Princess Project Targets Human Trafficking

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“There are more slaves today than were trafficked during all 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, according to the International Labor statistics,” explained John Richmond, former director of the International Justice Mission in India.

“In 2009, India’s Home Minister stated that there are more than 100 million slaves in India, including 3 million caught in the cycle of sex trafficking, of which 40 percent are children. We don’t know the actual number, there are just too many, and we must do something.”

John Richmond, former director of the International Justice Mission in India, addresses fifth annual Fabric of Freedom Gala at the Fairmont Hotel. .

“In order to end slavery of every kind, we must live by the golden rule of ‘Do unto others as you would do unto yourself,’” he said. “We have to care more about rescue, restoration, and ending slavery than the traffickers care about their profits.”

Richmond was the keynote speaker at International Princess Project’s fifth annual Fabric of Freedom Gala recently at the Fairmont Hotel. He has been recognized as an expert on human trafficking by the United Nations, the European Union, and numerous countries around the world. He is often invited to train prosecutors, judges and nonprofits on human trafficking issues.

“He was a brilliant and captivating speaker,” said Julie Wood, executive director of the International Princess Project. “He let us know that there’s not an easy way to identify how many slaves there are in the world; there are statistics that say there are 20.9 million, another that says 27 million. It’s the second-largest criminal activity worldwide, on a daily basis, second only to drugs. It’s a massive problem, with unbelievable physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual repercussions.”

More than 220 people attended the event to support the project’s mission of helping create a pathway to freedom for women escaping the ravages of sex slavery and to achieve lives of dignity and hope.

“IPP has rescued between 200 and 300 women and their children since we started operating in 2005,” Julie explained. “The Fabric of Freedom Gala provides an opportunity to share powerful stories of hope about how lives are being changed through the IPP sewing centers, while also educating our supporters about the critical need that still exists as we help stop the cycle of slavery.”

International Princess Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers women formerly enslaved in prostitution to restore their lives. It seeks to establish self-sustaining enterprises in partnership with indigenous organizations that provide for physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those women, and advocates for women enslaved in prostitution around the world. It is funded through charitable donations of individuals, corporations, philanthropic organizations, foundation grants and the sales of “Punjammies.”

IPP began after Shannon Keith and Heather Vodra, both of Newport, Beach were part of a 2005 church mission trip to India and were horrified at the countless women and children trapped in India’s sex trade. Their passion to save lives ignited a series of events that led to the beginning of International Princess Project.

The name was chosen to reflect the bright colors of the traditional Indian sari, clothing fit for princesses. The founders wanted the rescued women to learn a valuable trade, such as sewing, and chose Punjammies, colorful drawstring pajamas, to be sold in the United States. Profits from Punjammies provide the ladies fair wages, money towards housing, training, and a dignified, holistic environment to heal.

The theme of the evening was “A Journey from Despair to Hope” and the audience heard transformational stories of women who have graduated from the group’s program and have gone on to nursing schools, others who have married wonderful men, and those who are now training other women in the sewing centers.

The gala also featured a silent and live auction, an interactive chalkboard wall, henna tattoos, an elephant ice sculpture and a photo wall showcasing many of the women who have been rescued.

“Visual storytelling is a great way to engage an audience and inspire them to support a charity’s mission,” said Nicole Hoperich, the event chair.

“God is a God of justice, and where there is injustice, I want to be an advocate for justice; that’s what God did,” Julie said.

“Our board and our staff are all fueled by getting to speak of the God-given value of every human being, no matter what their experiences or what has happened to them. I love that we get to help these women and acknowledge their innate worth, and treat them with dignity. Speaking out for and about how valuable these women are helps negate some of the evil that has been done to them.”

For more information, visit Cindy can be reached at [email protected].



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