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How one woman is helping sex trafficking survivors become breadwinners.

She saw an opportunity. And she gave others the same.

How one woman is helping sex trafficking survivors become breadwinners.
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What do these bracelets have to do with sex trafficking?


Image via Olivia and Diego, used with permission


They’re a symbol for some women's second chance at life.

Olivia and Diego — a sustainable, upcycled jewelry company based in the Philippines — gives women transitioning out of the sex trafficking industry a place to begin again and to find work.

Olivia and Diego's founder, Yana Santiago, has a unique perspective.

When she moved back to her hometown in the Philippines, she started working with Taikala, an organization that supported women who were victims of sex trafficking. There is not much in the way of economic opportunity for these women, many of whom are mothers who must tend to their children.

Estimates indicate that 300,000-400,000 women are human trafficking victims in the Philippines, and 80% of them are under the age of 18.

Santiago got to know these women — many of them mothers who work all day to raise their children, who fight daily to transition out of hardship, to overcome their past --- and she saw an opportunity.

These women were hard-working, kind, and eager to find an avenue for empowerment. So Santiago gave them jobs.

"Our goal was to transform these women to artisans and entrepreneurs."

Image via Olivia and Diego, used with permission

Santiago started Olivia and Diego. It's a sustainable, upcycled jewelry company. In Santiago's words: "My wish for the world is for its people to work together to achieve inclusive growth, where people of all kinds are empowered and celebrated."

And one of the simplest ways to empower someone is to give them a livelihood. As human trafficking survivor (and member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking) Evelyn Chumbow wrote in an op-ed for CNN, "There are times when I feel like screaming, on behalf of all human trafficking survivors, 'We need jobs, not pity!'"

And that is exactly what Santiago and Olivia and Diego are about: jobs.

Each piece is crafted by women who had no source of stable income until Santiago saw a whole sea of opportunity and a way to seize it. She was going to turn these women who'd faced so much hardship into artisans, into breadwinners for their families. As Santiago said when we reached out to hear her story, "Our goal in [Olivia and Diego] was to transform these women to artisans and entrepreneurs."

Not only are the beautiful, colorful pieces handcrafted by artisan women with a new lease on life, they're made out of old T-shirts and textiles that would otherwise be tossed into landfills.

Upcycling, unlike recycling, takes a product and turns it into something even more valuable. And if you look, you can see upcycling trends all over: from backpacks made out of old juice pouches...

Image via TerraCycle/Wikimedia Commons

...to fancy interior decorators creating chic coffee tables from wire spools.

Image via Alex Rio Brazil/Wikimedia Commons

And through posting gorgeous images on her Facebook page, Santiago is able to connect her jewelry lines with other businesses as well — she's been featured by Bride and Breakfast, The Good Trade magazine, and elsewhere. By having a home for her business on Facebook, her products are searchable, easy to find, and with just a glance you can see what a player Olivia and Diego is in the ecosystem of businesses whose bottom line includes helping others.

"I believe my purpose in life is to help women in Filipino communities to rise above poverty and exploitation through fashion." — Yana Santiago, founder, Olivia and Diego

Santiago is just another shining example of a woman starting a successful business that not only makes beautiful products, but that also gives back.

That alone would be wonderful, but her success in business and online on Facebook might also create an amazing ripple effect. So if Santiago has created a business whose purpose is to support other women, imagine the waves of support, hope, and potential she's unlocking as more women feel empowered.

And it all began with a bracelet.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!