Starfish Project’s Journey to Fight Human Trafficking
for August 27, 2021
Bay and her older sister, Ling, worked together in the same brothel. They had been there for a few years when Starfish Project outreach teams began visiting them. Bay and Ling looked forward to these weekly visits, sharing photos of their families with the outreach team and developing a friendship. The trust that Bay and Ling developed with the outreach team gave them the courage to leave this life behind and begin working with Starfish Project. Bay and Ling began taking classes in English, computers, and math through the vocational training program. For the first time, they set goals for their lives and had the tools to achieve them.
Starfish Project is a nonprofit organization that helps women in East Asia escape a life of exploitation. Women are given the opportunity to work for Starfish Project making jewelry. Alongside the employment opportunity, women and their children are provided with temporary shelter, counseling, medical services, and education. The hope is that by providing for the children as well, they won’t end up in the same situation. Starfish Project provides women with the resources they need to experience freedom, establish independence, and develop a career.
The staff at Starfish Project works to build relationships with women in brothels by visiting regularly and learning the women’s stories. Eventually, the staff members tell them about the opportunity to work at Starfish Project and make a better life for themselves. When women come to Starfish Project, many of them have been forced into a life of prostitution and are just trying to get by. In a new safe environment, they are given the opportunity to discover their passions and pursue their dreams as they move forward in life.
Women start out making jewelry on the production line for Starfish Project, but as they learn more about the business side of the organization, they can discover various aspects of the business where they may like to pursue a career. The staff also watches each woman’s progression to identify any aptitudes for a specific field that she may display. Once a passion or talent has been identified, each woman gets paired with a training coach that will equip them for their new role. The staff is working to develop a new Survivor Leadership Program which will streamline the process over the next few years. The goal is to have a program that can be shared with other organizations to help more women leave their lives of exploitation.
For staff members, getting to work with women who have escaped a life of exploitation is one of the most rewarding parts of their job. Jenny McGee, Executive Director and Founder of Starfish Project, says that seeing these women thrive is a truly unique experience. The relationships that the Starfish Project staff members have formed with these women offers a more personal connection to the fight against human trafficking.
The organization sells the jewelry made by the women. There is a spring, fall, summer, and holiday collection released each year. McGee is also the chief designer of the jewelry. She travels with her sourcing team to different vendors, picking the items she wants to include in each collection. Once the materials have been chosen, Jenny thoughtfully designs the items for each collection and the women are taught how to hand-make each piece. The jewelry is hypoallergenic and made with items from vendors who follow local labor laws. If you would like to check out their current collection, you can shop their styles here: https://starfishproject.com/collections/all-jewelry.
People can join the fight against human trafficking by educating themselves and supporting organizations like Starfish Project. Through posting on social media, we can spread the word about the work they are doing. For a more hands-on approach to helping their organization, you can purchase their jewelry online or make a donation.
Starfish Project’s staff believes that by helping women who are vulnerable human trafficking targets, we will have the best shot at ending today’s human trafficking problem. Starfish Project has been working for over 15 years to end human trafficking. Through their programs, they are able to provide for women and their children to combat the generational aspect of human trafficking. The fight to end human trafficking is far from over, but organizations like Starfish Project are making a big impact. If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved, you can visit the Starfish Project website.