Though she may play a pretty little liar on the small screen, the real-life Shay Mitchell has a heart of gold. Since November 2010, the actress has been raising awareness for the Somaly Mam Foundation, a non-profit founded by trafficking survivor Somaly Mam to aid victims of modern day slavery.
Through her partnership with the organization, Mitchell has done quite remarkable things, including traveling to Cambodia to visit shelters and meeting with trafficking survivors. Most recently, the starlet created her own fundraising page to support the Somaly Mam Foundation. She took the plunge (from 18,000 feet in the air –literally) as part of the campaign this past Saturday. Go Shay!
The Somaly Mam Foundation supports teams that work on the ground to rescue and shelter trafficking survivors in Southeast Asia. They then give these girls and women the chance to live a full and free life. This begins with psychological care, medical attention, proper nutrition, and educational and vocational training. The goal, according to Ariel Siegel, the Somaly Mam Foundation’s program manager, is to “make sure that every woman has the support system of a loving family” at the rescue center.
“These women and children have no real support system on the outside, making escape or rescue almost impossible,” Mitchell wrote on her page. “This is where we join the fight.”
And though we still have a long way to go in the battle against the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry, celebrity-helmed fundraisers (like Mitchell’s!) spread the foundation’s mission like wildfire.
“In the nonprofit world, there is a constant need for funding to support program work and initiatives,” Siegel told us. “Fundraisers like Shay Mitchell's (as part of the 18 for 18 project) are crucial for us to continue our work, especially when there are a number of stigmas that surround victims - that they are dirty, stupid, that perhaps they brought this situation on themselves. It is important to remember that nobody consents to being enslaved, and that nobody enters a situation knowing that they will be exploited.”
There’s still so much more we can do to make human trafficking a crime of the past. Here’s what Siegel suggests:
1. Connect. Like SMF on Facebook and follow @SomalyMam on Twitter. Repost, reblog, retweet. Visit our website, join the mailing list, and learn about PROJECT FUTURES global, our network of passionate volunteers who are using what they know and who they know to raise awareness and funds for SMF in their communities.
2. Share. As William Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” Pass along articles, stories, posts, or Somaly's memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence, to friends and family.
3. Support. Just $10 could provide a week's worth of food for a girl in the center, and a $50 monthly recurring donation supports these needs year-round. Alternatively, buy a $15 survivor-made Akun (“thank you”) bracelet and wear it as a conversation-starter.
Our help is fundamental in freeing trafficking victims from physical and emotional torture and enslavement. Are you ready to dive in?
Images courtesy of Vimeo and Shay Mitchell