All Photos by Jon + Moch Photography
It was 2009 and I was just starting off as a wide-eyed college freshmen. I remember the day. Sifting through crowded walkways of unfamiliar faces and trying not to spill coffee down the front of my sweater as I was hustling across campus. I went to the wrong building. Again. Nerves and jitters were at an all time high, though the excitement for my unfolding collegiate experience was too.
Starting university, I knew immediately I wanted to study Global Development. The major was only a few years old when I arrived at Seattle Pacific. The studies consisted of international relations, political science, theology, geography, history, and social venture courses. Practically speaking, it was the major you chose if you wanted to work for a non-profit after graduation. I was all in.
My beloved professor and academic advisor helped us think critically about development. One of the most important, succinct nuggets of knowledge I gained through my studies was long-term job security, coupled with education, is the best way to eradicate poverty as we know it today. In sum, free handouts may be immediately helpful to those in need, but they ultimately create a cycle of dependency and cause more harm than good. The whole give a man a fish, teach a man to fish analogy never rang so true.
As I’m sure you can imagine, human trafficking is strongly rooted in poverty. Men, women, and children are often allured into this horrific industry by half-truths and deception that leverages the desire for secure work and the prospect of financial gain. “Pimps and brothel owners often lure impoverished women with promises of a proper job, but then force them to sell their bodies over and over again.” (International Justice Mission)
What becomes of trafficking victims after they’ve been rescued? Once delivered from their abuse, victims face the uphill battle of figuring out how to live a normal life. Again or maybe for the first time. Yet, if one of the main reasons they were allured (or coerced) into modern-day slavery was poverty, isn’t it likely they will fall back into the hands of local pimps and traffickers, if not given shelter, counseling, and job security?
Organizations such as International Justice Mission and A21 are not only first responders (conducting on the ground rescue missions for modern day slaves); they provide aftercare for the long-term healing process that victims will need in order to become emotionally whole and stable. Despite the incredible work these organizations do, they shouldn’t be the only ones spearheading the rehabilitation process. The need, unfortunately, is vast. Our sisters and brothers in need would benefit greatly from thoughtful businesses, creatives, organizations and resource hubs stepping forward in this process.
There are inspiring ethical brands out there not only manufacturing their products with wit and wisdom, but recognizing this need for job security as the crucial peg it is in overcoming human trafficking. Purpose Jewelry is one such brand. Their vision: Employing women freed from trafficking and teaching them the art of making jewelry. “For the past 10 years, Purpose has utilized the art of jewelry making, paired with holistic care, to ensure that each of their artisans receive freedom and hope for the future. Holistic care is provided through our non-profit, International Sanctuary, and includes education, health care, and counseling. Their program provides every artisan with the life skills and opportunities to succeed.” Here’s an inside look at this holistic care process, through the story of modern day slavery survivor, Sana.
“In a rural village, a young 12 year old girl slept on the dirt floor of a shack. Poverty was no stranger to this girl and her family. The villagers, desperate to find daily rice, were going to extreme measures. As the young girl, Sana*, slept, a neighbor crept into the house and kidnapped her. Rendered unconscious, Sana awoke in Mumbai, far from her village and her home. As a young village girl, she was confused and frightened, which led her to trust the one person she knew, her neighbor. He lied and told her that a job had been arranged for her in a restaurant. But Sana never made it to that restaurant. Instead, she spent the first week in Mumbai being beaten, starved and raped in the red light district. Once her spirit was broken, she spent every day and night for the next four years trapped as a slave for a brothel owner, being forced to service up to thirty men a day. Fortunately Sana’s story doesn’t end in a brothel- she was rescued.
Though Sana was now free, she was left paralyzed with fear and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She felt worthless, hopeless, and mistrusting of everyone she met. Sana was placed in an aftercare home with several hundred teenage girls that had suffered the same abuse. After a few months at the aftercare home, Sana was invited to join iSanctuary’s program. Still suffering from depression, Sana reluctantly agreed to participate. Seeing some of the handcrafted jewelry the other girls had created intrigued her. iSanctuary teachers came to the aftercare home several times a week. At first, Sana was hesitant to interact, sitting in a corner by herself while learning the skills and techniques of jewelry making. When the iSanctuary teachers came back each week, Sana would have handfuls of beautifully made earrings. She was able to begin earning an income and saving for her future. Sana gained a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
As the weeks passed, Sana moved from the corner and closer to the rest of the group. She had begun to smile and laugh with the other girls, as her joy for life was slowly restored. Sana had finally found a safe and loving community. The kindness and sincerity of the jewelry teachers and iSanctuary staff allowed her to trust again. One day Sana approached the jewelry teacher and stretched out her arm with a closed fist. Slowly opening her palm, she revealed a unique pair of earrings. “These are beautiful! Where did they come from?” the teacher asked, surprised. Sana sheepishly admitted that she had designed them. The skill required to create such a beautiful piece displayed talent far beyond her age. “It’s my dream to have a jewelry shop of my own someday,” Sana explained. Something as simple as jewelry making allowed a girl who had been traumatized from years of abuse to have hope for a bright future.
Sana currently attends school, and is earning an income creating PURPOSE Jewelry as iSanctuary provides her with the life skills, job training, education, medical care, and counseling she needs to truly heal, and move forward. She is working towards her dream of owning her own business, and that dream is finally tangible thanks to all the people around the world supporting iSanctuary and purchasing PURPOSE Jewelry. Together we can build a bright future for survivors, and change the lives of these young women.”
Purpose Jewelry is a double-edged sword, creating powerful impact in the fight against human trafficking and crafting exquisite pieces by artisans! I selected the Thin Riviera Collar and cannot stop wearing this minimalist piece. My jewelry collection is typically made up of bold, statement pieces, which left me craving more simplistic designs to wear during the holiday season ahead. This Riviera Collar is adjustable (can be worn higher up on the neck, if desired, or stretched out for a looser fit) and beautifully complements whatever ensemble it’s paired with. What I love most about this necklace is knowing that 100% of the proceeds go toward International Sanctuary, benefiting girls and women escaping human trafficking.
As you peruse holiday sales and check all your gift lists for the hundredth time, I encourage you to consider a purchase from Purpose Jewelry for yourself or a loved one. Changing the way you purchase may seem like such a small step in the fight against modern day slavery, but it’s truly changing lives.
Note: Thank you, Purpose Jewelry, for gifting us the Riviera Thin Collar Necklace to review for this post. For the sake of transparency, we were not compensated for this review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own. Thanks for reading along!