Helping Women in North Asia Heal from the Trauma of Sex Trafficking

Bai carefully studies the blueprints she helped design. She inspects the raw materials in front of her and begins to craft the swirling colorful resin. Then, she patiently waits for it to solidify into a sleek and glamorous new creation of beauty and purpose. 

When Bai arrived at the artisan shelter, her young traumatized emotions seemed like the multicolored resin – a mixture of dark and light swirling out of control. 

When Bai arrived at the artisan shelter, her young traumatized emotions seemed like the multicolored resin – a mixture of dark and light swirling out of control.

Bai recalls how she came to the shelter from rural North Asia,

“Outreach team volunteers visited me when I was working in the shops.” 

Working in the “shops” may sound like an ideal job for any young woman, but in North Asia, the word “shops” often refers to brothels. In these shops, vulnerable young women, including underage girls, routinely endure the brutality of sex trafficking. Many of the young girls have been sold to these shops by trusted family members – some by their own parents.  

New Life

When the outreach team offered Bai an opportunity to escape her life of sexual exploitation, she made the twenty-two-hour journey to begin her new life of dignity and hope. At the shelter, Bai learned how to craft jewelry as a fair-trade artisan. She was able to explore her creative talents while earning a sustainable income through dignified work.  

New Skills

Bai has learned to create beauty from raw materials and purposeful design. She finds joy in the bold bright colors of the jewelry she crafts, inspired by the hope of a bright and beautiful future for herself and her family.  

While living at the shelter, Bai also received vocational training to help her explore her skills and abilities beyond crafting jewelry. This training has advanced Bai to the position of Quality Control Manager of her artisan community. Bai inspects materials as they arrive and creates blueprints for each piece of jewelry. She also creates new jewelry samples and teaches technical skills to her fellow artisans. Bai has even begun to explore her interests and expand her creativity through photography. 

But like most of the women who come to the artisan shelter, Bai needed more than new artisan skills and a new career. Her body may have escaped the physical trauma of sexual exploitation, but her heart and mind also needed to experience freedom and healing.

New Memories

Bai’s artisan community carefully builds authentic relationships with each woman they rescue from the “shops” of North Asia. Beyond English classes, computer training, and healthcare, there are birthday celebrations, homecooked meals, and life-changing heartfelt conversations. Bai treasures her memories of living and working at the artisan shelter, 

“Every year there are so many happy memories. This year, I really enjoyed the retreat out in the mountains with all the headquarters staff. It was a special time to get away, spend it in deep discussion with my friends and coworkers.”

“Every year there are so many happy memories. This year, I really enjoyed the retreat out in the mountains with all the headquarters staff. It was a special time to get away, spend it in deep discussion with my friends and coworkers.”

New Hearts and Minds

Once trust was built through meaningful friendships, Bai was able to receive counseling to help her overcome the trauma that often triggered her emotions to explode out of control. Through friendships, counseling, and time, Bai has transformed into a strong mature woman.

“I feel like I have changed so much. I’ve worked so hard and made many changes in my life. Previously, I was very immature.  Now I am a mature and patient person.  My heart and personality have grown very mature in the last nine years.”

Bai now lives at home with her husband and daughter but continues to work as a Trades of Hope artisan, helping other women like her younger self. She passes on the skills, training, and wisdom she has received to the next generation. When asked which artisan benefit has had the greatest impact on her life, Bai has a difficult time choosing just one.

“Everything has been significant. If I had to pick, I would say that counseling times are the most significant since it has helped me in so many areas. The biggest change is the change in my attitude.  I am now able to control my emotions and be a better mother.”

“Everything has been significant. If I had to pick, I would say that counseling times are the most significant since it has helped me in so many areas. The biggest change is the change in my attitude.  I am now able to control my emotions and be a better mother.”

New Hope

Without counseling, traumatized victims of sex trafficking remain trapped in the pain of their pasts. Bai’s artisan community invests in both the financial and emotional freedom of these women. Inspired by their transformation from powerless broken victims into independent women, the artisans design and create jewelry like their Sovereign Earrings to express their new identities.  

Investing in Trades of Hope jewelry, designed and created by artisans in North Asia, provides women like Bai with so much more than artisan skills and sustainable income. It provides them with hope and healing through benefits like counseling, so their painful pasts can be transformed into beautiful and purposeful futures.  

Trades of Hope is partnering to help rescue women out of sex trafficking in North Asia.

Find out how you can partner to help rescue women out of sex trafficking in North Asia.

Make a direct impact on the lives of women around the world!

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Kathy Thomas
About Kathy Thomas
Kathy Thomas is an inspirational writer with a passion for helping women discover and celebrate their unique gifts and abilities. Kathy is part of the Communication Team at Trades of Hope focusing on Artisan Development.

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