Our newest CALI Award winner is Stephanie Lorenzo.
Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Project Futures Ltd, a profit for purpose organisation run by young passionate campaigners.
Their aim is to empower and engage our generation in raising awareness and funding to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation globally.
Q: Tell us about PROJECT FUTURES?
Stephanie: PROJECT FUTURES is a Sydney based, non-profit organisation, run by a passionate network of young and inspiring professionals. We raise awareness and funding for programs dedicated to combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Australia and South-East Asia.
The money raised contributes to the funding of rescue, recovery, education and reintegration of victims, as well as advocacy for the cause.
In three short years of which we had no full time staff our organisation raised over 1.1 million dollars for our projects. These funds were raised through a network of young professionals, university and high school students who dedicated their time, skills and talents for the cause.
Q: What inspired you to set up the organisation?
Stephanie: PROJECT FUTURES was inspired by the biography of former Cambodian sex trafficking survivor, Somaly Mam. In June 2009, I established PROJECT FUTURES after organising a charity bike ride across Cambodia which raised US$80,000 for the Somaly Mam Foundation.
Combining a socially engaged network, a fun and motivational activity and a life-changing experience of meeting survivors of sex trafficking, provided the foundation of what PROJECT FUTURES was to become. I wanted to prove that young people wanted to give back in various ways and what we needed was an outlet to do that, PROJECT FUTURES became that outlet.
Q: What do you think people should know about human trafficking?
Stephanie: That human trafficking does not just happen in the developing world, it happens in lucky countries such as Australia. It touches every single one of us in some way, whether it is the clothes that we are wearing that may be made by child slaves in the Philippines or domestic cleaners who clean your office buildings every day.
Exploitation and trafficking is not as far away as you might think.
Q: To people who feel that problems like this are too big to solve, what do you say?
Stephanie: What is your daughter, mother, father or friend’s life worth – one person you decide to help is worth it. No one is asking you to save the world. What does it mean to help one person? It means everything to that person and the people they influence.
When you help one girl, one boy, one woman or one man, you are showing them that they are cared for and loved – they are not a number, their life has worth and dignity.
Q: What are you are particularly proud of?
Stephanie: I am extremely proud when I see volunteers and people from all generations, backgrounds and career paths join PROJECT FUTURES and commit to doing something about human trafficking and sexual exploitation through our DIY program.
This program I am particularly proud of because the DIY program gives you the chance to create your own awareness and/or fundraising event in support of Project Futures.The possibilities are endless and it can be as big or as small as you want it to be.
To date we have had literally hundreds of DIY events happen across the world and it is only getting bigger. You can find out more and get involved on our website – Get Involved
Q: What drives you?
Stephanie: I think drive is a personality thing. I don’t think you can teach someone to have drive for something – they have to want it, crave it and in their minds failing is not an option. Don’t get me wrong, you can fail (and God knows I have plenty of times) but you pick yourself up, surround yourself with good people and get on with the job when you do. Within PROJECT FUTURES two things drive me –
The want to change social perspectives about the charity sector as a crucial part of everyday social interaction and as fun as social networking and of course to see human trafficking and sexual exploitation – a man made issue – come to an end.
Q: Do you feel there is reward in your efforts?
Stephanie: Absolutely – the rewards are endless – I wake up and love going to work (I never LOVED any of my corporate jobs), I am surrounded by some of the most amazing people, I am constantly learning and am constantly inspired and humbled when you hear stories about how your work has benefited others who are less fortunate than yourself.
Q: If you had your way, everyone in the world would spend 5 minutes a day…
Stephanie: Doing something nice for someone you don’t know.
Stephanie began Project Futures in June 2009 after reading the heart-wrenching auto-biography by Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman sold into prostitution as a child.
She believed Project Futures could become an outlet for young professionals to give back in time, skills and talents by leveraging their social calendar and profession in order to raise awareness for this cause and have fun doing it, ensuring that charity is an active, fun and collaborative part of everyday social interaction.
Connect with Stephanie through PROJECT FUTURES:
PROJECT FUTURES story:
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