A Retreat, Renewed Spirits, And One Survivor's Story

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Starfish Project was founded in 2006 with a simple but powerful mission: Restore hope, one woman at a time. The organization works with women who are survivors of human trafficking in East Asia and provides not only an employment alternative but also an opportunity for empowerment. Each woman is involved in the jewelry making process, whether it be through beading or helping with social marketing. In addition, Starfish Project provides a range of holistic care services including counseling, access to healthcare, and housing. Here, the women of Starfish Project share with us about their retreat and the story of one artisan's transformative experience with Starfish Project:

Each year, all three of our locations plus our U.S. office come together for three days. Two weeks ago at our annual gathering, we got to hear updates from each of our locations, watch performances, participate in team building games, and listen to stories from women in our shelters. It was a time to connect with one another for a few days as one team, to see how each of has grown over the past year, and plan for the upcoming year. We had one set of women who are actually mother and daughter. Together they chose to leave a life of exploitation and begin a new life. This year we saw radical transformation in their lives and we were able to hear the story of how their whole family has been changed. It was so powerful. There was not a dry eye in the place. The following is the *mother's story.

In my whole life, I have never attended school. When I was little, my parents forbid me from going to school because they thought it was a waste of time and money for girls to be educated. They only allowed my brothers to go to school. When every semester started, I remember clearly that seeing the other kids go to school would always make me so sad. I could do nothing but hide myself and cry. Whenever I was free, I would stand at the gate of the school trying to listen to what the teacher was saying. I admired those students. I hoped I could learn things like them one day.

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Now, I realize that my dreams have come true. I never thought I would have the chance to study, especially for a woman at my age. Ever since I joined Starfish I have been learning how to write and read Chinese characters through the classes Starfish provides. I am even studying English and computers. I am so happy that I can finally be able to learn as a student from my amazing teachers in Starfish.

Before I came to Starfish, I was easily irritated and would start fights. But by attending one-on-one and group counseling courses regularly I have learned how to manage my anger and emotions. I have learned how to deal with conflict and communicate with others in a better way. Now whenever there is conflict, I am able to calm myself first and then go and talk things through, rather than arguing and fighting. It doesn't really matter who's right and who's wrong. What matters the most is improving and maintaining a good relationship. In the two years I have been at Starfish Project, my whole life has been transformed.

To learn more about Starfish Project, click here.

*The woman's name has been omitted for her safety

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