Starfish Project was founded in 2006 by Jenny McGee. After studying abroad in college and getting a taste of China, she and her husband traveled to Beijing to learn Chinese and immerse themselves in the culture. While there, a friend who worked in philanthropy exposed McGee to the masses of women, many who had arrived illiterate to the city from rural areas, hoping to find opportunity, and ended up living horrible lives of abuse and exploitation in the city's brothels. McGee and her co-founder, Priscilla Daeger, decided to do something about it. McGee began making jewelry and using the proceeds to fund assistance for the women. She also began teaching the women how to craft jewelry themselves, and out of this modest start, a successful social enterprise was born.
Today, Starfish Project can boast of many success stories: women that, not only have found healing from their past, but have developed longterm and satisfying careers. Women begin their journey with Starfish Project at one of their shelters, where they (along with their children) can find a safe, clean environment to make their fresh start. Counseling, Christian mentoring and comprehensive healthcare are provided to care for a woman's immediate needs. Vocational and life skills training are offered for women to begin their first steps toward independence (while their children are also given educational scholarships and opportunities), and women are employed making jewelry at a fair wage, with healthcare and retirement benefits. But Starfish Project's McGee wants more for these women than just a simple job. Each day there are computer classes for the women to gain Microsoft certification, and women are given the opportunity to learn photography, graphic design, marketing, accounting, and management skills in order to jump start a lifelong career.
"My thought was to have them make jewelry while they learned to do something else," she explained to Kering Magazine. "Employing people to make something forever is not that thrilling to me," McGee said. "But seeing them able to do things they never thought they could do before is quite fulfilling."
This Christmas, consider a purchase from Starfish Project. Your purchase will empower women to leave behind exploitive employment and find personal fulfillment and healing. And there are so many incredible options to choose from!