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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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What Freedom Means To Me

Lindsey Malcolm

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays simply because it celebrates the fundamental tenant of freedom, something about which I am deeply passionate. 241 years ago, 56 delegates to the Continental Congress signed the most incredible document in our nation’s history, the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

This bold statement that our rights come from our Creator, not from men, is empowering; that we are free to dream and be fueled by ambition is encouraging; that anything less than living in True Freedom is contrary to our purpose, is revolutionary. This is why I am in the fight to end human trafficking.

While this is an American document that spurred the establishment of the United States of America, the role of freedom in life is not limited by our borders and shores. Traffickers rob young women their freedom in places like India, Mexico, and Uganda. Girls in the United States are exploited, manipulated, and abused right here in our city streets. These victims have been endowed by their Creator with the same inalienable rights as you and me, but someone has taken them away through force, fraud, or coercion.

That’s why rescue efforts by our anti-trafficking partners are so crucial. They break the first chains of captivity. I can’t imagine the situation we would be in without their courage and determination.

But what about the emotional and mental chains? How can people escaping trafficking transition from physical freedom to living in True Freedom, where they can make decisions for themselves, develop positive and authentic relationships, be financially stable, and overcome their insecurities? How can they pursue their Happiness?

International Sanctuary. The road to freedom starts when the doors of a Sanctuary open. In these safe, healing communities, young women and girls can find space to learn while surrounded by love and grace. They can establish a career path and become leaders and providers thanks to our social enterprise, Purpose Jewelry.

The 56 men whose names inked on the Declaration of Independence pledged their “Lives, [their] Fortunes, and [their] Sacred Honor” so that their countrymen could live in True Freedom. What can we pledge?

  • Instead of your life, could we have a couple of hours of your time? Host a Trunk Show

  • Instead of your fortunes, would you consider a monthly or one-time gift? Click to Give

  • Instead of your sacred honor, would you introduce 3 friends to International Sanctuary?

Every journey starts with a step - will you walk with me?

This blog was written by Ashley McCully, International Sanctuary’s Development Coordinator

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

3 Things You Can Do To Help Today

Lindsey Malcolm

Over the last two days, we’ve shared with you why we’re opening our doors in Kampala, Uganda, explained how the funds we are raising will being spent, and introduced you to our first cohort of survivors.

We are certain our model of economic empowerment will help break the cycle of poverty, escape trafficking forever, and help them build bright futures for themselves and their families.

With 83% unemployment among Ugandan girls and young women, International Sanctuary may be the only employment opportunity available to them; without it, they may be forced, tricked, or sold into slavery. Our research has proven employment is the key to long-term success and total transformation.

With life pulling us in many directions, time has become a most precious resource. Thankfully, technology gives our supporters a path to quick, easy, and secure giving. Also, because of our incredibly generous donor who has agreed to match up to $50,000, taking a few minutes to donate will have twice the impact!

There are 3 powerful things you can do right now to help Bring Freedom to Uganda

  • Give -- So far, donors like you have opened the door of freedom to 33 girls. We still have 7 more invitations to give! Will you help one more begin her journey of healing?

  • Sponsor -- You can walk with our girls every step of the way when you give the gift of true freedom on a regular basis. Our automated system can securely process your payment every month, week, or quarter. Because PURPOSE covers all of the operating expenses, every dollar entrusted to us by our donors goes directly to serve survivors as they rebuild their lives.

  • Share -- After you give, introduce our cause to 3 people and ask them to get involved. Whether you email this blog to your family, post it on Facebook, or text the Bring Freedom to Uganda link to a friend, you can also make a difference by spreading the word!

Meet Our First Cohort in Uganda!

Lindsey Malcolm

Yesterday, we shared why we’re intent on serving survivors in in Uganda. With unemployment at 83%, young Ugandan women are trapped in extreme poverty and are sold, forced, or tricked into slavery every day. Today, you may find yourself asking who exactly are we serving and how is your donation being spent?

Let us introduce you to our first cohort:

Adia  *  Anana  *  Agatha

Maha  *  Matina  *  Momina

Pamela  *  Primrose  *  Prema  *  Semira

These ten girls have come to International Sanctuary in search of a safe, healing workplace community where they can learn transferrable job skills and have meaningful employment. Our partner in Uganda, Willow International, has been providing for their immediate care needs and is recommending each of them for our program.

When a girl is invited to participate in our program, she is provided with a workspace (which keeps her out of a trafficker’s reach), tools and materials to make beautiful, hand-crafted jewelry, training and instruction from an experienced International Sanctuary mentor, issued the appropriate licenses, certificates, and permits to work, and (most importantly) a fair wage to put her on the path to financial freedom.

The first 40 invitations require $3,750 each. After the first 40 girls go through the program, the Sanctuary is entirely sustainable, meaning the sales through PURPOSE Jewelry can cover the operation costs for the duration of the program. 40 invitations at $3,750 each means $150,000 is needed to open a Sanctuary and bring it to sustainability.

As you can see from our Bring Freedom to Uganda thermometer, we almost have what it will take to run the Sanctuary until the jewelry sales can sustain it. Remember, a very generous donor has agreed to match up to $50,000 in donations so when you give $250 today, it could really be $500! If you have the ability to give $3,750 and open the door of true freedom to one girl, the match can open another door to another survivor.

Bring Freedom to Uganda today and help her

  • Break the cycle of poverty

  • Escape trafficking forever

  • Build a better future for herself and her family

Bring Freedom to Uganda

Lindsey Malcolm

Did you know International Sanctuary is raising money to open our doors in Kampala, Uganda? Our campaign is called Bring Freedom to Uganda and we have raised $121,400 of our $150,000 goal!

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While trafficking varies in every country due to government, culture, and economy, the trauma suffered by the victims is largely the same. Here in southern California, we serve survivors of trafficking who have large gaps in their education, do not have any way of supporting themselves financially, and escaped trafficking feeling broken, isolated, and rejected. The girls 9,394 miles away in Kampala feel the same way.

Ugandan girls and young women suffer from 83% unemployment. Trapped in extreme poverty without any employment opportunities, they are highly vulnerable to be exploited or sold, forced, or tricked into slavery. Not only do trafficking victims in the world come from Uganda, there are also victims who manage to escape while passing through the country en route to other places. 

Human trafficking is a global issue, affecting every country in the world. When we see this injustice, we can’t help but feel like we should do something, but it can be tough to know where to start.

There are 3 powerful things you can do right now to help Bring Freedom to Uganda:

  • Give -- A very generous donor has agreed to match all donations up to $50,000 so that means your contribution can pack twice the punch! Technology has made it so easy to give, that you can make a meaningful difference in a matter of minutes.

  • Sponsor -- If you’d like to give the gift of true freedom on a regular basis, our automated system can securely process your payment every month, week, or quarter. Because PURPOSE covers all of the operating expenses, every dollar entrusted to us by our donors goes directly to serve survivors as they rebuild their lives.

  • Share -- After you give, introduce our cause to 3 people and ask them to get involved. Whether you email this blog to your family, post it on Facebook, or text the Bring Freedom to Uganda link to a friend, you can also make a difference by spreading the word!

When you join us in this fight, you will save and transform lives. Your involvement can mean a bright future not just for a survivor, but for her daughter, her family, and her community. Together, we can prevent these girls from being trafficked across international borders into places like the Middle East and Asia, even farther from their homes and from the hope they so desperately need. You are a force for change in this world  - you can do something big!

Click here to Bring Freedom to Uganda today.

It's National Volunteer Week!

Lindsey Malcolm

When I was asked to write a short piece on why I volunteer, I thought that's easy - it's because I enjoy it. I enjoy the atmosphere and the camaraderie at the office. I enjoy the work, be it packing or unpacking for events, inventory counts, or working events. And there is my favorite, counting in the shipments of jewelry from overseas - it's like Christmas for me.

But as I thought about it, I realized there is so much more to what iSanctuary means to me. It isn't that I get a sense of a great calling - my part is one of support more than of saving the world, and somewhat menial support at that. I'm not anywhere near the front lines of rescue, or of giving physical, legal, or emotional support to the trafficking survivors. But it is the small tasks and gestures that are the most meaningful.

It is working with a woman in the Professional Opportunities for Survivors of Trafficking (POST) program as she sets up her first checking account. It is explaining what an offer of a credit card means. It is assisting with studying for a driver's license test, knowing that that license will bring mobility and independence.  

In the wake of trauma, there are difficult situations that survivors must face; I have to remind myself that my job isn't to fix any of these women's lives. I am just a part of helping them with daily choices that can ultimately lead to a life of true freedom.

I started volunteering with an altruistic attitude of "helping". I had time to donate, and a desire to "be a part of something bigger than me." I have come to realize that what I gain is always so much more than I can give. The community and friendship offered by both the staff and the POST participants is something I treasure. While my life had great meaning and purpose before I volunteered, that has been magnified through volunteering. Every time I leave the office or an event, each staff member gives me a genuine "thank you". But I have to respond, "No, thank you for letting me partner with an enterprise so filled with love and hope."  

Authored by Kathy K., International Sanctuary and PURPOSE Jewelry Volunteer

We are so thankful for Kathy's willingness to share her heart for serving. One of our core values at International Sanctuary is "Heart to Serve" and volunteers bring so much of that to our organization. As we mark time to celebrate those who so selflessly give, we would like to thank all of our volunteers for their service, passion, and perspective!

If you'd like to join our wonderful group of volunteers, email getinvolved@isanctuary.org.

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

She needed help.

Lindsey Malcolm

Little did she know when she boarded a flight from Seattle to San Francisco that Sheila Fredrick would become somebody’s hero. The Alaska Airlines flight attendant trained by Airlines Ambassadors International, an organization that has teamed up with the airline industry to protect vulnerable children knew the signs of what to look for.  Shelia was empowered to act when she saw a disheveled girl traveling with an older, well-groomed man. Something wasn't right.

And it wasn't.

Using a note in a lavatory, Shelia was able to discreetly communicate with the teen. When the flight attendant retrieved the note that read "I need help", she acted at once. Police were waiting when the flight landed. The girl was taken to a safe location and the man transporting her was taken into custody. 

This is a perfect example of the tremendous work our partners in the anti-trafficking realm are doing every day: training people to spot the signs, know how to act, and be a force for positive change. We are privileged to work along side these organizations to provide restorative and holistic care those those escaping trafficking.

Shelia, thanks for showing us that one person can truly make a difference!

Image from NBC News. 

Image from NBC News. 

But I'm just one person...

Lindsey Malcolm

How many times have you looked at a problem so big that you actually felt helpless against it? When we look at human trafficking - 45.8 million people being bought and sold in the world today -- it seems insurmountable. It seems too big for just one person...

"I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will."
-Edward Everett Hale

You are one person, and so am I. Your favorite barista, the UPS guy, the person who cuts your hair - they're each one person, too. But together, we have better odds! Suddenly, we've gone from one person to five people. Five people can raise $1,000. Five people can reach hundreds, maybe thousands on Facebook. Five people can fundamentally transform the lives of human trafficking survivors.

What if we were a team of 10? 50? 200??
Imagine the impact we could have!

Individuals are powerful beings. We all have stories. We are motivated by different things. We have different friends, different communities, different lives. And that is what makes the individual amazing: an enormous power contained in a single heart waiting to be ignited by a common cause. 

What's your story? How did you get involved in the fight against human trafficking? Do you give freedom through raising awareness, financial support, buying jewelry

Harness your power and build your team. Who are the 5 people you will share your story with? Take your story and share it with your friends on social media or via email - tell them why you care, and ask them to join your team. Set a goal and rally your team to achieve it!

Help us build a community dedicated to empowerment, freedom, and change. Together, we'll move mountains. Together, we can put an end to human trafficking.

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lindsey Malcolm

In a world where current events are turbulent and stability is wavering, we turn our thoughts to what we know. We know that this world is not as it should be. We know there are greater things that exist beyond what our eyes can see. Courage. Commitment. Dedication. Sacrifice.

At International Sanctuary, these traits are evident every day. I see it in the courageous young women that walk through our doors at our sanctuary in Orange County. I see it in the young women that embrace challenging concepts at our Academy in Mumbai. I see it in our dedicated staff who work tirelessly to provide avenues for lives to be transformed. I see it in the commitment of our volunteers and interns that faithfully serve each week. I see it in our supporters that give sacrificially.

During this season of gratefulness, we choose to focus on these things. Rather than highlighting the evil that drives us to do the work we do, we celebrate the unifying force of hope, the confidence of faith, and the power of unconditional love.

May you experience truth, peace, and hope this season! 

Written By: Wendy Dailey, President & Co-founder

Gratitude For Our Partnership with IJM

Lindsey Malcolm

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

Sustainable Recovery and Self-Love

Lindsey Malcolm

As a community, we’re working towards extricating the trenchant remnants of abuse, neglect, subjugation, and psychological torment that mar our participants’ lives, even after rescue. We’re fighting for healing, for self-love and trust, for faith and peace of mind, and for protection against the recurring waves of terror and psychosomatic tolls that trauma can induce. Recovery from trauma is fundamental for sustainable freedom from trafficking, reintegration to society, health and wellbeing, finding fulfillment, and obtaining self-efficacy. 

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At iSanctuary, we tailor trauma-informed programming to the specific issues that our participants are dealing with. It’s vital for us to make space for our participants to speak and give insight into their feelings, thoughts, and experiences with iSanctuary. In order to create effective aftercare resources, we need to know what each woman needs to disengage from the long-lasting repercussions of her trauma.

Recently, we asked the iSanctuary artisans how they know they are loved. Do they believe that a pathway to self-love could be a link in the journey of recovery? If they discuss the authentic connotations and experiences that inform their notions of love and self-worth, what emerges? How would they articulate their feelings of belonging, worthiness, beauty, and purpose?

These are their words.

“I am loved because… my friends and family celebrate me and support me in many things.” –Sujata

“I am cherished because… I have a happy community that cares for me, gives peace, and protects each other.” –Anandi

“I am treasured because… my friends and my boyfriend treat me really well and love me so much. They check in and ask me how I am doing all the time, so I know they care.” –Priya

“I am beautiful because God made different faces for everyone, and I know He made my face and looks after me.” –Vrinda

“I am radiant because I have strength. When I was at the beach with my friends, in my fancy clothes, laughing together, I knew I was radiant and I knew I was strong. My friends support me and I felt the shining kind of beauty.” –Pari

The resonant current in these snippet stories of rebuilding self-love, finding a route to healing, and overcoming trauma is the transformative power of community. Their words illustrate the significance of friends, family, and supportive spaces that foster resilience and affection and spirited individuality. Our infectiously affectionate community enables healing through shared work, collective goals, compassionate listening, profound friendship, and support. This unity precipitates liberation from the after-effects of trauma. In all of our customary, day-to-day rituals—sharing curries and roti at lunch, teasing each other in Hindi and English, lingering in rapt conversations, energizing one another through collaborative design, and triumphantly embracing when any person succeeds in a task of any size—the value of community is evident. In our humble, hectic, bustling, witty, sensitive, dogged, beautiful studio, jewelry means freedom.

Reclaiming Agency through Art

Lindsey Malcolm

Anandi tends to stay quiet at lunch. While we gather around the mishmash of desks for our clamorous, giggly afternoon break, she eats her dahl and chapatti inconspicuously, nods along with the streams of chatter, and discreetly cleans up to get ready for work. The boisterous banter and expressive storytelling of her peers often eclipses Anandi’s shy demeanor. In the afternoon, she works on her jewelry pieces with care and reliability, but she rarely exhibits exuberance—at lunchtime or in the workshop.

Last week, she tapped Collyn, our Design Intern, on the shoulder. Anandi held a student laptop in her arms, and a tiny corner-of-the-mouth smile on her face divulged an unusually forthcoming spark. Anandi turned the screen of her laptop so Collyn could see a file of photos; as she began scrolling through them, Collyn realized that Anandi had curated a photo collection of jewelry pieces from around the Web that inspired her. She clicked and clicked through a vast array of images, demurely smiling and more assuredly nodding as Collyn began smiling too. Collyn, initially bemused at Anandi’s rare tap on the shoulder, felt profoundly upended by gratitude that Anandi had shared an intimate sliver of her creativity.

Anandi’s demonstrable excitement and evident proclivity for curating a design concept moved Collyn to ask her if she would like to lead the creation of a new Purpose Jewelry piece. Anandi bashfully accepted and throughout the week, the two worked together to produce a concept, some sketches, a color palette, and eventually, a finished model. April, iSanctuary’s head jewelry designer, loved the finished piece, and approved the model to be sent out with rest of the samples in that line.

In the entire two months that Collyn has worked for iSanctuary, Anandi has been the first woman to approach her with a personal, imaginative concept. Anandi took the initiative to share her artistic predilections, to offer her distinctive insights into Purpose Jewelry designs, and, with guidance, support, and tweaks from Collyn, to create her own model for a new product. Collyn had the privilege of witnessing Anandi peak out of her shell and take a leap of faith in order to share and pursue her art. To relinquish safe ground and hurdle into the obscure, rutted swamplands of “following your dreams”—where vulnerability to self-doubt and external criticisms is stymied only by the fortitude of one’s belief in their vision—is a terrifying bound for any innovator. For a shy artisan recovering from trauma, betrayal, and systematic violence, the choice to open herself up, to make herself exposed to criticism and rejection, and to forgo defenses in pursuit of her creative aspirations, is monumental.

Anandi thrived in the oft-shambolic process of breathing life into her imagination and emerged triumphant, finished design model in-hand. The efflorescence of Anandi’s confidence through taking ownership of her artistry attests to the value of the creative space iSanctuary aims to provide. We encourage participants to generate their own ideas, follow them to fruition, and inspire each other, hoping that these habits will support their art in the workshop and reinforce self-agency in circumstances outside of the jewelry studio. We believe that this space, in which survivors assert their voices, take on responsibilities, and revel in their imaginative propensities, begets recovery, self-efficacy, and sustainable liberation. Anandi, and the women she inspires with her assertive artistry, incarnate the transformative affects that we aspire to engender in our Purpose Jewelry workshop.