"There are so many young women right here in D.C., and around the world, who are at risk or are currently being exploited," said FAIR Fund co-founder Andrea Powell at the group's annual gala Wednesday evening at the City Tavern Club.
"Recently the FBI reported child sex trafficking as an epidemic in the United States," Powell said. "...I think many of us here would have been shocked to hear that."
Each year, the FAIR Fund works to prevent the trafficking of youth by providing education, empowerment programs and intervention services to more than 2,000 young people in the United States and internationally.
Its special JewelGirls program teaches entrepreneurial skills to sexually exploited youth, including a young Serbian women who traveled to the States for the first time to attend the gala and tell her story.
Sold into sexual slavery at age 11 by her own mother, she eventually ran away to escape her captors.
"When a girl is trafficked, her trafficker tries to take away her diginity, her trust and perhaps even worse, he tries to take away her belief in herself," she explained through a Balkan translator. "At 17, I joined JewelGirls and began on the journey to find myself. Right from the beginning, I could forget about the past for a while and make something amazing while learning new skills."
Said Powell, "I believe -- and it is FAIR Fund's mission -- that each of these girls deserves a fair chance in life."