Janell Hoffman is like many of us. She’s a mother of five, all under the age of 10, a wife, a daughter, sister, niece, friend, and women’s rights activist. Yes, the last one may seem a little out of place in the familial sense but, for Janell, it’s an important one. Such an important one, in fact, that through the help of her friends and family who helped her fundraise, she was able to visit Kolkata, India, earlier this year on a trip organized by The Emancipation Network / Made By Survivors (MadebySurvivors.com).
The Emancipation Network was founded by Sarah Symons and John Berger in 2005. Sarah learned about the scope of human trafficking when she saw the film “The Day My God Died’ by Andrew Levine, at the Tribeca Film Festival which she attended to see the song she wrote in another film showing at the Festival. After seeing the movie, though, Sarah felt compelled to take action and with the help of her husband John, she launched The Emancipation Network as a way to help women and girls fight slavery and human trafficking.
Back to Janell. For 17 days, Janell traveled to India and met the girls and women who are able to escape their fate by making products for Made By Survivors. Made By Survivors helps survivors of slavery rebuild their lives after rescue from slavery, with sustainable income, education and help reintegrating into society. The Emancipation Networks works to prevent slavery in high risk communities such as red light and refugee communities, by creating jobs for adults and through volunteer trips and donations to our shelter partners for rescue, school fees, emergency needs and reintegration.
Janell returned to the U.S. with a new sense of purpose in life. Very active in the organization, she also blogs her story on Made for Survivors website so others can learn more about her involvement and the importance of the organization’s work.
Most recently, she was asked to speak to a large group of girls, ages 7-12, about her volunteer trip to India and modern day slavery. The girls were joined by their mothers in a library and the room was filled to capacity. The girls asked a lot of questions and they talked about things like saris and henna, things many of us would associate as “Indian” from what we see on television or read about in books. But then Janell also talked about safe drinking water and basic human rights – things we don’t often see or hear about in the news. They talked about girls their very same age being forced to work against their will, without pay or education, often under the threat of violence.
This is heavy stuff to talk about with girls 7-12, but this, unfortunately, is the reality of many girls this young all over the world. The girls and their mothers looked at Janell’s pictures, treasures, gifts and drawings. They asked specifics: What is her name? Where is her family? Why does she have to? How do you stop it?
Janell gave each of the girls a Made By Survivors ornament which the girls studied intently. They asked more questions – what was the name of the girl who made the ornament, can they get in touch with the girls?
“Somehow, these girls were different from when they walked through the door,” says Janell. “Wiser? Enlightened? Connected? I think our talk open their hearts to the cause. But I think the gift brought the cause home with them.”
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, as we scour the malls and the Web for that perfect gift to tell our friends and loved ones how much they mean to us, it’s easy to forget that basic human rights are violated daily for some girls and women. But we have the power to make a difference.
It’s not charity – just re-direct your purchasing power to buying something that matters this year. Forget the gift card to the big box store that may get lost – this year, consider shopping somewhere you know will directly impact another person’s life through your purchase. Shown here is a delightful elephant backpack made of felt for just $18.00,
Check out http://store.madebysurvivors.com/. The site offers jewelry, bags, wallets, clothing, stationery, books, rugs, gifts for men and children, too. Priced from $6 to $400, there really is something for just about everyone on your list – and make a difference while still enjoying the true meaning of the holidays!
Megy Karydes, Founder