Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hi all,

Its been a while I know. Things are moving so fast and so slow all at the same time I just don’t know where the time has gone. No one can really understand the ephemeralness of time unless they have tried to accomplish an objective within a certain timeframe in India. I’m not kidding…it is a good thing Einstein wasn’t Indian or he would never have been able to comprehend Relativity.

In all honesty, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but its funny ‘cause the things that I thought would be difficult are easy and the things I thought would be easy are arduous. My apartment and roommates came along rather effortlessly. Establishing relationships with the homes and the girls has been a real joy. But getting them to make anything is coming along slowly. They seem to really love learning how to make fashion jewelry. They have even been told that there jewelry looks like ready-made (meaning store bought). The problem is they just can’t stay focused long enough to make more than one piece. I am learning so much about the psyche of these girls and the reality of post-traumatic stress disorder now I just need to apply what I’m learning to make the best experience for the girls.

Rescued girls are not the only ladies in my life right now. I have met the most amazing women from the US, UK, and India volunteering or working to fight trafficking in one way or another. For example, my roommate Lillia (one of the coolest ladies I have met in a long time) just graduated from law school, took the BAR and hopped on a plane to India were she has been working for 5 months to give justice to girls by prosecuting their pimps and traffickers. I am so blessed to be among such amazing women like Lillia. I am honored to know them and to be sharing life with them.

Please pray for IJM Mumbai as they are fighting a big case right now. See link to read about the case.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Making Your Way in the World Today Takes Everything You Got...

Hi all! Sorry to have delayed in writing you. As you know I have been trying to organize a Spring training session in 4 different aftercare homes in Mumbai and at the same time trying to find myself a place to live. So far 1 out of 2 has worked out; I found a nice apartment in a great area. Actually just 2 days after I signed the lease the apartment had it’s first ever get-to-know your neighbors party which allowed me to get acquainted with everyone in my building. We had such a great time talking, eating, and even playing games. Now when I walk to the market I always see someone to say hello to. Also, I will be having 2 American roommates, one of which is here already, her name is Lilia. And the other, Melissa, arrives this evening around mid-night, hope she is a little bit of an introvert to help balance the crazy that is Stephanie/Lilia.
Finding an apartment in Mumbai is not easy or cheap. The landlord was asking for a deposit of 2 laks (= $5,000). Luckily, he came down to 1 lak but still! Then there are all these fees that no one ever tells you about. The agent fee (the man how helped us find apartments) get a fee equal to 1 months rent, which means for us we have to pay him $640 for a few messily hours of work. The lease registration fee ($50), buying a stove and gas cylinders ($?), buying and installing a water filter ($200), and a dozen other miscellaneous costs.

But starting the training in the different homes has been an even bigger challenge, simply because it is a much slower process. The girls’ skill levels are not at the level I was lead to believe they were so we are starting at the very beginning and cutting some of the projects. I think everything is going to work out, it’s just difficult to get people to try something new. If you think about it, pray that things run smoothly and that the details come together.
Thanks, love you, and will write again soon!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back in the I-N-D-I-A

Hi all,
Yep its me and I am back in old Mother India. It wasn’t easy for the flight attendants, bless their souls, having to pull me out of the plane kicking and screaming, “I don’t want to go back, you can’t make me go.” I joke of course. But it is so difficult to look down onto India and see the poverty and to remain confident. I look at the miles and miles of slums and feel so insignificant, how can I make a difference amongst all of this? But there are so many that struggle through that same dilemma on a daily basis. And I am happy to join with them in my own way. I have already met many of the dear people that I worked with previously and they are so welcoming. I have also met a whole bunch of new people mostly Americans interning for a short time with the organization I am partnering with. This should prove to be an added blessing for sure. Keep me in your prayers and I will keep you posted if anything exciting happens.

Friday, December 07, 2007

What a Success!

Thanks to everyone that made the First Annual iSanctuary Christmas Boutique a huge success. I owe a TON of thanks to my friends and family that donated some much of their time, effort, and finances just to make this happen. If you missed the event and want to see what ya missed, I will be posting pictures in the next couple of days.

Also, there are some remaining products so if you weren't able to go to the boutique or just remembered a couple more people on your Christmas list contact me and we can arrange for you to do a little shopping.

Lastly, it appears that someone may have purchased a pair of mismatched mojaris (the traditional leather shoe). If that is you or you know the person please contact me so I can give you the correct shoe (it will be just between us- Unless of course you are trying to resurrect the Punky Brewster fashion trend of wearing mismatched shoes, then all the power to ya!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

iSanctuary Boutique

Come by my first International Sanctuary Boutique...
I'd love to see you!

Here are the details. See you then...

Saturday, December 1st
10am – 3pm
Rockharbor Café
345 Fisher Costa Mesa CA 92626

Items included in Boutique:
Shawls –Shoes –Handbags -Fashion Jewelry –Ornaments,
One-of-a-kind, Handcrafted Semi-precious Jewelry

All proceeds go towards iSanctuary’s effort to help care for survivors of human trafficking. Come learn more about iSanctuary and the cause we fight for.

For more information contact Stephanie Pollaro at 714.841.7990 or

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's been a while

Sorry that you haven’t heard from me lately. Ever since the UN-GIFT conference I have been going like a crazy person, visiting different homes and organizations all of which take hours upon hours to get to. And by the time I reach home the electricity is off or it is very late and I am exhausted-or all 3.

The conference itself met my expectations of anything the UN tries to do--mass confusion, disorganization, lack of subject knowledge but a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. GIFT stands for Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking and in attendance where some of the most amazing people whom have spent everyday for the last decade and a half fighting against pimps, traffickers, corrupt police officers (corrupt police is a redundant statement in South and Southeast Asia).

I got to meet people I have only read about. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet Anuradha of Maiti Nepal, the woman on whom the article that inspired me 5 years ago was written. I felt honored to be in the presence of so many amazing men and women.

If only the UN had realized who their audience was!

The conference was put together as if the focus was on people unfamiliar with the term human trafficking. They showed (repeatedly) PSAs by Bollywood stars in which they told statistics and encouraging those watching to do something to stop trafficking. It was really shocking. I haven’t spoken to anyone who attended the conference that had one positive thing to say—how sad! And what a waste of money; I heard that they spent $200,000 on this 3 day event. That’s the UN for ya!

In regards to the aftercare homes I have visited, it looks as if I was a little too optimistic about the quality and importability of the products they produce. So I will be spending a lot more time here in India than first expected to see if I can facilitate development in the product base.

If any fashion designers are reading this or if you know fashion designers---we need HELP!!!!

If you create designs for clothing, accessories, jewelry, stationary, or household items (candles, table runners, pillows etc) we need your help. Assistance stateside to develop a catalog of products would be fantastic and if you are able to come to India to apply the design and to help train with the girls that would be amazing.

Right now we really need your vision, direction, and inspiration.

Little FYI: My goal is to have a store in S.Cal within the next couple years. The store would sell the items made in homes for women rescued from sexual exploitation. It is a non-profit business and all profits return to the women, the homes that care for them and to organizations that conduct the raids that bring freedom to so many.
Please pass on the call for volunteers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Learning the Trains

For the first time in all my times in Bombay I maneuvered my way through the rats nest (literally and figuratively) that is the Mumbai train system all by myself. It was raining—of course it was raining, every time I am in Bombay it is seems to be monsoon season --and the opportunity came up to meet with a wonderful women in an organization I would love to partner with. So I had to go it alone. Everything went well getting there but getting home was a little more difficult. I stood where I was told to stand and waited for the trains I was told to take, A, BL, KP, or S but they weren’t coming. Train after train came in and left but they weren’t the correct trains. I asked many people around me, “Yes, this is where you are suppose to be, just wait 5 minutes” they replied. But I waited an hour, no trains. I asked the woman at the ticket booth when the next train would come and where. She said 5 minutes platform 1 so I thought finally my train will come but when the train arrived it was not my train. At that point I knew there had to be a better platform so I looked for another person to talk to. I found a group of young girls and thought one of them would have to know the right answer. Sure enough after some discussion they all agreed that platform 5 was where I should be. So I thanked them and was on my way up the stairs to the bridge to platform 5. Just as I was stepping down onto the platform train BL was arriving, I said thank you Jesus. Now all I had to do was fight my way onto it because after an hour and a half of waiting it had become rush hour and the trains were crowded! The women were all rushing and pushing into the women’s compartment but it was just packed too tight so I followed a woman that was going into the next car but she realized that it is first class—all men and she turns back. I saw the space that she was going for and said, screw it, I want on this train. Jumped in, squished myself into the corner by the open door and stood for the 1 ½ hour ride back. At the station, I caught a rickshaw which charged me double (but it was still only 30 cents so I didn’t argue too much, just enough to let him know I knew he was overcharging me) back to my friends house. When I walked in the house I wanted to rip my shirt off and run around the house in my sports bra, like what’s-her-name after she won the women’s soccer world cup. Man, I did it!!!