How do you get women out of the brothel?

This is what a brothel looks like in the neighborhoods where we conduct outreach.

Imagine growing up in the rural countryside, with limited running water or electricity, having your parents put you on a 40 hour train ride to a big city you’ve never visited, getting off the train and being on your own to find a job to send money home, and finding out that the job you thought you found was actually in a brothel.

At Starfish Project, we restore hope to women exploited in brothels. Our Outreach Teams go out every week into the red light district to meet women working in the brothels. Over a period of several months, we try to develop a relationship with them so that we can invite them to join Starfish Project. We share small gifts like flowers, jewelry, or chocolates – anything that could spark a conversation and serve as a reminder after we’ve left.

Brothel owners are willing to allow our Outreach Teams into the brothel as long as we don’t disturb regular business. We’ve even had a brothel owner call us and tell us that he believed a girl would die in the brothel if we did not take her. Our Outreach Teams are very careful. We visit during off hours. We make casual conversation about family and America and where the women come from. Typically these women come from rural parts of the country. They typically leave home at 12, 13, 14, or 15 to go earn money so their brothers can go to school. They believe they are going to work at a legitimate massage parlor or hair salon. Once they arrive at the brothel, they really have no way of leaving. They’re terrified, it’s their first time away from their small villages, it’s their first time in the big city, they may not be able to read, and they have very little cash. These women don’t have to be threatened with violence to stay in the brothel; they have no idea where else to go. They have no other option.

Our Outreach Teams form relationships with these women week after week. Because our customers order Starfish Project jewelry, we get to offer these women a chance to experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers at Starfish Project.