This survivor of human trafficking is turning her experience into a life-saving service.
True
L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

Shandra Woworuntu left her home country of Indonesia because she couldn't find work. Sold on the idea of The American Dream, she flew overseas to "make money, see Whitney Houston and eat pizza."

All photos by L'Oreal Paris.

What happened next was a nightmare worse than Woworuntu could have ever imagined. When the man who had promised her work picked her up from the airport, Woworuntu knew that she had been lied to.


He began trafficking her to several men from that moment on. Finally, she was taken to one buyer's house.

"I saw the room was so dirty. Condoms everywhere." Woworuntu's captor took a gun from his pocket and pointed it at her head. He told her that she owed him 30,000 dollars, and she'd have to pay it off by selling her body.

"I was living in hell," she says.

Human trafficking is a human rights crisis. Over 40 million women, men and children are victims of it every year worldwide. Woworuntu knew she couldn't just be a statistic. She'd get out and find a way to help others.

After being held captive in a brothel for months, Woworuntu remembers that her body had been completely broken. She didn't sleep. She was given almost no food. However, she says her brain remained strong. And she spent all of her time plotting an escape.

On one lucky occasion, when she knew that her captor didn't have a gun, Woworuntu fought him off using the martial arts skills she'd learned as child. Then she ran for the police.

Woworuntu's bravery was rewarded: The police arrested the brothel owner, freed her and freed the other women who had been held captive with her.

After her escape, Woworuntu immediately turned her experiences into activism — connecting with and offering support and resources to others who had suffered the injustices of modern slavery.

However, these survivors faced obstacles beyond overcoming trauma. The majority of the people she was helping didn't speak English. Many of them didn't  have the necessary skills to get a job in America. So Woworuntu began teaching cooking classes out of her own home. Her goal was to help survivors of trafficking find jobs that paid fairly.

But what Woworuntu offered was much more than a class. "We are here like a family," one student says.

The cooking class grew into Mentari (which means "sun" in Indonesian), a nonprofit that helps survivors of trafficking heal and teaches them valuable life skills that will make it possible for them to achieve their dreams. Today, it has helped more than 270 people pick up their lives after they'd been victimized.

In 2017, Woworuntu was named a Woman of Worth, by L'Oreal Paris. This annual honor — bestowed upon ten women each year since 2005 — celebrates women who have made lasting change in their community. In addition, she's been awarded the Daily Points of Light award  for her unwavering commitment to giving back.  

With the money she's received from L'Oreal Paris, Woworuntu is busy at work growing Mentari. She hopes to have a transitional home open next year. Her life's work is to end human trafficking in her lifetime.

"As a woman, I have capability to change the world," she says. "My strength came out because of my anger. I am strong because I want to fight and end modern slavery."

Learn more about Shandra Woworuntu, her journey, and Mentari in the video below.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.