Her Future Coalition, originally known as Made by Survivors, was founded by Sarah Symons and her husband John Berger in 2005, with their life savings and the contributions of a few friends. Explains Sarah, “I was writing and recording music for TV, and in 2002, a song I had written was used as the title song in a film. With great excitement, I went down to New York to see Emmy Rossum perform my song in the film. When I looked at the festival listings and saw ‘The Day My God Died’, a documentary about child sex trafficking between Nepal and India, I initially did not want to see it. I thought I already knew all about the issue – wrong! I thought the film would be sad and depressing, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it – wrong again. Although the film was deeply disturbing, it was also incredibly inspiring, in that it profiled survivors who had turned the tables".
"These survivors were active in a modern day Underground Railroad, taking rescue agencies back into the brothels to save other girls. I learned that people all over the world were standing up against slavery, putting their lives on the line to fight it, and I felt compelled to find a way to help. I met my husband John for lunch later that day, and couldn’t wait to tell him. “I just saw a film that is going to change my life! I guess I should have said ‘our lives’ because as it turned out, fighting slavery has become a family business“.
I started by contacting one of organizations featured in the film and was invited to visit their shelter in Kathmandu. It was there that I got the idea for selling survivor-made goods as a way to fight slavery and help survivors rejoin society. Many survivors had been living at the shelter for some years and were keen to get out on their own and be independent. Going to school was not an option, because they had never even gone to kindergarten.
John decided to leave his career as an investment banker, and to use his business strategy experience to help set up the organization - first called Made by Survivors/The Emancipation Network and now Her Future Coalition. Over the years we have served thousands of survivors in India, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand. Most exciting to me is the fact that the survivors who joined our programs a few years ago are now managing the programs, working as trainers and mentors to newly rescued girls. They couldn’t imagine any future at all when they were living in brothels. Now their dreams are limitless!“Learn more about Sarah's journey in her TEDx Talk. Sarah has also written a book about her experiences working with slavery survivors, “This Is No Ordinary Joy,’ which is available on Amazon.