One of the great things about working with socially responsible vendors is that you get to have a role in enlarging the circle of involvement at so many levels. When we tell you about the work an organization is doing, you know that your purchase supports that work. You might even find it meaningful to get involved directly with the work of that organization.
Starfish Project is one of those amazing projects. It is work that demonstrates the power of “one” and how the contribution of one becomes the power of many through the contributions each of us makes. It is also work that in the face of potentially overwhelming need keeps a focus on the individual and through that focus accomplishes very big things.
Here’s the founding story from the Starfish Project, a story of how the contribution of one makes a difference:
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, sir.”
The old man chuckled aloud. “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
HOPE FOR THE ONE
At Starfish Project, we believe that each woman, each person, each “one” is important. The issue of women being exploited, mistreated and devalued is a global concern. None of us can solve the entire problem, but, like the boy in the parable, we at Starfish Project focus our efforts on restoring hope for each woman, each “one.”
THE WORK OF ONE FOR ONE GROWS TO MANY “ONES”
Starfish Project began in 2006 with a mission to empower exploited women in Asia. As Jenny McGee, Elkhart, Indiana native and founder of Starfish Project, walked through the streets of Beijing, China, she decided she wanted to reach out to women working in the brothels. With a small group of friends, she began to talk with women over time, gaining their trust and learning of their need for stable employment.
Eventually relationships grew strong enough that some of the women left the brothels and came to live in a Starfish shelter set up in that city. By 2007, the Project opened a jewelry business to provide work and business experience for the women in the shelter. Each woman in the shelter participates in various aspects of jewelry making and distribution, earning a salary while living in a healthy environment.
In 2011, Starfish Project was approached by organizations in other locations in China and decided to set up two more shelters. Today, Starfish Project serves more than 50 women, operating shelters in three cities in China.
Through the jewelry company, women have an opportunity to take on new levels of responsibility and leadership and are able to provide for their families through meaningful employment. Women can grow and heal through building relationships, counseling, vocational training, language acquisition, family education benefits and health care access as well as benefit from stable housing in the shelter.
2015 A BIG YEAR FOR THE STARFISH PROJECT
In 2015, Jenny McGee spoke to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, signaling a more international engagement for the Starfish Project, which most recently helps women return safely to their countries of origin.
Also in 2015, the Starfish Project was the Kering Foundation’s 2015 Social Entrepreneur Award Winner for China. Launched in 2009, and chaired by Kering Group Chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault, the Kering Corporate Foundation combats Violence against Women. It supports NGOs and social entrepreneurs, helps raise awareness on violence against women and encourages employee involvement in the Americas, Western Europe and Asia. More than 140,000 women benefited from the Foundation’s support since its inception. For more information: www.keringfoundation.org @KeringForWomen
A successful crowd sourcing campaign brought the organization. $73,770 in one month, allowing them to expand their work. An Advocate Program available on the Starfish Project website provides opportunities for others to get involved in this important work.
As they began, though, so the Starfish Project continues. Project staff and volunteers regularly go out to the streets to find and develop relationships with women still trapped in exploitation. These teams go out nearly every day of the week and seek to build meaningful relationships with each woman and serve them in practical ways, such as taking them for hospital visits, providing language and health education and celebrating the women’s birthdays. Nearly all of the women have histories of degradation and abuse before they became trapped in exploitation, so the Starfish Project seeks to affirm each woman as worthwhile and being of value.
With their growing visibility, influence, reach and accolades, the Starfish Project mission remains simple: like the boy in the Parable, to restore hope for each woman, each “one.”
At the Green Box Boutique, we are proud to carry this beautiful, socially conscious jewelry. Please stop in to view the collection, know that your purchase makes a meaningful contribution toward building new lives.