Putting a Face to Human Trafficking

At last year's event, patrons could buy jewelry hand made by human trafficking survivors.

If a favorite cinnamon bagel has grown mold overnight, the once pristine car now has a dent in its bumper, and congestion has made you 20 minutes late for work, clearly the day is ruined.

Get a little perspective. That’s the message iSanctuary brings to Laguna Beach’s Sawdust Festival grounds this Saturday, Sept. 10.

At least 15 million children work as virtual slaves in India, according to a Human Rights Watch report from 2009. Human trafficking, taking people by force, fraud or deception with the aim of exploiting them, has been identified as the third largest source of profit for organized crime, according to India’s Administration of Justice, which estimates there are five million people globally who are bonded laborers.

Unbelievably, it is estimated that there are 100,000 children sold in the sex trade each year in the United States, according to Project Polaris, an anti-trafficking lobbyist based in Washington, D.C.

The non-profit International Sanctuary, based in Irvine, seeks to combat the damage wrought by human traffickers by offering rehabilitation to survivors through education programs, vocational training, and employment that offers reintegration into a life of freedom.

Stephanie Pollaro, now a resident of Mumbai, established the nonprofit after making several short trips to India in the wake of reading a 2003 article about the atrocities of sexual slavery in India. Her enthusiasm birthed a program that would provide empowerment to women through employment opportunities.

Co-founder Wendy Dailey, of Laguna Nigel,  fell in love with the culture of India on a two-week trip with Costa Mesa’s Rock Harbor Church in 2004 where she met Pollaro. Their mutual will to improve the environment for women in India resulted in iSanctuary, which helps ex-slaves promote themselves with marketable artisan skills.

“Human trafficking is not just a global problem, it’s a human problem, and its effects can be felt right here in Orange County,” stressed Dailey.

Inviting the public to witness the work it does first-hand, iSanctuary will be hosting its second annual event at the Sawdust Festival grounds to raise awareness about human trafficking in the U.S. and around the world. The 7-10 p.m. event will include performances by local artists Pawn Shop Kings, Jon Hughes will entertain guests as they learn about the work of iSanctuary, and participants can peruse handcrafts made by survivors.

Funding from last year’s event opened the door for two programs: the iSanctuary Orange County Coalition Program, where seven women have been rescued from human trafficking in the U.S. and employed at iSanctuary since last November; and iSanctuary Preventative Program, which educates the community of Oaxaca, Mexico, on the prevalence of human trafficking. This year’s goal of $50,000 will aid iSanctuary in continuing its operation.

“We invite the public to join us at iSanctuary at Sawdust, where they can learn more about this horrific practice as well as how they can assist iSantuary in its mission to help the young victims of human trafficking through counseling, educational growth and career opportunities,” said Dailey.


For more information, visit www.isanctuary.org or [email protected].


Hayley Toler is a Cal State Fullerton history and anthropology major.


Share this:



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here