The sex slave who changed my life: Mira Sorvino’s heartrending mission to end human trafficking… and how recycled bras have saved dozens of desperate women

She is a glamorous Hollywood star who has graced hundreds of red carpets.
But
the cause closest to Mira Sorvino’s heart is a long journey from the
bright lights of Tinseltown and into the dark world of human
trafficking.

In a moving
interview with Mail Online, she told how one heartrending meeting with
an imprisoned sex slave had changed her life and made her even more
determined to end the trade she branded a ‘hideous scourge’.

The
45-year-old described coming face-to-face with the woman, who was
wrongly locked-up for killing the man who had taken her captive when she
was 16.

Despite the real murderer confessing to the crime, she had still spent much of her youth in a jail cell.
She
had also endured years of horrific abuse at the hands of the human
trafficker. He would routinely threaten her with black magic and say he
would murder members of her family.

‘Although
she had wanted to commit suicide, she did not,’ Mira said. ‘She told me
“I have nothing left to give on this earth, beside staying on and
enduring to keep my brother alive.’

‘To
see in her eyes deep, excoriating pain and yet to hear no bitterness in
her words, after spending her entire youth incarcerated for a crime
someone else ultimately confessed to, was extraordinary.’

‘More extraordinary still was her commitment to help others and become a fighter of this hideous scourge.’
Mira’s latest project is CNN documentary Mozambique or Bust which features the pioneering work of a small American charity Free The Girls.

Survivors: Tashina (left) was trafficked when she was 15, and Ofelia (right) became a sex slave when she was just 12 - their stories are among those that have inspired Hollywood star Sorvino

Survivors: Ofelia became a sex slave when she was just 12 - their stories are among those that have inspired Hollywood star Sorvino

Survivors: Tashina (left) was
trafficked when she was 15, and Ofelia (right) became a sex slave when she
was just 12 – their stories are among those that have inspired Hollywood star Sorvino

The project was set up to help
victims of human trafficking in an innovative and highly unusual way –
by sending bras to Mozambique where they can be sold by freed sex
slaves.

Set up by Denver housewife Kimba Langas, who thought her appeal for unwanted lingerie would only have moderate success.
But
she was completely overwhelmed when women sent her 20,000 bras but was
then faced with the fresh challenge of getting them shipped to Africa.

The
problem was when Paul Jarzombek, the CEO of shipping company LR
International stepped in and offered free transportation from Chicago to
Maputo.

‘Kimba is an amazing person, a stay-at-home mom with a dream and gumption as big as the sky’, Mira said.
‘She proves that there are no limitations to what we can do to fight slavery if we put our minds and hearts to it.’
The actress said that the idea of selling bras was both surprising and inspirational.

Some of the thousands of unwanted bras donated by American women ready to be shipped out to Mozambique

Some of the thousands of unwanted bras donated by American women ready to be shipped out to Mozambique

Breast efforts: A group of former sex slave and human trafficking victims unload a box of bras donated by women in the U.S. which they will sell in the local market

Breast efforts: A group of former sex slave and
human trafficking victims unload a box of bras donated by women in the
U.S. which they will sell in the local market

‘I
like the idea that these are items that would exclusively be bought by
women, so that the women and girls selling them wouldn’t have to sell
them to me, and possibly be intimidated or retrafficked by them.

‘They
are being set up to succeed, in a safe zone. I think it was a great,
genius idea and proves that you don’t need money to fight human
trafficking.

‘Kimba’s story shows that you do not need special expertise. Everyone has something that they can do.’
The
documentary features the stories of two women, Tashina, who was
trafficked when she was 15, and Ofelia who became a sex slave when she
was 12.

Both are now selling
Free The Girls bras and supporting themselves. ‘We lived in darkness,’
Tashina said before talking optimistically about the future.

For
the women of Mozambique, bras are a difficult item to acquire and
highly-coveted. The people  who sell them make about three time the
living wage.

Mira, 45, said she was particularly moved by Tashina’s devotion to her child.

The project was the brainchild of American housewife Kimba Langas

Kindness: When Paul Jarzombek, CEO at the LR International shipping company, heard about the project he agreed to transport the bras from Chicago to Maputo for free

Gumption: The project was the brainchild of
American housewife Kimba Langas (left) while Paul Jarzombek, CEO at the
LR International shipping company, heard
about the project and agreed to transport the bras from Chicago to
Maputo for free

Bra aid: Denver-based charity Free the Girls charity collected thousands of donated bras in the U.S. to ship to Mozambique

Bra aid: Denver-based charity Free the Girls charity collected thousands of donated bras in the U.S. to ship to Mozambique

‘As
a mom of four, I relate to her quest to make sure her daughter’s life
does not follow the same terrible road hers did,’ she said.

‘She is an incredibly brave and beautiful person’.
The
Mighty Aphrodite actress was first exposed to the issue of modern-day
slavery as a spokesman for Amnesty International’s campaign Stop
Violence Against Women three years ago.

But
she says it was meeting survivors of modern day slavery and human
trafficking that really spurred her to take up the cause.  

She
was asked to become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office
on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), something she considers a great honour.

‘I
was thrilled with the reach and gravitas of the position,’ she said.
‘It has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have
ever undertaken.’

Mira said
that she would encourage people to get involved in grassroots projects
like Free The Girls and urged people to get in touch with organisations
battling to end sex trafficking.

‘She
said: ‘A first step could be a call to the National Human Trafficking
Resource Center, a 24/7 hotline that not only is a highly effective
tipline that leads to the rescue of thousands of trafficking victims,
but an informational hub for those who want to get involved in the fight
to end slavery. 

‘They
have a grid of nationwide abolitionist groups, so you can find one in
your area that will appreciate your specific skill set.

‘If
people would like to donate funds, no sum is too small to begin helping
victims across the globe; the UN’s Voluntary Trust Fund for the Victims
of Human Trafficking gives grants to meticulously vetted NGOs that work
directly with victims, providing them with rescue and rehabilitation to
reclaim their lives; as we see with Free the Girls does, these
non-governmental organisations that can do truly miraculous things.’



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