Restoring Hope to Exploited Women
At Starfish Project we help & empower exploited women through:
Starfish Project staff and volunteers regularly go out to the streets to find and develop relationships with women still trapped in exploitation. These teams go out nearly every day of the week and seek to build meaningful relationships with each woman and serve them in practical ways, such as taking them for hospital visits, providing language and health education and celebrating the women's birthdays. Nearly all of the women have histories of degradation and abuse before they became trapped in exploitation, so the Starfish Project seeks to affirm each woman as worthwhile and being of value.
Enabling Access to Health Care
The Starfish Project views access to health care as a critical need for exploited women. Along with taking women still in exploitation for hospital visits, the Project provides for women it employs comprehensive medical insurance and annual medical check-ups. Medical professional volunteers meet regularly with the women in the Project as well as women still working the streets, providing health seminars, emotional and practical support, and simple consultation. Additionally, the Starfish Project provides funding grants for some medical needs.
The Starfish Project offers all women leaving a life of exploitation the opportunity for free food and board at its shelter. Women who live in the shelter learn acceptance and a new way of life through the communal living environment. The women become family for each other, and are required by the situation to learn good and emotionally healthy communication and relationship skills. They also discover that they each have unique talents and gifts, which they are encouraged to explore through practice and additional training. The shelter is run by several house managers who are committed to care for each woman holistically.
Offering Alternative Employment
In 2007 the Project opened a jewelry business to provide an alternate source of income for the women in the shelter. By participating in various aspects of jewelry making and distribution, each woman earns a salary that keeps them off the street and in a healthy and life-giving working environment. The profits from the sales of jewelry support the women of Starfish Project and help create for the women a stable environment and financial independence. The Starfish Project seeks to develop each individual through on-the-job training but also by being a part of a legitimate self-sustaining business that employs sound business practice. This contributes greatly to the women's feeling of empowerment and individual capacity.
Every employee in the Starfish Project receives regular counseling and emotional care as part of their holistic transformation. The women participate in group sessions where they begin to confront and heal their past hurts and learn life-skills and tools for their future. They also have weekly individual sessions with trained therapists. In the past few years, the women have grown from an initial reluctance to open their hearts and expose their hurts, to a deep desire to have inner healing and deal with the trauma of their pasts.
Supplying Family Education Grants
With the high cost of schooling in the cities, many migrant families choose to send their children to live in the countryside with relatives while the parents remain in the cities to earn money. Starfish Project believes that it is best for families to remain together, and that the women of the Project are the key in breaking previous cycles of abuse and neglect. Therefore Starfish Project provides education grants to its employees' children so that they can be educated in the city and the women of Starfish can renew and heal their relationship with their children.
Facilitating Education and Vocational Training
As part of its commitment to holistic care and growth, every woman at Starfish has the opportunity to receive education and vocational training. Women are encouraged to grow in their skills and responsibilities in the business and are given on-the-job vocational training in areas such as computing, production, marketing, inventory and stock-keeping. Women are also offered educational grants to undertake vocational training classes through other providers, so that they can receive training for future employment and pursue their dreams. In-house literacy and English language classes are also provided throughout the working week. Due to poverty, many of the women at Starfish only completed very low levels of schooling and so are limited in their native language ability and therefore crippled in their future work possibilities. The Starfish Project provides literacy education when needed and now all women of the Project are literate in their native language and many are becoming proficient in English.
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