Somaly Mam Foundation
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The Somaly Mam Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on combating the global sex slave trade through supporting the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the victims and through raising global awareness on the issue. The foundation funds more than 10 organizations in various parts of the world that are combating sexual slavery and human trafficking in the field. These include groups that are rescuing girls from brothels, offering them shelter and safety, providing them with basic education, and helping them reintegrate into new communities when their healing processes are complete.
Somaly Mam was born in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia. Orphaned at a young age, Somaly does not know who her real parents are, nor does she know her real name or exact birth date. Although she did not receive formal schooling, she was later trained to be a midwife after the genocidal regime. However, Somaly was sold many times by a man she called "grandfather" as a slave and coerced into prostitution. She was forced to work in a brothel with many other young girls that were treated horrifically through torture, manipulation, and scare tactics. One night she watched a close friend murdered by a pimp. Her past is a major contributing factor regarding her passion and effort to help young children and women involved with human trafficking. Mam later returned to Cambodia to bring back some of her experience and ideas to her homeland. She began establishing a non-governmental organization in French called “Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire (AFESIP),” translated in English “Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances.” She became co-founder of AFESIP and President of AFESIP Cambodia in Phnom Penh. This organization’s main cause is the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of girls forced into prostitution.
The Somaly Mam Foundation is dedicated to ending sex slavery around the world with a results-oriented, three-step approach to critical program areas: victim services, survivor empowerment, and the eradication of slavery. The common thread woven through all of the Foundation's programs is the collective voice of survivors. The vision is modeled after Somaly’s inspiring life, ensuring that survivors take charge in reclaiming their lives, fight back against their former oppressors, and refuse to turn their backs on those who remain behind.
The Somaly Mam Foundation supports the entire process of healing a survivor from rescue and recovery to rehabilitation and reintegration. The Foundation supports over ten shelters in four countries, providing resources and funding to victim services providers. These organizations provide survivors of human trafficking with food, shelter, and medical and psychological care. These partners include AFESIP Cambodia, AFESIP Laos, Alliance Anti-Trafic in Vietnam, and My Sister's Place.
Once basic needs have been met, SMF supports education and vocational training programs to prepare survivors for reintegration to mainstream society. Survivors are given access to primary and secondary education, and beyond if they wish to do so. These skills are invaluable for survivors to flourish and sustain lives of dignity. Helping survivors of sex slavery become self-sufficient emotionally and financially translates to sustainable employment and alternative long-term solutions to reduce the risk of being re-trafficked or returning to the sex industry.
While survivors have experienced significant trauma, they are often able to thrive with the proper support. Young women have opened businesses, hold steady employment, and have even gotten married. In Cambodia, teams visit reintegrated survivors to check in and make sure that all is well with them in their new empowered lives.
Eradication of slavery
The Somaly Mam Foundation is dedicated to eradicating slavery and the root causes that allow this evil to persist. Rule of law is crucial to the fight against human trafficking. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting and promoting rule of law in regions where the concept is threatened or non-existent. SMF has developed a powerful network of domestic and international partners, such as Lexis Nexis and The Body Shop, to apply pressure to the Cambodian government and justice system to combat corruption and complicity on the part of public officials. SMF works with local groups to demand legislation that effectively addresses the issue and to allocate more resources toward enforcement of these laws. The goal is to make engaging in this crime more difficult and costly, as the likelihood of being apprehended and prosecuted will increase. While initial efforts are focused in Cambodia, advocacy campaigns will gradually expand to other countries as well.
Awareness and advocacy are crucial across the globe as well. By increasing knowledge of trafficking, by understanding its root causes, and by creating an environment where the world says "no more," the end of trafficking can come about in the foreseeable future.
Voices for Change
Survivors of trafficking are not weak and helpless. They are strong, resilient, and have demonstrated incredible courage in overcoming their tortured past and building a promising future for themselves. The Somaly Mam Foundation is there to lend a hand and provide them with a platform from which their voices can be heard around the world. Voices for Change is that platform.
Co-directed by Sina Vann, a survivor of sex slavery in Cambodia, and modeled after Mam’s life example, VFC is designed to give survivors an opportunity to help themselves by helping others, to have their voices heard in the courts of law and public perception, and to have influence and impact on effectuating change. From those who have struggled through the pain of slavery, a new generation of leaders who stand for justice and free will will arise. Those who have undergone rescue, recovery, education, and reintegration are survivors who can choose to join the Voices for Change initiative and help in the survivor services program area by speaking to new victims brought to the centers, completing intake forms, teaching classes, and sharing life skills training.
Program participants join legal training seminars and courageously share their stories with magistrates, judges, and other members of the legal community brought together to better understand sex slavery. The survivors’ first-hand accounts of the horrors of life as a slave in the sex trade serve as dramatic wake-up calls to those in the legal profession who have pledged themselves to the cause of justice. Participating survivors host public service announcements in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. They also accompany Mam to certain fundraising and awareness events to share their experiences, educate the public, and show that this is happening to real people — not just nameless, faceless masses. Each one of these women has lived through horrific conditions and has emerged as a young leader.
PROJECT FUTURES global
PROJECT FUTURES global is the volunteer and activist platform of the Somaly Mam Foundation. This program empowers volunteers to take action and join the fight against slavery by using their skills and interests, their communities, and their social networks to speak out, increase awareness, and raise funds for the Somaly Mam Foundation.
PROJECT FUTURES global supports and assists volunteers with activities such as online campaigns and media stunts, grassroots events, film nights, runs and walks, campus outreach, workplace presentations, and more. PROJECT FUTURES global mobilizes volunteers and activists all over the world, empowering a generation to shape their world into one where women and children are safe from slavery.
Origins of the Somaly Mam Foundation
The following excerpt was taken directly from the Somaly Mam Foundation website (http://www.somaly.org/whoweare/history):
In 2007, Jared Greenberg and Nicholas Lumpp, two graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, learned of a growing international crisis — human trafficking. The sex slave trade had developed into the third most profitable criminal industry, behind only narcotics and weapons. Governments had yet to effectively handle the problem, and funding for organizations fighting the illegal trade was minimal. Disturbed by the public's lack of awareness of these ongoing atrocities, Greenberg and Lumpp decided it was time to take action and help put an end to sexual slavery, once and for all. But with an industry that generates $12 billion a year, enslaves millions of young women and children, and is protected by corrupt government and law enforcement officials, they had their work cut out for them.
A few months later Greenberg and Lumpp viewed an online video clip of Anderson Cooper 360 and saw a show spotlighting a woman by the name of Somaly Mam. Sold into slavery at the age of 12, she later escaped and made it her mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate survivors of this heinous crime. The result was AFESIP, an organization that has transformed the lives of thousands of victims of the illegal trade since its inception in 1996. Mam is now regarded as one of the most prolific activists fighting sexual slavery. Greenberg and Lumpp traveled to Cambodia into the center of the sex slave industry. They met with Somaly Mam, toured shelters, and met some of the young women who had been rescued. The experience changed their lives. They realized that too many people around the world do not know that slavery still exists. Increasing awareness and funding organizations like AFESIP seemed paramount to combating the illegal trade. During a car ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Mam explained her vision for a U.S. based organization that would take her life's passion to the next level. Thus, the Somaly Mam Foundation was born.
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