WINTERPORT, Maine — Becky Mallory uses silk bags, glass-beaded jewelry and felt, monkey-shaped backpacks as weapons in her fight to help end human trafficking.
At her first home party two months ago, Mallory left without any of her own jewelry. Guests bought the pieces she was wearing off her wrists and neck. “I’m just glad I don’t sell underwear,” she said.
Mallory started working for a new startup when the international beauty supply company she worked for cut her department. Now, her sales have shifted focus.
“I sell products made by survivors of human trafficking,” Mallory said. “When my job closed, I realized I could sell stuff or I could sell stuff with a purpose.”
The profits Mallory makes benefit shelters that help survivors.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Web site, “human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.”
Mallory never imagined she would be a spokesperson. She’s a musician — she doesn’t even like sales. But after meeting Sarah Symons, the founder of The Emancipation Network, a charity that benefits from the sales of the company MadeBySurvivors, she was shaken.
“When I met Sarah, that night I couldn’t sleep. I have two daughters. I had to do something,” Mallory said. She didn’t sleep for the next two nights either. She said all she wanted to do was hug her daughters, ages 4 and 7, and protect them.
Since then, Mallory sold $5,500 of product in two months. That money helped one shelter that couldn’t afford water during a recent drought.
The way the business works is the survivors make the crafts, MadeBySurvivors pays them, the products are shipped to the United States where Mallory and other ambassadors of the company sell them for profit. The profit then goes to the Emancipation Network charity, giving money back to the survivors, shelters and rescue efforts.
“People ask why I don’t help people in America. I tell them ‘I am,’” Mallory said. “A lot of citizens are trafficked into the U.S.”
Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into America yearly, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
To help, Mallory spends her days introducing people to her products — bright silk handbags, purses made from neon colored rice bags, freshwater pearl drop earrings and colorful multicolored beaded necklaces and bracelets, including one Mallory wears.
“I talk about the hands that tie the knots,” she said, holding her beaded bracelet. “They are honored that women in America want their products — they’re blown away.”
These are the things she tells partygoers.
“People thank me for my work, which really surprised me. Everything has been really positive,” Mallory said.
Courtney Harvey, who hosted a party, puts it like this: “The stories of these little girls made us all cry — I kept thinking, this could be my daughter.”
At her party, Harvey bought a beaded clutch purse, pearl earrings and a matching necklace.
“Every time I wear the jewelry out, I get comments and I am proud to pass on the information to anyone who will listen,” Harvey said.
Partygoers can feel good walking away supporting Mallory’s cause, but she said the survivors get the same rewards.
“They appreciate hand-outs, but they want jobs. It empowers them. They then save their sisters. They learn how to keep their children out of it,” she said. “By fighting it there, we raise awareness here.”
Although human trafficking is illegal, Mallory said, “people aren’t being held accountable.”
When a person is trafficked into the U.S., often that person does not speak English and can’t ask for help. Others may be too ashamed to get help.
The victims who do make it home can have trouble readjusting.
“Most of them contract HIV. When they go back, they’re not welcome into their villages because they’re ‘dirty,’” Mallory said. “The shelters are the only place they can go. The shelters need help.”
Mallory said MadeBySurvivors helps reverse this trend. When the survivor’s community sees that she is bringing money into the village, she is sometimes welcomed back.
For information on MadeBySurvivors call 745-9789.