Dear Friends and Supporters:
This summer, Veronica, our Russian Program Coordinator, and I traveled from Moscow, where we already work with 17 children, to St. Petersburg to begin working with a new group living in a state shelter for trafficking victims. We provided training to the local shelter staff in St. Petersburg where they are now holding empowerment workshops, art therapy, and income generation sales parties to aid in the emotional and financial stability process that these vulnerable orphaned and trafficked youth face. The average age participant in our Russia program is 16 years old. However, we have participants who are as young as eight.
Many of the girls we serve are survivors of domestic servitude. We also started to allow a few boys to join to our JewelGirls program. I know that sounds a little funny, that boys are attending our jewelry making and art therapy classes, but these boys also suffered from labor trafficking situations, such as working in the fields. Just like the girls, we seek to empower, boys who experienced situations of sex trafficking and labor exploitation. After seeing all of the fun the girls have at FAIR Fund’s workshops, a few boys asked to join. The girls decided that they didn’t mind, so now we have "JewelBoys"! I think this is something that makes our programs in Moscow and St. Petersburg pretty unique.
In June, the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person's released their 2011 Trafficking in Person's Report where Russia was listed as a Tier 2 Watch List country. Thus, Russia continues faces serious challenges in identifying and assisting victims. There is no formal shelter for victims of trafficking, and so we utilize orphanages and groups like FAIR Fund often work with individual child and adult victims as best we can. In 2010, there was an increase in the number of overall reported victims of sex and forced labor trafficking.
Over the last couple months, the teen girls and boys in Moscow and St. Petersburg were busy creating more than 150 pieces of jewelry that was sold at sales parties and online. In just the first month of summer, the JewelGirls participants earned about 75 USD via online sales. This is a good start, but we are hoping to sell more in the upcoming months. Each of our teen girls and boys at FAIR Fund faces incredible challenges as they prepare to leave the orphanage or shelter where they live. Their past experiences and abuse leave long lasting emotional scars. And because they do not have family or friends who can help them find jobs or places to live when they leave, it’s really important that they start to learn how to earn money, find and keep jobs, and gain confidence in their community. This is what we bring them through our empowerment based programs at FAIR Fund.
Our two newest JewelGirls are Zoya and Veronica, 14 and 17 year old sisters who lived as domestic servants and victims of sex trafficking before being placed in a shelter. Their lives continue to be tough, but something rather amazing is happening and you can see the confidence in them grow by looking at the jewelry they create. In the beginning, when Zoya and Veronica first joined JewelGirls, they only made black jewelry. They were quiet, scared, and often seeming as if they were totally lost. After a few weeks, we noticed that Zoya started to pick out new colors – bright blues, pinks, and yellows. And Veronica started making amazing red jewelry. Everything she made was suddenly bright red! We asked them about their new colors, and they said that it reminded them of what life was like before…and we could see them beginning to “live again” and dream about a future.
Best wishes from Russia,
Elena Timofeeva, Russian Programs Manager, FAIR Fund
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