Pulse March / April 2016 - Page 43

International Sanctuary Irvine, California A M ccording to data compiled by International Sanctuary (iSanctuary) and published on its website, 80 percent of people in slavery are women and more than half of those enslaved are children. Every minute around the world, an estimated four children are forced into slavery and sold for either sex or labor. When founder Stephanie Pollaro first learned about modern-day slavery and came across the stories of those forced into slavery in a magazine article she read in May 2003, she found a life-long calling. “The article outlined the brutality of human trafficking in India and around the world,” Pollaro recalls. After multiple short trips to India and a one-year volunteer stint with an Indian NGO in Andhra Pradesh that served women and girls in red-light districts, Pollaro was struck by the need to provide skills training and employment alternatives for girls and women rescued from exploitation. In 2007, Pollaro founded iSanctuary and realized her dream of creating a business that helps those freed from enslavement to sustain themselves with marketable artisan skills. “iSanctuary was created to address the many needs of these young women through holistic care and empowerment. The women are placed in mentoring programs, and provided with an education, medical and dental care, scholarships, and microloans in order to prepare them for the future,” says Michelle Johnson, head of distribution. Over the last eight years, the company has worked with more than 300 women from nine countries. “Most of our work has been organic and unstructured. However, we are now taking what we have learned and redeveloping our program to be more measurable,” says Johnson. iSanctuary partners with other organizations working in India. “These organizations do the rescuing of the young women, as well as provide safe homes for them to live in after being rescued. These organizations then refer specific clients to our program,” Pollaro explains their process. Providing both skill sets and a support system is critical to the re-integration of the victims into society, primarily because they are often rejected by their community and family, with no employable skills or education. iSanctuary provides support through its “The Academy” program. “In 2016, we will expand and re-structure our activities into a new system that actively addresses our goals for The Academy, thes H[