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The Blind Project is a collective non-profit organization dedicated to helping young girls who are sex trafficking victims in Southeast Asia.  It was started by three roommates who read one book about sex trafficking and were so moved they dropped everything they were doing to find a way to help.  To better understand why they were so moved, here is an excerpt from their blog, http://theblindproject.blogspot.com/, illustrating one of their experiences:

One unforgettable story that encourages us is that of Qujen. Qujen was 13 years old when her mother sold her to a brothel for a mere $300. She remembers, “I felt like a wilted flower, or a dead butterfly” and was subjected to the whims of nine men a day. After six months in the brothel, she was rescued and transferred to Hagar Cambodia Aftercare. Qujen often feels afraid, but she is slowly healing into a brave and compassionate young woman. “This is me, a lotus flower growing in muddy, dirty waters. My dream is to work in an NGO.”

Love and Water is extremely moved by their extraordinary work.  We spoke to Christie Lee, the community outreach director, about the how the Blind Project is working to help these young girls in need.

Love and Water- Can you talk about how the Blind Project began and where it is headed now?

Christie Lee- The Blind Project started three years ago with three roommates who are the co-founders, Chad, Anthony and Liem.  They’re all creative in film and video.  They happened to read a book one summer called “Terrified No More.”   It was written by the IJM (International Justice Mission) about a raid they had in a brothel in Cambodia where they rescued really young Cambodian girls.  The whole concept of sex trafficking was new to them, and they were so moved by it that they decided to quit their jobs and went to Southeast Asia for a month to learn more about what was going on there.  They took a camera and met with different organizations who work with sex trafficking victims and went undercover into brothels to see what was going on.  Initially they wanted to make a documentary, but when they got back they thought it could be more effective to start an organization that brought awareness to people in the U.S.  In the past couple of years it has become a collective of artists trying to create sustainable programs for sex trafficking victims in Cambodia and Thailand.

L&W- What are some of the programs you’re working on?

CL- We are creating a line of clothing and accessories called Bio.graphy.  We’re partnering with a couple of organizations in Southeast Asia to set up a silk-screening business that allows the women who have been rescued to design clothing hat represents their individual stories.  We’re interested in putting value back into their lives, so Bio.graphy is meant to give the women a platform on which to tell their stories and become entrepreneurs.  We’re in the middle of that development.

L&W- What kind of help do you find the women who are rescued need?

CL- Once they are rescued, they don’t have a positive economic opportunity without going back into the sex trade.  Most of them are caught in a rather vicious cycle, so providing them with an alternative is a way to help turn that around.  A lot of times the women are in the sex trade because their families have sold them into it in order to make money so the boys of the family can go to school.  Or they’re tricked into it and they can’t get out.  So our program is about emotional support as well as economic opportunities for them.

L&W- What do the donations you receive go toward?

CL- Right now everything we provide is all with our own money.  We have had some fundraisers which have helped to set up the silk screening system.  But most importantly we are about building a community of people who are committed to raising awareness of the issues and working to help in whatever way they can.

L&W- What are the different ways people can get involved?

CL- There are three stages of involvement.  One is the consumer stage, where you purchase the products.  The second is sharing with others what the clothing line is about.  And the third is going with the group to Thailand or Cambodia and sharing your gifts with the women.  For example, I’m a make up artist and I went there and worked with an optometrist and gave over 600 girls eye exams and then make-overs to build their self esteem.  So anyone who wants to go over there and share their expertise in a specific area can go with us.

L&W- That’s just extraordinary.  Are you almost done getting the silk screening system in place?

CL- Yes, we’re having a fundraiser in December.  We need to raise around $20,00 to $30,000 to build the clothing business.  100% of all donations go directly toward that project.  But we’ve already made great progress in connecting with the girls who need help, which is the heart of what the Blind Project is about.

Visit the Blind Project here: http://www.theblindproject.com/
See details for the December fundraiser here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/event.php?eid=206630332118
Vote for the Blind Project’s Anthony Dodero as a Changemaker on Change.org here: http://www.change.org/changemakers/view/anthony_dodero
Follow the Blind Project Blog here: http://theblindproject.blogspot.com/

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