Last week my AAUW branch's monthly program featured a woman who turned a passion for self-defense and martial arts into a non-profit organization that empowers at-risk girls and women and gives them self-protection tools in a culture that doesn't favor them.
Belle Staurowsky is founder, lead instructor and executive director for the Green Tara Project, which teaches underprivileged, marginalized and impoverished females in India how to be psychologically and physically strong. For years Staurowsky had followed her dream in pursuing martial arts competitions. When she learned about the terrible scourge of human trafficking—the coercion, kidnapping and enslavement of vulnerable children and women—she saw the possibility of her passion and the world's need coming together. Now through her organization, she's trained hundreds of rescued and at-risk girls in self-defense and has also trained staff at other non-profit organizations to become self-defense teachers. Not only can these girls better defend against attack but their newly gained self-esteem keeps them from the victim stance that perpetrators often look for.
I am always inspired by those who follow their dreams and passions—and when I see them take those passions out into the world to help at-risk populations, I'm really thrilled and inspired. Staurowsky is doing amazing work—and on a shoestring. She's fighting a Goliath, since human trafficking generates $32 billion annually (half from industrialized nations such as our own). And the number of humans sold across international borders is thought to be between 600,000 and 800,000 each year. Of that number, 70 percent are female and 50 percent are children.
Perhaps you can't be a Belle Staurowsky. But you may have a passion that could fill a need in your community, country or across the globe. What might be calling for your help today?