Each week at Starfish Project we visit women in brothels around our cities. As we build relationships, we plant seeds of value and hope. With each visit, we water these seeds longing to see every woman experience freedom and bloom into the amazing woman within her. Yet the timing is far beyond our control.
Recently we received a call from a woman who said she knew someone in our office. She shared that her contact was an American with dark hair who had a small baby boy. It could only be our Outreach Director, Shelby although her son was already 4 years old now. She shared that she had recently returned to our city and was hoping that the offer of a safe job at Starfish Project was still available.
When she came into the office, Shelby almost melted into tears. She remembered Shan*. Shelby had met Shan over 3 years ago on her first outreach with Starfish Project. Shan was in a dark brothel in a village on the verge of being torn down when they met. Shan lit up on that first visit as Jenny and Shelby, baby carrier on her chest, greeted her. A mom herself, Shan doted on Shelby’s son and his chubby little legs. After a few months of visits, Shan was simply gone. The Outreach Team thought they’d never see her again. Yet today, three and half years later, she is here!
Shan shared her story – from compounded childhood trauma, being sold into a marriage as a teenager, to being sent to work in brothels. She left our city years ago to escape an abusive relationship yet today, TODAY, she is back and ready to begin again. The seeds of hope have taken root and she is ready to bloom.
At Starfish Project, survivors of human trafficking and exploitation experience freedom, establish independence and develop careers by creating beautiful, high-quality jewelry.
With each and every purchase, you partner with us to help women escape brothels in Asia and begin new lives as jewelry-makers, accountants, photographers, and leaders. 100% of your purchase is reinvested into our social mission to restore hope to exploited women. Starfish Project has employed over 180 women and served thousands more through our Community Outreach Services.
I found my freedom at Starfish Project.”
MAE LEE, PHOTOGRAPHER
Region: East Asia
Survivors and Those at Risk Employed: 72
Employee Services: Living wages, safe dignified working environment, safe home (shelter), literacy, math, computer training, life skills and vocational training, trauma support and counseling, insurance required by local law plus an additional insurance package, retirement fund, annual tax completion support, educational grants for children, daycare, partnership with local preschool for discount schooling, scholarships for additional career development outside of Starfish Project
Want to learn more about Starfish? Visit them online.
Mental Health Awareness month has been observed in the United States since 1949. As a society, we have come a long way in reducing the stigma associated with mental health by increasing awareness. But we still have a long way to go. As the world emerges from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have a greater collective understanding of trauma and a recognition of the need for trauma-informed workplaces.
When a healing-centered environment is created, work itself becomes part of the healing journey.
“I am liberated from the trade, so I want all women trapped in the brothels to be liberated as well. I used to be afraid of people but now I am afraid of no one. All women should have the opportunity to do fine work, to live with dignity and respect, and be able to realize their own value.”