All year long I've shared - in my blog, newsletters, and on our website - how I feel about slavery and about our girls' incredible potential. Now you can hear what the survivors themselves have to say. The quotes below come from women and children in our jobs and school sponsorship programs, and members of communities hardest hit by slavery. Learn what matters to former slaves, and what they want you to know about them, their dreams, and how we should go about ending slavery forever:
"Before I joined this program, I had no scope to express myself. Now I feel like I have my childhood back" Asha, Calcutta Jewelry Program.
"Sweeping social changes need to start in the home – husbands need to respect their wives, parents need to value their daughters, educating rather than selling them or using their labor. Then larger scale social change will follow" Kali, Calcutta Destiny Center
"We are like ivy. You can hurt us, you can cut us down, but you can't completely break us. Everything that has happened has only made us stronger". Carmen, New York City GEMS jewelry program
"We want the best for our children – to go to school rather than to work. And for ourselves, only the chance to choose our work, and to be paid for it, to care for our families and to help others. So I hope you will support us". Rekha, Firojpur, India, a mother of children in our Freedom School. The entire family was recently freed from slavery in a quarry.
"The true happiness of life lies in the hard work and eventually in self- establishment of an individual. I have got this job with the jewelry program and I want to learn train myself intricately in jewelry making. I want to do something big through this program and get success in life. Hence I want to learn it diligently. I am extremely excited and interested!' Laxmi, Mumbai Jewelry Program
"Many days ago, I was very weak. But now I am strong. I used to be scared all the time, not knowing where I will work or what I will do with my life. But because I have the freedom to choose, I was able to choose a job with Made by Survivors. I feel very blessed and want to help other poor people to become in charge of their own lives". Mehrun, Calcutta, India
"First you have to learn to love yourself, and then your love can go out to the world, and change it". Linda, GEMS jewelry program.
I believe that to be happy in life, the two thing you need are love and faith. Because with love and faith, one can achieve anything. With this jewelry program, I am sure I will have a bright future. I am extremely happy that you all are supporting our effort" Anjali, Mumbai Jewelry Program
"I am really proud of what I am doing. Actually, before I came to the organization - to work in here - I didn't have the skill. However, after I came to work and I have the skill, I got a salary, and I am really happy with this. I'm really hoping my life would be very good in the future." So Cheat, Cambodia. So Cheat recently married, and had her first child. Her job has freed her from the abject poverty so many other survivors face, and she says she wouldn't want to work anywhere else.
"We cannot not look just at women’s rights in isolation –we need to always look at human rights and accord them equally to men and women. Programs addressing abuse, trafficking or domestic violence have to consider the boys. A movement for change will never succeed unless it is supported by those in power" Taz, from a Destiny Center womens rights panel discussion.
"Since I am working, my male family members no longer tell me what to do. I have just taken my own apartment, and I get to decide when to come home, what to eat, when to go to work, or to do housework. Women need an income to be independent. Then we can know and demand our rights’". Sweety, Destiny Center
"I don't have a mother or father. I'm alone in the world. That's why I wanted to join this family and work here. If I join this team, I know that I'll never be alone." Swapna, Calcutta
"Now I live in a shelter home. When I come to work, outside the shelter home, I feel very happy. I want to earn more money and be secure. My wish is to leave the shelter home so that I can be more independent". Sharmila, Calcutta.
"Thank you so much for helping me. I will study hard and make you proud". Bijay, school sponsored child at Apple of God's Eye, Nepal
"Can I say something? Thank you so much and we love you so much!" Merry, school sponsored child at AOGE Nepal, during a SKYPE call in which we chatted with each child and asked them questions about their education and interests.
"The beginning was so difficult, not just the beginning, but many moments, some even quite recent. Many tears have fallen in different moments and situations, but we sense that each one was worth it. Today we are five homes, almost 170 lives in them, eating clean and healthy food, sleeping in a warm bed, and going to school. We have girls and boys with their dignity restored, dreaming and knowing that God is a real God of love who loves and rescues and presents new opportunities when everything seems hopeless" Silvio Silva, Director of our partner agency Apple of God's Eye.
"Your purchase of our products means so much in our survivors lives: they can have regular work, salary and send their children to go to school. So with your support it's not only rescuing lives of our survivors but it's also providing education for their kids". Rotha Tep, Director of partner agency AFESIP Cambodia
"When i joined the jewelry program, I realised thet even though the girls there have had bitter and horrid past, they manage to be always happy .They actually taught me a lesson that whatever situation you are in, you should be confident and fight back problems bravely. I always had a creative mind since childhood. I always want to do something creative and it was the perfect opportunity for me to start with jewelry program and now it has become my passion. Paul and Doel are very helpful and supportive.My daughter feels that Santa has sent Paul to India as an angel and I completely agree with her" Soma
Without challenge, there is no life. There will always be troubles and challenges as long as you are alive in this world. But as long as we have our freedom, we are ready to take them all on". Sonia, recently freed from agricultural slavery in Varanasi India, and a mother of children in our Freedom School.
If I go back home, I will be forced to sell my sisters and my mother. I will sleep on this agency's doorstep if I have to. But I can't go back there". Ajay . (Ajay comes from a region in Northern India where intergenerational slavery has been practiced for hundreds of years).
And finally, the quote that broke my heart and first inspired me to devote my life to this cause:
"I am not a victim. I am a survivor working as a strong activist against trafficking. I will live and work here helping others so they will not have to be trafficked and endure the suffering I did". Anita - survivor at Maiti Nepal who also worked at a border prevention station, stopping every car to prevent other girls from being trafficked into India. From the film 'The Day my God Died"