By Toos Heemskerk, Not For Sale Netherlands Director
Exactly a year ago, we appealed for your support to launch Not For Sale Netherlands, a project to help rebuild the future of women trafficked to The Netherlands or trapped in prostitution without options in Amsterdam’s red-light district. Just twelve months later, we have planted our roots in the red light district to establish a viable soup business as the only licensed vendor to sell nourishing meals to hundreds of women working in prostitution. Most significantly, we have empowered 16 survivors of human trafficking this year by offering culinary skills training and professional internships.
I remember vividly the nerve-wracking launch day of the project in the spring. After what we thought was a successful reception to the soup on the streets, we returned to the kitchen to wait for someone to call and order. When the first order came, it was like a miracle. Soon, we were regularly receiving orders and with the help of Thomas, our resident Chef, we became a professional kitchen. Nowadays, we are almost 20 committed staff serving Hungarian Goulash and many other gourmet soups several times a week, even on Christmas Day!
By summer, we were familiar faces in the red light district and began to see how our work was contributing to the greater anti-trafficking movement in the Netherlands. Our presence sparked the interest of city officials, who even came to taste our soup at the project kitchen. Most recently, we were honored to be invited by government officials to collaborate and advise on policy-making, not only related to human trafficking, but also on laws of prostitution in Amsterdam.
The most rewarding aspect of our work was came this summer as we began training survivors of trafficking in the soup kitchen. This training provides women like Danielle the opportunity to rebuild trust, confidence and a sense of worth. Danielle became pregnant through her exploitation, so every step of healing is not just for her, but for the future of her child. Seeing the difference in each individual as her skills develop is the true measure of the impact our work. A particular highlight came in September, when we saw the first trainee progress significantly in her rehabilitation, as we extended her internship to include selling soup at our partner, Juniper Networks, following her training in the kitchen.
I hope that with this note you may be encouraged that all you do is for the benefit of Danielle and so many more women. It is with incredible hope and determination that I look ahead to 2013 and the chance to further our efforts in fighting the root causes of human trafficking in Europe. You can help us support women like Danielle in the New Year by giving a donation to Not For Sale this holiday season!