By Vivian Drury
While looking for the perfect outfit for UP’s fall issue party, I asked my mom for some advice on where to find a big statement piece necklace. She told me about Starfish Project, which takes Asian prostitute women off the streets and provides them with shelter, while teaching them to make jewelry to bring them back a sense of self work and a hopeful future. I couldn’t help but be inspired by this incredible organization and their beautiful pieces.
The non-profit organization started with CEO Jenny McGee. She heard about young women in Asia that are forced to leave their families and move to the city to make money in the most gut-wrenching of forms. She was inspired by a story of sixteen-year-old girl, who left the country for the city and was told she could find work at a hair salon.
However, once she entered the room and noticed the harsh, determined looks of the men surrounded by quivering young females like herself, she knew the intentions within that room went way beyond hair cutting. McGee began to visit the shops and befriend the very emotionally abused women and opened a shelter for them.
At the shelter, the women take counseling classes together, encouraging healthy communication skills as well as allowing the women to develop a community of their own. They have group and individual therapy sessions where they confront their past and begin to see themselves and their futures differently. As the shelter began to grow and prosper, McGee developed a desire to help teach these women how to have successful futures once they leave the shelter. She decided to start a jewelry business that allows for the women to earn an income to provide for their families, but also teach them business skills. The money from every purchase goes towards benefitting the women through healthcare, education programs, housing, and more.
The jewelry’s unique designs highlight not only the beauty of the person wearing the piece, but also the beauty of restoring hope and self-worth to these women. For more information on the foundation’s story and pieces, check out www.starfish-project.com.