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,