Stories of Hope in North Asia – Trades of Hope

by | Artisans, Stories of Hope

Read Time: 5 min.

Women in North Asia’s Brothels Are Searching For Hope

In North Asia, extreme poverty encourages sexual exploitation of women in brothels. These women want to provide for their families but have few options. Trades of Hope is partnering in North Asia to help rescue women out of brothels and provide sex trafficking survivors with holistic care, dignified income, and hope.

Lulu’s Story of Hope

After being physically and sexually abused most of my life and then being trafficked by a boyfriend, I ended up working in a brothel. When this Artisan community’s outreach teams met me in the brothel, I decided to take the opportunity to leave that terrible situation for a job making jewelry. 

Since coming to this Artisan community, so many things in my life have changed!

I’ve had the opportunity to study as an Artisan.

I left my family when I was young and didn’t have the chance to go far in school because my family valued boys more than girls.

Having the opportunity to take computer classes and pursue my dreams has been very significant.

Today I’m married and have one young daughter.

I love being a mom!

“I love working at a company who supports me and working with my friends!”
– Lulu, Artisan in North Asia

Li Ya’s Story of Hope

When I was working in the brothels, community outreach teams met me and offered me a job making jewelry. I decided to join them. I learned my Artisan skills from women who joined before me. They mentored me and taught me everything they knew. They allow you to grow at your own pace. They don’t force you to move at a certain speed. They work with you to set your own goals. I’ve been able to grow as a person in a safe environment.

Having the opportunity to study has been really significant to me.

Recently I earned my Microsoft Word Certificate, which is a moment I’m very proud of!

After passing the Microsoft Word exam, I’m studying hard to achieve my certificate in Outlook, as well.

I’m excited to learn new skills and use them in the future!

“For the first time in my life, I’m able to set educational goals for my future.”
-Li Ya, Artisan in North Asia

Chenny’s Story of Hope

My older sister was already working in a brothel, when I started to work in one as well. After I arrived, she realized that I would not survive that environment. She contacted this Artisan community to come help me, and I’ve been working here ever since.

When I joined this Artisan production team, I was mentored by other women who helped me learn the skills I needed in order to create our jewelry.

Since coming to this Artisan community, I’ve personally changed a lot.

I used to have a really bad temper but now I’ve learned how to deal with those emotions and I’m much calmer now.

I don’t get as angry as I used to and I’m a kinder and more patient person now.

“Without my work as an Artisan, I would still be working in a brothel, struggling to survive.”
– Chenny, Artisan in North Asia

Mae Lee’s Story of Hope

When I was 15 years old, my mother needed money, so I was trafficked to Greece. I worked there for six years. I was finally helped and returned back to my home country after six incredibly painful years. 

However, I had no idea what to do when I arrived.

With only a primary school education, it was extremely difficult to find a job.

This Artisan community stepped in and offered me a new beginning.

I came to this Artisan community with no confidence in myself, but now, I take pride in my work.

At this workshop, I know who I am, and I feel a sense of purpose.

“I have a community that is like family to me and I have been able to pursue dreams that I once thought were impossible.”
– Mae Lee, Artisan in North Asia
*Trades of Hope is excited to celebrate this update from our Artisan partners in North Asia about Mae Lee:

Mae Lee has recently started studying product photography. Mae Lee, along with June and Zang are responsible for taking all of our product photos on our Artisan community’s website. Mae Lee and June recently ran their first solo model shoot! They did a wonderful job directing and encouraging the models, and took beautiful photos.

Mae Lee got married in early 2019 and recently had a baby girl!

Fay’s Story of Hope

I grew up in a poor village in the countryside with my parents and my older brother. When I was in high school, I had to drop out of school to help my family earn money, so I never earned a degree. Instead, I was trafficked into a brothel by a relative. I was only a teenager at the time. While working in the brothel, I was incredibly depressed, alone, and without any hope. I wasn’t sure if I would survive working there.

One day, community outreach teams met me in the brothels and offered me a way out. I rode an overnight train from my hometown to the Artisan shelter.

I loved being able to live with friends, watch TV, and go on spontaneous adventures in our neighborhood!

I started working in jewelry production and worked my way up quickly.

Having the opportunity to study has been very significant for me.

I studied really hard, passed my accounting certification test, and now I’m working as the accounting assistant for our Artisan community.

“I’m also studying for my bachelor’s degree and pursuing my dream of becoming an accountant.”
-Fay, Artisan in North Asia

Bay’s Story of Hope

I’ve been incredibly touched by the atmosphere. Everyone is really kind and encouraging. 

I’m safe here and enjoy working here very much!

My teachers are all very patient and loving.

They always give me feedback and support when they see I’m struggling with something, and they’re quick to help me continue to improve.

I’m really excited to have the opportunity to learn more… and dream of learning a specific skill set I’m passionate about.

I love having the opportunity to improve and learn new things every day.

“I’ve gained a new confidence in myself. I’m able to do things now that I never thought I could do.”
– Bay, Artisan in North Asia

Ling’s Story of Hope

My sister and I were working in the brothels when the Artisan community outreach teams started to visit us. After meeting with them for a while, they invited us to come work at their workshop. My sister and I decided to leave the brothel and began working in production. The most significant experience I’ve had so far was when I first became an Artisan, and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. 

It felt like it was their job to love us!

Doing my job and being a part of a team has helped me find value and confidence in myself.

Since becoming an Artisan, I’ve had the opportunity to take so many classes.

I’m taking classes in literacy, basic computers, and math.

Someday I’ll take the Microsoft classes and earn certificates through this program.

I’m excited to learn more!

“For the first time in my life, I have a job where I feel like I can tell people what I do for a living.” – Ling

Bee’s Story of Hope

I worked in a brothel with an abusive owner where I was constantly surrounded by violence. Artisan outreach teams visited me regularly to offer me the opportunity to experience freedom through a job at their jewelry workshop. Now I work with my older sister, Lay Lay, who also escaped the brothels.

In this workshop, I’m a part of a healthy work environment where people are kind and respectful to one another.

I’ve learned that people can be honest. I love that I have many friendships here!

I love that my coworkers celebrate my life and achievements!

Before joining this Artisan community, I’d never had a birthday party and was never celebrated as an individual.

Now my birthday is celebrated each year!

“My life has become very rich and one that I love!” – Bee, Artisan in North Asia

Bai’s Story of Hope

Growing up, my family was so poor that we didn’t even have a roof. When I was a teenager, I decided to leave my village and move to the city. I traveled twenty-two hours from my hometown to get there. Quickly, I was overwhelmed by the challenges of living in a big city by myself, so I ended up working in a brothel.

While working in the brothels, Artisan community outreach volunteers came and visited me.

The outreach teams offered me a job making jewelry and I have been working here since then.

Some of my most significant memories at the Artisan community have been my counseling sessions.

They’ve helped me in so many areas.

The biggest change I’ve noticed in myself is the change in my attitude.

I’ve become a more mature and patient person.

“I’m now able to control my emotions and feel like I’m a better mother because of it.”
Bai, Artisan in North Asia

Hong Fay’s Story of Hope

When I was working in the brothels, Lay Lay told me about this Artisan community. Since becoming an Artisan, my life has changed significantly.

Now I have a stable income and receive a housing fund which helps provide a good home for my family and me.

Because of the health checks this Artisan community provides, I discovered I had health issues and was able to get treatment.

One year later, I became pregnant!

I was 45 years old at the time and did not think I would ever be able to become a mom.

So, I am beyond grateful!

I now have the family I always dreamed of!

“My son’s name means ‘extreme blessing and happiness’, and that is what he is!”
– Hong Fay, Artisan in North Asia

Chang Chang’s Story of Hope

I was working in the shops when Artisan outreach volunteers came to see me. It took twenty-eight hours to get from my hometown to headquarters. I lived in the shelter for two years. Now I live with my family. I loved living in the shelter. It was so much fun. There was always something happening – cooking, games, talking, singing, watching movies. I loved having family style meals with the other women. Every moment at the Artisan community has been important. 

So many staff members have poured into me and have helped me develop professionally and personally.

I remember one time I was crying at the shelter, and multiple coworkers came and comforted me.

I like the fact that people care about my heart.

I’ve learned so many professional skills since coming to the Artisan community!

Before arriving, I had never used a computer.

Now, I use a computer every day for work and I’m a certified Microsoft Expert!

I have so many opportunities to learn here.

“You are not just buying jewelry – but giving women real opportunities to grow. Learn the stories of the people who are making the products you purchase. You will see lives are being changed.”
Chang Chang, Artisan in North Asia
*Trades of Hope is excited to celebrate this update from our Artisan partners in North Asia about Chang Chang:

Chang Chang graduated from our community outreach program! Chang Chang and her husband have moved to another city to attend a coffee training program. They are pursuing their dream to open and run their own coffee shop someday!

Mae’s Story of Hope

My whole life, I’ve never attended school. When I was little, my parents forbid me from going to school because they thought it was a waste of time and money for girls to be educated. They only allowed my brothers to go to school. When every semester started, I remember clearly that seeing the other kids go to school would always make me so sad. I could do nothing but hide myself and cry. 

Whenever I was free, I would stand at the gate of the school trying to listen to what the teacher was saying.

I admired those students.

I hoped I could learn things like them one day.

Now, I realize that my dreams have come true.

I never thought I would have the chance to study, especially for a woman at my age.

Ever since I joined this Artisan community, I‘ve been learning how to write and read Chinese characters through the classes they provide.

I’m even studying English and computers.

“I am so happy that I can finally be able to learn as a student from my amazing teachers at this Artisan community.”
– Mae, Artisan in North Asia

Loni’s Story of Hope

I came to this Artisan community in the spring of 2019 after the Community Services teams visited me in the brothels for almost a year. I was nervous that I was too old and not educated enough to work. The women who visited me regularly encouraged me, so I came and decided to give it a try. 

But soon after I joined this Artisan community, my son became sick and was hospitalized with tuberculosis.

I left to go take care of him until he was better.

While I was with my son, members of the Community Services team texted me often to check in on me and my son. I felt very loved.

When I came back to our headquarters’ city, I returned to the office where there was a job waiting for me.

After all of the setbacks I’ve faced, I was nervous to come back, but I am glad I made the choice to start again.

Since coming here, I’ve had the opportunity to study literacy, math and computers!

“I’ve made new friends and even brought a friend out from the brothels to work here!”
Loni, Artisan in North Asia
Trades of Hope is partnering with Artisans in North Asia to help recsue women from brothels and provide healing resources to sex trafficking survivors.
Every purchase of Trades of Hope designs from North Asia provides Lulu and other sex trafficking surivivors in North Asia with holistic care, dignified income, healing, and hope.
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Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas is an inspirational writer with a passion for helping women discover and celebrate their unique gifts and abilities. Kathy is part of the Communications Team at Trades of Hope focusing on Artisan advocacy.


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Trades of Hope is an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand that helps women around the world escape poverty and trafficking through our fair trade designs. Learn how you can partner with Artisans around the world here.