At Kusaga Athletic we feel privileged to mix with some pretty impressive people who have turned their passion into organisations with purpose. We know the athletes who wear our clothing do so because they want to be involved in businesses that make a difference. We continually hear stories of people in our community starting their own movements that contribute to making the world a better, safer place for all of us.
PROJECT FUTURES is one of our favourite examples of leadership knowing no bounds. The movement is the result of a 22-year-old Australian university graduate who was horrified to discover human trafficking was a current day problem in Asia. So she did something about it. She mobilised a range of event-based fundraising initiatives to address the social problems that prevent women from leading independent lives free of abuse.
That community based movement was the start of PROJECT FUTURES now raising $1 million a year for anti-trafficking projects in the Asia Pacific region and when we had the opportunity to speak with their CEO, Clare Pearson, we jumped at the chance.
Kusaga: How did this movement come about, who set it up, and why?
Clare: PROJECT FUTURES was created by Steph Lorenzo, a Sydney based student inspired by the life journey and incredible triumphs and work of Somaly Mam.
Somaly Mam is a Cambodian woman who was sold into the sex trade by her Grandfather when she was 12-years old. With no formal education, no money or social networks/supports, she utilised the resources she had to start AFESIP. A safe house supporting girls and women who have fallen victim to human trafficking.
AFESIP is more than a safe place but a sanctuary for victims. Offering access to extensive medical and psychological care, education, nutritious meals and guaranteed safety. AFESIP represents an opportunity for a brighter future and a platform to transform a life.
It was in 2009 when our Founder, Steph, read the story of Somaly. Inspired, she too utilised her resources, networks and skills to rally, educate and fundraise on behalf of AFESIP. She did this by hosting a 400km cycle across Cambodia, raising $80,000 and issuing this powerful and generous gesture on International Women’s Day.
Today, this cycle is our flagship event. Offering a unique insight into the culture and history of Cambodia for hundreds of people to date. But more than that, highlighting the continued abuses suffered as the human trafficking industry thrives in this part of the world. Today over 45-million people are living in circumstances of slavery, it is the goal of PROJECT FUTURES to educate others, to transform the lives of victims and to ultimately bring an end to human trafficking.
To date, we continue to support AFESIP in Cambodia, and at a more local level, the Freedom Partnership in Australia; funding the only safe house in Australia. Storing the voice of women and children experiencing extreme abuse and isolation, ultimately stripped of their basic human rights and freedom.
Kusaga: You recently took a group of adventurers to Spain to walk the UNESCO world heritage listed Camino de Santiago to raise funds for Project Futures … tell us about the group that travelled and some of the activities they took part in.
Clare: This once in a lifetime trip, saw 15 individuals and long-time PROJECT FUTURES supporters, gather in Spain to embark on an epic 180km journey.
This team of change makers experienced the most picturesque and poignant sections of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking scenic country roads and fascinating forest tracks, crossing glorious old villages and visiting unique cities born from the Camino trail. There really is no better way to enjoy Spain's rich legacy of history, culture, food and art than to experience the Camino with this wicked group.
Together, this group raised over $30,000 towards the cause, making this journey meaningful for the individual but also the hundreds of victims that we support every day. Travel with purpose and transform a life.
Kusaga: Could you share some of the positive impact you’ve see as a result of Project Futures.
Clare: To date, PROJECT FUTURES has played part in supporting over 7000 women and children in transforming their lives. Reintegrating into the community and living lives of independence and safety.
PROJECT FUTURES has supported 8 girls in gaining their degree, supporting all financial aspects (from the tuition to accommodation and living expenses). Ensuring these girls have the opportunity to thrive and successfully break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that contributed to their circumstances of trafficking. Some of these girls have gone on to gain full-time employment with AFESIP, giving back by sharing their skills to support incoming victims.
PROJECT FUTURES fund the outreach program. This program sees AFESIP staff access to poorest areas of Phnom Penh to educate and support women and children currently living in circumstances of slavery.
Residing in extreme poverty, AFESIP visit these extremely impoverished areas to provide vital resources (soap, condoms and food); offering medical access, referral and basic treatment; and sanctuary for those prepared to flee their circumstances and work towards recovery.
Kusaga: How can people get involved? Do they need to join one of the adventures or are there other ways to help support your work?
Clare: There are many ways in which to get involved with PROJECT FUTURES and support our work. Each option is equally as important and impactful.
Join us on a journey!
This could see you cycle the 400kms in our flagship cycle across Cambodia or partake in our Cambodian immersion tour, each offering a direct insight and connection with survivors. Arming you first hand with the issues and circumstance surrounding human trafficking but also seeing where the funds raised are going.
Attend an event!
Throughout the year, and across Australia, we host a number of events to raise awareness for the issue and raise funds to support our impact partners. From scrumptious high teas to movie nights and informative breakfast sessions, each event offers a unique insight into our work, the issue of human trafficking and modern day slavery, whilst raising funds and having a direct and meaningful impact on victims.
Come one or come many, every time you attend you gain a great understanding which allows you to advocate on behalf of victims and help bring an end to this horrific crime.
Kusaga: Thank you Clare, what a remarkable legacy Steph Lorenzo has created. Seeing what Project Futures has achieved since that first 400km cycle ride across Cambodia is so inspiring.
For more information on the work of PROJECT FUTURES, head over to their site, sign up for a local event, or consider joining their 2018 Cambodia Immersion Tour and experience the work of PROJECT FUTURES first hand.
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