providing a young woman rescued from modern-day slavery with a paycheck that she earned. PURPOSE is much more than just a product; it allows young women to become navigators of life. It is an opportunity to dream of life beyond the Sanctuary. Each young woman learns more than how to craft the latest in fashion jewelry, she learns necessary job skills that are marketable beyond the jewelry trade.

After a girl is rescued from trafficking, developing skills to earn an income is critical. If a young woman cannot develop skills to become financially independent, the likelihood of re-exploitation is very high. Without financial independence, survivors have limited options to establish sustainable, positive futures after they are rescued.  

For survivors, earning income with PURPOSE Jewelry is bridging the gap between rescue and independence. Yet beyond the product, iSanctuary is creating and facilitating new opportunities for young women to gain professional experience and reinforce their education.

iSanctuary’s new comprehensive program, The Academy, provides young women with a platform to develop other professional skills including office administration, hospitality, inventory management, sales, events, and more. As the young women learn to dream about and articulate their aspirations, The Academy will help them gain the skills needed to make those dreams a reality.

iSanctuary chooses to stand in the gap and provide young women with financial independence and skills to create the future they choose. The purchase of PURPOSE Jewelry provides a paycheck, and a financial gift to The Academy fashions them to become navigators of life.

Give a gift for The Academy today.

Written by: Alexis Miller, Development and Fundraising Coordinator

The Case for Education

Lindsey Malcolm

Dreaming isn’t an easy activity when options are limited. The only way to increase opportunity in our globally connected world is through the power of education. For many young women in the world, education is still a luxury and unattainable, with an estimated 62 million girls missing from the classroom. In 2010, the literacy gap in South Asia between men and women was 12.4%, while the global gap was only 5.2%. While the gap is closing globally, systemic choices to exclude girls from education will continue to place girls at a disadvantage in achieving their dreams.

In India, this is particularly true, as the country is known for its low education standards, especially for those who fall outside of the elite. Approximately half of rural schools don’t have toilets for girls, and only 48% of fifth grade students can read at a second grade level or answer a two-digit subtraction problem. If a person is allowed to pass by knowing only one-third of the information on an exam, is that person considered well educated or successful?

For the young women in the Mumbai Sanctuary, education is a growing priority, but remains a challenge as it competes for attention with earning money and solving immediate issues. Staff and interns teach English and support the young women in their pursuits, but when volunteer tutors fail to show, it creates a void.

The Academy will fill this void by expanding educational offerings and help the young women create obtainable goals based on their current education level and what they strive for in their futures. A lofty goal of The Academy is to raise the girls’ pass rates on standardized tests to 75% - more than 40% higher than the nationally accepted pass rate of 33%.

We can see the impact of education in the Sanctuary already, with one of our young women attending law school, and others dreaming of careers that require a university education. The Academy will provide more young women with opportunities to learn.

Join us in raising $35,000 this July for The Academy! Will you give a gift to help educate young women in Mumbai? 

Written by: Alexis Miller, Development and Fundraising Coordinator

Investing in Connected Communities: OC Giving Day April 21-22

Lindsey Malcolm

Alexis Miller is the new Development and Fundraising Coordinator for iSanctuary. Learn more about her here. 

I’ve lived in Orange County on and off for 12 years. Every time I move away, it always draws me back. But it isn’t just the 75-degrees-and-sunny January beach days that keep me close, I’m invested here because of the passionate people who are committed to making a difference in our community. Those passionate, dedicated people are why I joined iSanctuary a month ago to work as the Development and Fundraising Coordinator, allowing me the privilege to engage the community with our work and vision for the future of human trafficking aftercare.

As a newcomer to the organization, I see the impact of the work with fresh eyes, and it is empowering. I see each piece of our PURPOSE jewelry as special because the hands that create these pieces are the reason why we want to grow our impact. Our US team couldn’t exist without our India team. And neither could exist without our loyal volunteers, customers, and donors. 

With the foundational pieces in place, we are excited and ready to grow, partner, and invite more women and girls into our community. In order to grow our OC headquarters, our leaders in India, and establish new Sanctuaries globally, we need the support of our community as we seek out new individual, corporate, and foundation partners to raise funds to meet the objectives in our 2020 vision.

One way we are working toward this goal is by participating in the Orange County Community Foundation’s Giving Day on April 21-22. Giving Day is a 30-hour opportunity for supporters to invest in the Orange County community, which for us, means investing in our OC and India teams.

Will you join us on April 21-22 for #iheartoc Giving Day? We have a customized link: https://iheartoc.org/#npo/international-sanctuary that allows you to invest directly in our program, and it will be posted on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds during the 30 hour event. Learn more about OCCF’s Giving Day here and mark your calendars to join us as we work to build stronger, wiser women!

- Alexis