Change From Within
Diana Mao, President and Co-Founder
It’s hard to believe that modern day slavery exists, and even harder to believe that this illicit practice enslaves 46 million people, bringing in $150 billion annually. The statistics of human trafficking were truly meaningless to me until I witnessed the horrors of sex trafficking firsthand. In 2007, I went to Cambodia with my fellow NYU students for a micro-finance trip. While conducting surveys in rural villages, I met a single father with seven children. It was when he offered my male colleague his youngest daughter that I looked into his eyes and saw desperation. This experience caused a paradigm shift for me. Up until that moment, I always thought human trafficking was perpetuated by criminal networks. It was then that I realized at that exploitation often begins in the home.
After returning to New York City, I was determined to do something. Shortly after my return, I met Alissa Moore-Williams, who had recently attended a social justice conference where she learned about human trafficking for the first time. After connecting through our experiences, Alissa and I decided to take a trip to Cambodia to explore the ways we could support those affected by trafficking. While on the trip, Alissa and I visited a rehabilitation center for Cambodian children who had been trafficked. Upon entering the center, we were welcomed by a young girl named Nomi. Nomi immediately smiled and threw her arms around us. It was with this simple embrace that paved the way for Nomi Network to exist. Nomi’s story inspired our mission to provide training and job opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking so girls like Nomi can live in stable homes as opposed to being sold at the tender age of 8 years old. Upon returning from Cambodia, Alissa and I were introduced to Supei Liu, an experienced buyer for a large retail chain with experience in product development. Supei had a similar vision to benefit women in impoverished communities through product production and it was then that the three of us joined forces and launched our pilot program in Cambodia in 2009.