ISanctuary, a vocational program for survivors of sex trafficking, will hold a public benefit in celebration of its fifth anniversary Sept. 15 at Three Arch Bay Park in Laguna Beach. Stephanie Pollaro and Wendy Dailey founded the Irvine-based nonprofit to help reacclimatize survivors to society after being rescued from the slave trade.
The event will honor volunteers who have been participants and advocates of the organization. It will also raise awareness to human trafficking, the second largest, fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with 27 million victims worldwide and an annual profit of $32 billion, according to the 2012 U.S. State Department Trafficking In Persons Report.
ISanctuary (International Sanctuary) began as a foundation providing means of self-sufficiency to human trafficking survivors in India by teaching them to make jewelry in order to build a new life for themselves. The organization sells jewelry the girls make and uses the profits to provide medical assistance, education, skills training, life skills, leadership opportunities, employment and financial stability.
“We’re not just a cause product,” said Pollaro. “We are actually the product.”
In addition to helping survivors internationally, iSanctuary has built a system over the last several years to provide professional opportunities for survivors trafficked and rescued in the United States, where 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into per year, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
The organization has teamed up with anti-trafficking partners including the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, Community Service Programs (CSP), California Against Slavery (CAS) and Network of Emergency Trafficking Services, Salvation Army. These groups help bring survivors to iSanctuary where they gain professional training, computer skills, job history and references by working for the foundation, processing online sales of jewelry made in India, managing shipping and receiving, packaging, and planning events.
“Human trafficking awareness has increased significantly within the last five years, which has really helped our foundation grow,” Pollaro said.
“It’s not just the foundation that has evolved since our establishment–these young women mature through a beautiful transformation themselves,” she said. “It’s exciting to see them grow from the time they’re brought in, taking on responsibilities and going from learning to teaching within our foundation.”
Perhaps one of the most substantial elements in iSanctuary’s evolution is its collaborative nature, considering a lone agency cannot properly care for survivors single-handedly, said Sherri Harris, Project Director of Network of Emergency Trafficking Services, Salvation Army.
“iSanctuary understands the process of going from a victim to a survivor,” said Harris, whose program helps place its survivors with iSanctuary, where 100 percent of participants acquire jobs after leaving the program. “The organization helps survivors gain their last bit of independence needed so they can take care of themselves. Our survivors just completely blossom through iSanctuary–they come out stronger and more emotionally capable of handling life’s situations to interact with the community. They leave being able to make their own decisions in order to live the lives that they choose.”
A survivor will speak about her experience at the fifth anniversary event. Pollaro said it is rare and beautiful for a woman who suffers this type of violence to reach the point where she feels she can reach out and tell her story to help fight for others like herself.
Additionally, iSanctuary advocates and volunteers will let people know what they can do to help end human trafficking by sharing their experiences in fighting for the cause.
“When building human trafficking awareness, people tend to focus on crime atrocities that are taking place, but awareness can also be very uplifting because so much is occurring to make positive changes in survivors’ lives,” said Dailey. “We want to focus on hope, on the miracles that are taking place and on the transformation that is possible in the lives of survivors.”
Tickets for the iSanctuary’s Fifth Anniversary Celebration are available for purchase at iSanctuary.org. All proceeds will be donated to the organization.