On May 4th, 45 girls in FAIR Girls' Serbian JewelGirls program received their very own bikes as part of a new partnership with 88Bikes.You may be thinking, FAIR Girls has bikes? Yes, we do! These bikes will open up the city of Belgrade to each young girl survivor in the Serbian JewelGirls program to give her new and brighter opportunities.JewelGirls was inspired by Vida, a teenage girl living in an abandoned house with her sisters in downtown Belgrade.Despite being sold by her mother, controlled by a pimp, and living in complete destitution, Vida smiled at me when I gave her a necklace I’d made. Nothing could break this girl’s spirit.
JewelGirls is about economic empowerment, therapy, and building self-esteem. It’s also about giving girls whose lives have been torn apart in the world of modern day slavery the simple gift of joy. Founded on their core principle of “joy-based philanthropy”, 88Bikes has given more than 3000 bikes to girl survivors of human trafficking all over the world. As we walked into the JewelGirls workshop with 88Bikes founder, “Mr. Dan”, the girls were buzzing with excitement for their first bikes.
Snezana said she would ride her bike to work each day, while Sabina was thrilled that she would now have a safer and faster way to get from her remote Roma settlement to school. We even dreamed about launching a local catering business delivering homemade organic baked goods!
The moment the girls received their bikes, they dangled their handmade jewelry over the handles and bells and rode along the Ada River that flows through Belgrade. Thank you to 88Bikes for this moment of joy and joining FAIR Girls’ efforts to empower girl survivors in Serbia.FAIR Girls' JewelGirls program in Serbia is entirely supported by individual donors just like you. Thank you for your continued support which enables us to serve these amazing young survivors in Serbia and around the world.
In Joy & Empowerment,
Today the room was filled with chattering and beads in our JewelGirls workshop at the Moscow orphanage where many of the young girl survivors of trafficking live. This is an exciting time of the year for the all of the girls because they know that their handcrafted jewelry will be sold across the city to excited buyers. They will even get to sell their jewelry at the U.S. Embassy again!
There is also a little sadness, too. FAIR Girls just found out that an opportunity to build a national trafficking hotline and offer shelter to more than 100 girl survivors of trafficking in Russia is now gone. In June, FAIR Girls’ was awarded a large U.S. government grant (so large it was going to double our entire budget!) to create this critically needed hotline and shelter program for young victims. We worked very hard to create partnerships and our Russian team could not wait to get started. Sadly, due to the Russian government’s decision to kick out USAID, our grant was ended before it even began.
What this means is that 100 young survivors of sex trafficking and labor exploitation no longer has a shelter to safely lay their head. They lost two counselors and a job training expert they never knew they would have had. And, the entire Russian federation lost a chance for a national trafficking hotline that could have saved thousands of lives across the country and around the world.
We are doing everything in our power to find support and make sure that we can keep our doors open. 100 young girls aged 4 to 21 need us. Yes, you read that right - our youngest survivor is four years old. These young girls are strong. They are survivors. So, we have to be strong together because they rely on us. We are getting up and getting creative. We are reaching out to supporters, and we are going find a way to make sure these girls do not lose their chance for the love, empowerment, counseling, and life skills that our JewelGirls program in Russia offers them.
Our staff works tirelessly with a team of volunteers to reach these young survivors in 8 shelters and orphanages across Moscow and St. Petersburg. I hope you will enjoy the beautiful photos of the young artists working on empowering their lives! They learn so much in our workshops and counseling sessions, and it shows through their incredibly beautiful jewelry!
We really appreciate GlobalGiving, and we appreciate your support right now. If you think you can help, please consider making any you can contribution, reach out to your friends, see if your company may consider a matching gift. Or, give us a call at 202-609-7797. You are a part of our team, and together we can make sure to overcome our loss and continue to empower these amazing young girl survivors! We ask in our project title “What kind of Girl Are you?”. We say, “Survivors!”
Thank you so very much,
What do avocados, lime juice, and interview skills have in common? Last week, the D.C. JewelGirls found out during a special job-readiness workshop sponsored by Chipotle Mexican Grill. In lieu of usual jewelry making, 16 girls spent the afternoon learning how to make guacamole, ace an interview, and communicate effectively on the job. As David, manager of two area Chipotle restaurants, demonstrated how to cut an avocado, he led JewelGirls step-by-step through the hiring process.
For many of our at-risk girls and survivors of trafficking, tasting guacamole was a first (the positive reception was unanimous!) For even more, this workshop was a rare opportunity to meet a local employer, ask smart questions, and practice mock interviews. Individualized, one on one job counseling is also available to girls five days a week at the FAIR Girls office. At twice-weekly JewelGirls workshops, participants gain access to resources, develop business and customer service acumen, and network with community leaders during jewelry sales parties.
We recognize and celebrate that the girls we work with all come to us with diverse experiences, levels of education, and goals. Instead of a rigid classroom where everyone applies monotonously to jobs online or practices typing, FAIR Girls focuses on starting where the girl is. For Erica*, this means rehearsing her phone manner until she feels confident enough to call a manager to check on the status of her application by herself. For Amelie*, this means adapting her CV to an American, retail-friendly resume. And for Veronica*, this means discussing how to tactfully communicate her concerns to a manager who keeps delaying her start date.
Psst! We’ve saved the best for last; a tenacious JewelGirl successfully completed the interview process and scored a job at Chipotle! Join us in congratulating her and wishing her luck on her journey.
If you’re wondering what it takes for a girl to find, get, and keep a job, here are 5 reasons to help her become Free, Aware, Inspired, Restored.
1. FAIR Girls is constantly developing business partnerships with local employers. Support our programs staff so we can continue seeking opportunities for our girls!
2. To create resumes, write cover letters, and search for jobs, girls need laptops. Help us purchase new laptops for the office!
3. Finding a job is a job in itself. For $5, you can treat a girl to lunch while she works on professionally developing herself in our office.
4. Our staff and volunteers prep girls for interviews, including how to make a great first impression. Donate now so girls can shop for a work-ready wardrobe!
5. Yay! Now that she’s got a job, how’s a girl to get there? $250 will pay for her first month’s transportation so she can get on her feet!
Whatever you give, your pledge will support her every step of the way!
FAIR Girls Russia has gotten off to a great start this year! I couldn’t wait to share all the good news, but with all the amazing things happening for our 20 girls in Moscow, it was tough to find the time to sit down and write.
The holiday season can be kind of tough on the girls we help at FAIR Girls because many of them now live in either the state shelter for trafficked girls in St. Petersburg or they live in a state orphanages in Moscow. They don’t have family that they can count on anymore, and that is partly why they were trafficked or left on the streets.
During the holidays, Veronica and I tried very hard to find a way to bring “family” back to our JewelGirls. We organized songs, food, music, and donated gifts. We also told stories and talked about the girl’s feelings about family. We were so worried about the girls until one of our girls told us that she now things that FAIR Girls is her family. We were so touched!
One young 13 year old FAIR Girl, who I’ll call Ana is doing so much better at the start of 2012!! We only just met her as our newest survivor of exploitation, and at first she was really shy. She barely talked and was afraid of everyone. At first, she only used black or white beads and never looked at the colors. But, just in the first couple of weeks, she started to open up to us. And, her jewelry is amazing!!! I just love seeing that a girl who thought she had no value now sees she is a talented jewelry designer. She’s even helping 7 yr. old Angie who is also a new girl survivor in our program learn to make her own jewelry! Now, that is empowerment!
We have some pretty big dreams for 2012, and we are well on our way to achieving them! This year, FAIR Girls jewelry is going be featured and sold at two boutiques in Russia as well as the U.S. Embassy and a local Moscow independent cinema! This means that our girls will get to use their job skills more and more and the income they earn will help them get the things they need and build their self-esteem!
Here are just a few more of our FAIR Girls Russia goals for 2012:
1. Empower 70 JewelGirls with 900 hours of art therapy and economic empowerment workshops at our two JewelGirls locations in Moscow and St. Petersberg
2. Educate 100 high school students on how to stay safe from sex trafficking
3. Restore the lives of 70 girl survivors of forced labor and sex trafficking by providing housing, new clothes, counseling, and support
4. Inspire all of our supporters with amazing jewelry at 10 JewelGirls parties as well as online and in stores throughout the U.S. and Moscow
5. Honor Bethany Hamilton with our first ever “Honorary JewelGirls” title
This year is going to be an exciting and challenging year for our JewelGirls in Russia! We so appreciate all of your support and faith in our work to empower girl survivors!
Happy New Year from Russia,
“What is the difference between us and the girls in Russia?” – Kia, age 15, a D.C. JewelGirl
Kia* was talking face to face with Elena and Veronica, FAIR Fund’s Russian staff who lead our JewelGirls program in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. The girls in D.C. were so excited to meet them and learn about girls like them … in Russia!
This Tuesday started out pretty much like all other D.C. workshops: before the girls arrived, Adrienne (our amazing social work intern) and I picked up donated food for the girls; we turned on the lights at our shared space with Covenant House and sat out the girls’ gratitude journals for them to write in before the workshop; and the girls showed up around 4:30 PM. But we were extra excited because we had a surprise for the girls – our two Russian staff, Elena and Veronica, had come to see them!
As the girls started to all come in, they looked curiously at Elena and Veronica. After writing three good things that happened during their day in their gratitude journals and getting their hummus, pita chips, fruit and cookies, they sat down. We asked each girl to tell Elena and Veronica a little bit about themselves and why they loved being JewelGirls at FAIR Fund. Here are a few things they said:
“I like coming where there are girls like me who understand me.” - London*, 16
“I like knowing I have an oasis from my troubles.” – Karrie*, 15
“I just like being able to make jewelry and earn money!” – Tina*, 19
That is when Kia* asked Elena what the difference was between the D.C. JewelGirls and the JewelGirls in Russia. What Elena said surprised me. She told the girls that the only difference was language. At first, I didn’t agree because the girls we empower in Russia are typically orphaned, trafficked through forced labor, and left to fend for themselves in orphanages or on the streets. Also, most of our girls in Russia are only 12 years old and are so malnourished we often buy them clothes that would fit a six-year-old American girl. One in three Russian orphan girls will be sold into sex trafficking within three months of being kicked out of orphan care. In D.C., the majority of the JewelGirls are high-risk toward or have survived sex trafficking or sexual violence. They are, on average, 15-years-old and living in foster homes or have recently left homeless shelters. In fact, D.C. girls face the highest rate of poverty in the nation. Then, Elena said, “You are all the same because you want a better life for yourselves.; you want a chance and are willing to fight for it.” I completely understand it now. What defines our JewelGirls – whether in Bosnia, Russia, Serbia, Uganda, or D.C. – is their passion for their future, not the exploitation in their past!
The last two hours of the workshop was spent watching “Soul Surfer,” an amazing biographical film of acclaimed surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a shark at age 13. The film was very intense and I saw a few of our girls tear up – including Elena! They clapped for Bethany when she competed for the regional surfer title in Hawaii just short of a year after she lost her arm. After the movie, the girls were full of ideas of what they wanted to fight for – jobs, education, and a place to live, and even a visit to Russia to meet their “sisters” abroad. They cheered when Bethany said she would never give up her dreams.
Now THAT is something that all girls at FAIR Fund can understand!
It was such a special and inspiring global day for the D.C. JewelGirls and our Russian team. I wanted to share it with all of you who help ensure that FAIR Fund can continue to inspire girls worldwide. We could not do our work without you! Thank you!
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our young clients.
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