Sarah Symons started this charitable organization after seeing a moving documentary. 10 years later, Made by Survivors is a world wide organization helping individuals escape the chains of abuse.
What inspired you to start Made by Survivors? I was inspired to start Made By Survivors after seeing a documentary film about child trafficking called “The Day My God Died.” This film showed people who were standing up against slavery, putting their lives on the line to fight it – with limited resources, and with emotional and physical scars from years of indescribable abuse. After seeing their example, I believed that if they could find the courage to fight slavery under those circumstances, I had to find a way to support them.
How did you hit the ground running? I started by contacting one of organizations featured in the film and was invited to visit their shelter in Kathmandu. It was there that I learned of the need for job opportunities for rescued survivors. We train and employ survivors in traditionally male professions, such as goldsmithing, that tend to more highly paid and respected than traditionally female professions. We started by selling survivor-made goods at home parties in our St. Augustine community, and on our website.
What types of outreach does Made by Survivors offer? We focus on employment, education and entrepreneurship, giving rescued survivors the tools they need to become and remain free forever. Since poverty and the low status of women were root causes of trafficking for all the girls in our program, we address those issues, giving them well-paid employment and increasing their status in society as well as changing the way they view themselves, helping them to value themselves and to know the laws about human rights and trafficking.
Where are your artists located? Our artists and other program participants are in Asia, which is the region hardest hit by trafficking.
What types of products do you sell? We sell handmade sterling silver jewelry, and unique accessories such as bags and scarves, all exquisitely handmade by survivors, with a strong commitment to quality and design.
What brings you the greatest joy working with this organization? I was emotionally devastated when I first learned about this issue of trafficking. There were many hard times as I researched it further, going deeper into the world’s darkest places, seeing the suffering of children up close. Of course I felt depressed and overwhelmed at times. However, once I had made the commitment to work on this issue, there was no turning back. There is much more joy and love in my work than sadness and suffering. The survivors in our programs are some of the most joyful, loving and grateful people you could ever wish to meet.
Available at Amistad
Images by Brian M Miller Photography