Meet Kristi, a former Geelong teacher who has thrown her life’s work into helping young women whose lives have been affected by Human Trafficking through sexual exploitation in India.
In 2013, Kristi began Offspring, a not-for-profit organisation that is set up as a transition centre to help survivors of Human Trafficking. Their aim is to help transition them into the next stages of their life through vocational training, education and empowerment. In doing this, Offspring provides survivors with the tools for a fresh start, a safe space for them to learn again and a place to help restore the lives of those who have been hurt by this cruel epidemic.
Nicky had the pleasure of meeting Kristi a few years ago during a buying trip to Paris, and as soon as she heard about Offspring she knew it was a cause she wanted to support. Ever since meeting, Nicky has wanted to share more of Kristi’s story and find out about the incredible work she does everyday.
What inspired you to begin Offspring? Is there a particular moment that resonates with you?
Offspring began as I was sitting in Mumbai, India, listening to people from an organization who go in and rescue young girls who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. I felt like my jaw had hit the table as I listened to statistics about the extent of sex trafficking, not just in India but right around the world. From that point on I was so stirred to ‘do something’, that I had to do whatever that ‘something’ looked like. A year after this, in 2013, the journey of Offspring began.
When did you decide to make the move to India, and was this a difficult transition for you?
At the beginning of that year, in 2013, I jumped on a plane to India, not knowing anyone on the other end. Half way during that journey I almost grabbed an airhostess to tell her that I needed to swing this plane around and head back home…I was freaking out!! It was definitely a big leap going from my comfortable position as a teacher, to a very new and daunting position as a Founder of an NGO. However, not long after, I settled back in the chair knowing that I was 100% convinced in the cause… I couldn’t shake off the fact that I had the ability to respond to the desperate need of others. I had been stirred by the magnitude of trafficking through sexual exploitation. In 2014, after 1 year of research around India, Offspring was officially established in Kolkata.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when first starting Offspring?
How much space am I allowed to answer this question?! There have definitely been challenges…and not just at the beginning, they continue today. I entered a totally different culture; different language, different food, different dress, different weather and different ways of doing things. Initially I had the challenge of just finding a place to live. Then it was finding a building for Offspring. Then it was finding the right staff (which still today is one of our biggest challenges). Every day we experience so many different high, low and interesting moments…and even with ALL the different challenges we face, it doesn’t stop us from wanting to do whatever we can in providing a hope and a future for the precious girls we have.
What does an average day look like for you?
The short of it, there is no average day!
What inspires you every day?
I can’t go past the fact that I do what I do because of my faith and believe in the fact that EVERY single human being is worthy of love and dignity. It doesn’t matter where we have come from or what we look like, I believe there is an eternal love that extends to everyone. I would also have to say that the trafficked survivors I work with everyday inspire me beyond what I can explain. Their hope, determination and resilience make me want to keep fighting for every life that has been affected by Human Trafficking. Seeing our trainees smile and laugh…that’s what keeps me going.
What has been the biggest milestone(s) in your fight against human trafficking?
Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. It is the fastest means by which people are enslaves and there is not one country in the world that isn’t affected by it! So you could say that we’re fighting a pretty big battle! Our milestones are celebrating the achievements that we (in our small capacity) are able to make. This March we celebrated ONE YEAR in full operation. One year of being able to provide safety, love, acceptance, empowerment, skills & education to 6 trafficking survivors. We believe that ‘every life is worth fighting for’, and so each young woman that comes through our doors is a milestone to celebrate!
You mentioned that “little somethings” can make a change. What small things can we do here in Australia to help the fight against human trafficking?
I truly believe that we, in the West, have a big responsibility to respond to the injustices of others! It doesn’t mean everyone has to set up a not-for-profit, it just means that we all need to do those ‘little somethings’. Learn more about trafficking, donate to organisations working against it, educate others about what is happening, support local organisations, volunteer, hold a fundraiser….the list could go on. Just get involved in some capacity, because even your small contribution matters!
Image from lessstuffmoremeaning.org
You describe yourself as relaxed and easy-going, however you have to deal with some particularly heavy issues in your everyday life. How do you like to unwind away from work?
Yes, I am definitely faced with some things that I never anticipated. Stories that I know I can’t share without getting quite emotional about. And then there’s an anger at the traffickers, because I don’t understand how they could possibly do what they do to these girls. So many different emotions each day! To be honest, it’s hard to unwind. But I do the best that I can with what I have – some good chocolate, a happy movie and a nice Western feed!
What is next for The Offspring Project?
To continue seeing our mission unfold and grow in our capacity to help these precious lives. With the unpredictability of living and working in India, we take each day as it comes, growing one step at a time with the aim of expanding our influence and reach as far as we can. Watch this space!
In conjunction with the first week of denim month here at Calexico and Marie Claire Up Late this Thursday night, we will be offering 2 X iron on patchworks to any pair of denim for a gold coin donation which will be donated to Offspring. All donations will be welcome on the night and we hope to see you there!
For more information about Offspring and to make your donation, head to the website here.