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Filtering by Tag: human trafficking

India's Proposed Anti-Trafficking Law

Lindsey Malcolm

Reuters published an article last week with the headline Female Slavery Survivors Unite to Back India Anti-Trafficking Law, and it proves how important our position within the anti-trafficking movement truly is.

The law would not only decriminalize the victims of trafficking by preventing imprisonment for those rescued from brothels or other forced labor situations, but it would also give survivors better access to the resources they need to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, there are millions of trafficking survivors within India’s borders, too many for the government to handle on its own.

A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

We need shelter, support, education for our children ... not just money,” and
“We are poor so access to justice and rehabilitation is hard.
— Meena, a mother of four and survivor of exploitation

For more than 10 years, International Sanctuary has understood the key to complete restoration is more than money - the whole person must be embraced and restored.

By combining meaningful employment and job training with opportunities for education, healthcare, and community, women and girls in our Sanctuaries have a safe, loving environment where they can rebuild their lives. Hundreds of lives and multiple generations have been transformed through our model, which is why we are reaching for an aggressive goal of 10 Sanctuaries operating around the world by 2020.

International Sanctuary is meeting the survivors of human trafficking where they are, between rescue and the threat of being re-trafficked because there are no other options.

We can present these women with a solution that protects them and their children against future exploitation - but we need you to make these opportunities possible.

International Sanctuary began in Mumbai, India and is now empowering women in Orange County, California; Tijuana, Mexico; and Kampala, Uganda. We know these things to be true:

  • Our model is sustainable, effective, and replicable;
  • Anti-trafficking partners regularly ask us to bring our model to their girls;
  • We cannot grow without financial partners like you.

When you invest in life transformation, you are helping bring an end to human trafficking once and for all.

Surprised by Hope

Lindsey Malcolm

By Seema D.

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I have been supporting International Sanctuary since January 2009. International Sanctuary empowers survivors of human trafficking through a unique model integrated employment, education, healthcare, and community.

Growing up, my parents could never provide me with answers to my troubling observations as we visited India. Not until I was 18 did I realize the atrocity of human trafficking, that girls were being sold for sex. Since having my two daughters, I have become even more passionate about fighting for women’s rights.

For years, I have heard about the courageous young women escaping human trafficking and imagined a time when I would meet them. Finally, this past summer, I was able to meet them face to face in Mumbai, India.

The Sanctuary, however, was not at all what I expected. Walking in, I anticipated a heaviness which you would expect in an environment fostering healing from trauma. Instead, I experienced joy, hope, and a spirit of bold confidence.

I had the opportunity to teach a Life Skills & Professionalism session in The Academy, their 3-year educational program. The session included a Q&A on cultural barriers and how to overcome them. I was able to share with them a bit about my beliefs and perspectives, and encourage them in their growth and development. Many of the girls expressed challenges that they were currently experiencing and discussed ways to work through them.

I also had the opportunity to sit down in the workshop and have one of the young women teach me how to make a piece of jewelry. We bonded as she demonstrated the skills needed to handcraft such beautiful creations. I gained incredible respect for the determination required to hone her craft.

It was an honor to be able to meet 25 of my new sisters and become their Didi; I look forward to returning.

The Gratitude Series: Uganda

Lindsey Malcolm

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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.

The Power of Volunteering

Lindsey Malcolm

We are actively seeking volunteers this holiday season, so if you and your friends are looking for a place to serve, International Sanctuary has a meaningful opportunity for you! Whether you are local to Orange County and can volunteer time to come into the Sanctuary Support Center or if you’re willing to open your Facebook page to host a virtual trunk show, when you come away from your experience, you will have made a tremendous impact in the fight against human trafficking. That is how powerful our volunteers are!

It could not be easier to take a stand against human trafficking - International Sanctuary will provide you with everything you need to be successful, such as hands-on training at our office or emailing you everything needed to showcase PURPOSE Jewelry to your network on Instagram. All you need to do to make a difference in the life of girls escaping human trafficking is show up!

If you, your friends, or social group would like to spend some time with International Sanctuary, signing up is easy - just click here!

International Sanctuary was happy to welcome a team of volunteers through CarMax Cares, the charitable foundation of the used car retailer giant. Sara, a CarMax employee and International Sanctuary volunteer, shared her thoughts about her most recent volunteer experience:

I choose to volunteer with International Sanctuary not only for the great cause they support, but because you can truly feel the sincerity from all of the people involved in the program. Even though I’ve never met a girl enrolled in the program, I feel a connection with all of them by seeing their hand made jewelry and signed tags and I know that I am directly involved in someone else’s life, thousands of miles away. Being a part of an organization that is so dedicated to changing the world and helping women is a great feeling.

While volunteering, my coworkers and I organized, counted, and inspected jewelry for quality.  It was a great experience bonding with coworkers while supporting PURPOSE Jewelry and International Sanctuary. After we finished up our volunteer time at the office, my coworkers all said how they would love to volunteer again and most of them had already started a wish list of the jewelry they wanted to purchase.

Volunteering with International Sanctuary has always been a fun experience, from helping around the office to going out and actually selling the jewelry at different events, it has given me the opportunity to connect with other great causes and people. This program opened my eyes to the world of human trafficking and I have been able to share my knowledge with friends and family.

If you’d like to host a trunk show (online or in your home), email events@isanctuary.org.

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A Father's Day Message from Robert Yi, Chairman of the Board

Lindsey Malcolm

Recently, I was asked why International Sanctuary is so important to me.

In 2005, the moment my first daughter was born, I became a parent. Over the past 12 years… through joys and sorrows, blessings and trials, successes and failures… I’ve been learning how to be a father. And that journey continues.

In the anti-trafficking movement, rescue occurs in a moment. This work of helping people escape trafficking is absolutely critical.

However, the road to recovery is a long, long journey and the global community today is largely unprepared to address this challenge. We need more aftercare centers that provide a supportive community empowering trafficking survivors to embrace and realize their freedom.

International Sanctuary’s unique model of providing long-term, holistic support is proven, successful, and scalable. The organization’s ability to provide dignity and hope is life-changing.

As a father of two young girls, I regularly reflect on how best to help them fully realize their potential with as much joy as possible. It sickens me to know that children around the world have been forcefully robbed of that opportunity.

On this Father’s Day, I challenge all dads out there to act on behalf of the 15 million children being trafficked today. Advocate for freedom and justice. Protect those who are the most vulnerable.

Find and support International Sanctuary or another anti-trafficking organization with your time, expertise, or giving. As fathers, our children are our greatest pride… let’s live today with the goal of being theirs.

Happy Mother's Day

Lindsey Malcolm

She is strong. She is kind. She is patient. She is resilient. She has unconditional love. Oh, and did I mention that she wears a red cape and can make a mean lasagna?

Today's blog is about our amazing, fierce, unstoppable mothers! There is no denying that our mothers deserve (way more than) 24 hours in the year to be celebrated.

The definition of motherhood is more than having a child - it is everything from conception to the end of her time on this earth that encompasses that definition. Motherhood is sleepless nights, it is cradling a sick baby, it is cutting off the crust on a PB&J, kissing the scraped knees...motherhood is the most challenging, rewarding, most self sacrificing thing. Motherhood is nothing short of a miracle.

The women of International Sanctuary play no short part in this role of motherhood. Mary*, a participant from International Sanctuary’s Orange County Professional Opportunities for Survivors of Trafficking (POST) Program shared a few reasons why she loves being a mother of four beautiful children.

“I love when I have been at work all day and when I finally get home, all my kids come running to hug me,” she says. “I live for those moments. Being a mom is not easy but my children are my happiness. Everything I do is for them so they can have a life that I was not able to live. My hopes and dreams for my kids are that they are able to go to a university. The most rewarding thing about being a mom is knowing that my kids love me and need me just as much as I need them.”

I am sure many mothers are reading this blog and can relate to Mary’s love for her children. We all know that being a mom is as rewarding as it is challenging. Here is where you can support more women like Mary by giving your time, talent, donations to iSanctuary or even purchasing Purpose Jewelry (which is fulfilled by iSanctuary’s POST team). Your contribution not only helps our participants, but your contribution has a multi-generational effect. Mary’s success plays a direct part in her children's success.

Someone once shared a beautiful metaphor that encompasses anti-trafficking efforts perfectly. Human trafficking is like a faucet that won’t turn off, all the water falls into a bucket. We are using spoons to try to scoop out water from this bucket, but what we need to do is find a way to turn off the faucet. This Mother’s Day, let us contribute with a collaborative effort to turn off this faucet one step at a time.

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality

Blog written by Jackie Kong, International Sanctuary Program Coordinator

It's International Women's Day!

Lindsey Malcolm

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In 2011, I had the privilege to be amongst women from Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and North Africa for a conference I was coordinating. A few days into the conference, I went to breakfast and every woman I encountered was wishing me, "Happy Women’s Day!" I was confused at first because, honestly, I had never heard this before. It turns, out, it was in fact International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 every single year. In that moment, I googled the “day” and read the history attached to it. As a college student studying Gender & Women Studies as a minor, I felt pretty ashamed I hadn’t heard of this! As the day continued I joined in the well-wishes to each woman I encountered.  

It was beautiful: a woman from across the globe bringing awareness to me so then I, too, could share with others love, value, and worth through the simplicity of a phrase, “Happy Women’s Day!” You guessed it, today is International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women! No matter how big or small, today we celebrate. We must celebrate today, to be a giant megaphone to each other, to our friends, family, men and women alike, shouting from the rooftops bringing dignity to those whose has been stripped away. Human trafficking affects millions of women in every country of the world. Let us not miss today as an opportunity to be bold for them!

What can you do to help victims of human trafficking today?

1.    Tell Someone – Call, text, email, post on social media, just get the word out to your friends and family that today is a day to recognize women for their value and worth.
2.    Thank Her – Consider saying "thank you" to a woman who has made a difference in your life by purchasing a piece of jewelry that’s been hand-crafted by a survivor of human trafficking. By shopping with PURPOSE Jewelry, you’re supporting efforts to keep these survivors employed and at much lower risk of being forced back into trafficking.
3.    Give Freedom – Did you know we’re opening a Sanctuary in Uganda? Girls and young women who have escaped trafficking in Kampala will have a safe, healing place to rebuild their lives – you can help us open the doors!

Written by Chelsea Maietta, Community Involvement Coordinator for International Sanctuary

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

An Exciting Update on The Academy Launch!

Lindsey Malcolm

International Sanctuary is happy to announce we’re only three days away from launching The Academy! The Academy is iSanctuary’s groundbreaking, comprehensive three-year personal development program which offers income, education, healthcare, and community to survivors rescued from sex trafficking. The Academy will provide every young woman in our program with opportunities to dream of a sustainable future by setting educational and personal development goals in four core areas, while earning an income that supports growth in line with their commitment. The Academy will prepare individuals for a lifetime of sustainable decision-making and self-care.

Celebrating Change

International Sanctuary has spent the past year developing this program. Today we celebrate the culmination of those efforts at our Celebrating Change party at our Mumbai sanctuary! Participation certificates are being awarded as many young women have played critical roles in the development of the program. Say goodbye to the old, and hello to the new! Starting Monday, we are embarking on new systems, schedules, and perspectives. 

Welcome Week

Nervous excitement is building in the sanctuary as the first day of school is anticipated! Students have been assessed and lesson plans have been created. Teachers are finalizing details while a few finishing touches are made to the classrooms. 

Watch this video to hear directly from our founder, Stephanie Pollaro, and program developer, Alyson Holsclaw!

Next week is Welcome Week. Students will begin classes on Monday.  Handbooks, regulations and guidelines will be reviewed and study skills taught. Nervous but excited students will settle into their seats.

We couldn’t be more proud of the courageous young women who have chosen to enroll in The Academy. The bravery required to commit the next three years of their life to something new is remarkable. These young women are true pioneers at iSanctuary and will be the first graduates in June 2019.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who has given to The Academy! We are so grateful and could not have embarked on this endeavor without the help of our faithful supporters! We are still in need of an additional Hindi speaking therapist as well as scholarships for our young women. If you are interested in the social worker positions, click here!

To support a young woman’s education: Give today! Partner with us in The Academy as we develop stronger, wiser women.

More on The Academy! 

 

 

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 

Our Neighbor Nepal

Lindsey Malcolm

It's not uncommon for people who work with survivors of trauma to express amazement at the profound capacity survivors can display for compassion. We saw this in our office this last month after the devastating earthquakes in Nepal. India and Nepal share a geographical border. They also share a long cultural history and many persons of Nepali origin live in India. When news of the earthquake broke, many people here were deeply affected, including some of the ladies in our office.

After the quake, several of the ladies came to members of our office staff asking how they could help the people of Nepal. Some wanted to give money. Some wanted to donate clothing. One woman wanted to get on a train and show up in Kathmandu to help wherever she could. We were able to spend time with the ladies looking for and thinking about good organizations or groups of people who would be able to use their donated resources. In the end, a church that a couple of the ladies attend took an offering and those who wanted to give were able to do so there.

The women working in the iSanctuary Mumbai office saw the devastation. They felt sorrow and compassion. They wanted to help. Their compassion for other people, in spite of (or some might even argue because of) all that they have experienced in their lives, is inspiring. I am humbled by their desire to give, when they could easily say to themselves, “What could I possibly do in the face of this?” And it reminds me, when I am tempted to say the same thing of human trafficking, poverty, and violence, that all acts of human empathy, however small, still matter.

- Written By: Erin Arendse, India Program Liaison 

The Art of Dreaming

Lindsey Malcolm

For many young women in iSanctuary’s program, dreams feel unattainable. People who have experienced depression, trauma, or abuse, know that formulating a dream for the future can be nearly impossible. For this reason, the Mumbai Sanctuary is practicing the art of dreaming.

It's easy to think that dreaming is something that always comes naturally to humans, but there is a surprising extent to which dreaming is a learned experience. At times, the young women in the Mumbai Sanctuary are unable to see beyond their present situation, so dreaming becomes something we learn and practice together.

Recently, iSanctuary board member and leadership coach, Susan Cramm, visited the Mumbai Sanctuary. Susan generously coaches our iSanctuary staff and interns to utilize their strengths and develop new skills. When she visited Mumbai in April, Susan coached the jewelry artisans on how to dream. We bought stacks of magazines, pulled out the scissors and glue, and everyone (artisans, staff, and interns) created inspiration boards to express their dreams!

The ladies had several days to complete their boards, and at the end of the week, we shared our boards and talked about our dreams together. It was wonderful to see everyone excited about their future goals, sharing smiles and laughter together. For individuals who know the depth of depression, the celebration of a dream is a true miracle. Now, we're looking forward to working with the ladies as they break their dreams down into manageable goals and take steps toward accomplishing them!

 For many young women at iSanctuary, dreams can feel like something that only comes to fruition in the movies. But as a sister in the Sanctuary, the ladies are able to work as a family to help each other achieve their goals. As a staff, we support the young women by walking alongside them as they learn the art of dreaming, and what it means to achieve their dreams by setting goals and working towards them one step at a time.