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August 23rd, 2010
10:45 AM ET

Faith-based fashion company helps women rescued from human trafficking

Editor's Note: CNN's Nicole Cukingnan files this report from Washington, DC about a religiously minded fashion company.

Former model Giselle Meza’s career allowed her to visit exotic locations and world-renowned sights, but it was witnessing the worst violations of human rights that stuck with her throughout the years.

“The more I would go on great assignments around the world and if we’re in Africa for a shoot…we were using that beautiful backdrop for pictures and for making so much money,” she said. “But behind me were these beautiful little children and women that were really just experiencing a lot of need and injustice.”

Out of her desire to help victims of human trafficking, Meza created Puresa Organics, a faith-based company whose goal is to empower women through spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional rehabilitation. The company then gives rescued women new skills and provides employment so that they are able to sustain themselves and start a new life.

Partnering with Project Rescue Nepal, the company started in 2007 with twelve rescued women and has grown to 265 in three years.

Project Rescue is another faith-based organization that aims to provide a safe haven for victims of sex trafficking.

The women are brought to the Puresa Organics center in Katmandu, Nepal where they are given medical attention, food, shelter, counseling, and eventually job training. They are taught how to sow and become part of the creative process in the design and production of the eco-friendly organic bags that the company sells to fund their mission.

Meza stresses the importance of spiritual counseling in the rehabilitation process.

“Most of the women in other programs commit suicide because there comes a point where there’s nothing above and beyond you that can continue to give hope. We try to holistically give them a complete restoration program and as well as employment,” she said.

The ministry aspect of Puresa Organics is evident through daily prayers, devotion time, bible studies, and regular church attendance.

“If you can imagine the tremendous healing that has to happen to each individual, that those memories may never go away,” she said. “Providing the spiritual aspect of it to us is so important because those girls and those women will always flashback to that but in providing the hope in God, they know that they have something else to grab onto.”

Most rescue victims are either Hindu or Buddhist in their faith, since the company’s efforts have focused on India and Nepal. Meza states that while their ministry is Christian, the women are never forced into adopting those beliefs. She claims that ninety-five percent of the women seek to learn more about Christianity on their own.

The former model believes that because Puresa Organics and the missionaries show care for the women in a godly way that it makes them curious to understand the reason behind the desire to help.

Being an entrepreneur and humanitarian has been personally fulfilling for Meza. She says her own faith is constantly renewed when she sees the sisterhood formed between the women the organization has rescued as well as the smiles and laughter they exude despite going through years of abuse.

“On the one hand it’s incredible to see how we’ve grown, twelve women to 265 now, but on the other hand it’s also very sad that there are that many women that need to be rescued and so many more. There will never be a stop to this,” she said.

The U.S. State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report states that there are 12.3 million adults and children forced into human trafficking and that fifty-six percent of these victims are women and young girls.

With human trafficking as a significant issue the world continues to deal with, Meza hopes that Puresa Organics continues to grow.

“We know that there are ten thousand women in Calcutta that need jobs so that they can be rescued and moved out of the situations that they are in. We are currently speaking with missionaries, but you know it’s not something you can do overnight,” she said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Culture & Science • United States

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soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Shaun Flynn

    Hello
    I am contacting thousands of websites that care for children. Why? because not enough is done to prevent child abduction. If your child was taken how many people would you want looking for your child. There is a solution!! I viewed this on FOX News http://www.myfoxla.com/dpp/news/add-the-alert-missing-child-alerts-20100803 Please tell your childrens parents & Please Add The Alert to your website we need everyone to take part. As scouts you could plan an Addthealert DRIVE see how many parents, businesses,organisations you can find to help email me your results I will pass them to Mr Robert Donnelli. sincerely Shaun PS Please feel free to contact me I'm in Australia,, I'm helping here as well. wwwaddthealert.com.au

    September 9, 2010 at 2:16 am |
  2. Chapagain

    I am from Nepal. I am following the discussion going here. I really appreciate for what the organization is doing for the victims of trafficking, otherwise it would have been very difficult for them to survive.

    Most of them are illiterate and innocent thats why they became the victims of trafficking, so I wouldn't be surprised if all of them turned into christians. If you provide food, shelter, medical attention and jobs to the people who have otherwise no way to survive, you can convert them to whatever you want. But at least they are making them religious or may be spiritually better. This is not only the example, if you go to villages in rural Nepal, you may find the students reading bible with their text book in the schools funded by missionaries. But one part of this is very good that they are getting formal education.

    I think its a kind of exploitation in a way. They are buying poverty, hunger in the name of religion. The religion may or may not be the opium of the masses, as marx described but it is not what they exactly wanted. If they wanted to help them, they don't really have to convert them to christians( or whatever).

    But I may be a silly and forgetting some important point here that nothing in this world is free 😉

    August 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • Eshinesu

      Your navel was free. Seek the lint of life.

      August 25, 2010 at 5:13 am |
  3. adam

    It doesn't matter who you help or what good you may be doing. If you are motivated by beliefs that are different from mine, then what you are doing is bad.

    August 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • tacoma

      I hope that was a sarcastic comment.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:38 am |
  4. JaneMarsee

    To all the naysayers I have one question: "Do you have a better way of helping these people?" My guess is 'no'. Your hearts are too calloused to even care. I applaud Ms. Meza for her humanatarian efforts and suggest that she is beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside. Many beautiful women are very vain and totally self-absorbed, apparently Ms. Meza is truly the exception. Bravo Ms. Meza and may God continue to richly bless you and your organization!

    August 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  5. Nancy

    Fashion wh ores aka women keep these companies in business. If women weren't so vain, they would shoot themselves in the foot. What idiots. lolol

    August 24, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  6. Susan

    These programs have been going on for at least 10 years......not all of them are Christian based....this one gets the attention because it is a model and christianity perfect for msm.

    August 24, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  7. jonathan hanemann

    The problem with atheists is that they don't care much about the world; they're only interested in showing how clever they are. That's what allows them to ridicule a woman who has devoted her life to helping abused women and girls. Little do they know how much various Christian organizations have done to fight human trafficking. I'm not a Christian myself, yet I have nothing but the greatest admiration for these organizations.

    'Clever' might get you laid at a hipster bar in Brooklyn, but that's about all.

    August 24, 2010 at 9:03 am |
    • wap

      @jonathan hanemann

      ZOMG! Brooklyn? Really? Dude, I am so there! Can u tell me where to go?

      August 24, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  8. Molly

    In all this discussion there are few mentions of the stolen, sold, raped and enslaved women and children. So what if Christian beliefs are investigated by Buddhists and Hindus? I'd rather learn the beliefs of a group of people who tried to get me to safety in that situation. (Incidentally, Christianity has been present in India since the beginning of it's development, brought there by St. Thomas starting in 52 AD, a reality of which we European descendants are largely ignorant. ) Regarding possible proselytizing, hmm guys, which is the greater evil? Let's stop having abstract discussions about the proletariat, and the grasping for converts Christian churches and get behind a well- meaning and much needed effort.
    I'm going to buy one of their handbags.

    August 24, 2010 at 7:47 am |
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    August 24, 2010 at 5:13 am |
  10. Ruth

    I think it is sooooo sad that so called HUMAN beings have to try and demean someone else who's heart aches for people who are treated AS HUMAN WASTE....... let's someone ENSLAVE YOU...... AND MAKE YOU sleep with HUNDREDS OF MEN A WEEK........... and then get back to me.............IF YOU CAN..... I doubt it is most of these ridiculing people.... if that's what I can call you.............would BE ABLE TO take what children HALF your age have indured. All I can say is.............. IF YOU THINK THAT GOD DOESN'T EXIST.............I DOUBLE DARE YOU TO ASK HIM TO SHOW YOU............... and get back to me in FIVE DAYS...............BLESSINGS..... .... even Satan knows that God EXISTS..... YOU WILL TOO........... 1 sec. after your soul leaves your soul leaves your body!!!

    August 23, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  11. AmericanPatriot

    A Muslim is forbidden to make friends with a non-Muslim. A Muslim is allowed to pretend to be a friend, but in his heart he must never actually be a friend to a non-Muslim. This is one of the best protections Islam has against Muslims leaving the faith because conversions a new religion are usually made because a friend introduced it. Being forbidden to make friends with non-Muslims helps prevent that from happening. (See Quran quotes about this.)

    August 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  12. Tacoma

    I have a hard time understanding why the first reaction to an article like this is critism and hate. This woman and her organization are doing something to help women out of desperate situations. It amazes me that more people do not realize that it's not about making the bags to sell but about giving these women skills so that they can function in society without being taken advantage off. What this organization and others like it are doing should be commended by the religious and non-religious alike.

    August 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • Prof Patt

      I agree, Tacoma, that victims of enslavement need rehabilitation services, and that includes learning new skills with which they will be able to support themselves. Does it really matter whether Meza created Puresa Organics to proselytize or to rehabilitate? Nevertheless, there is an element of truth in some of the critical comments that are noteworthy and should be seriously considered. – Prof Patt, http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/

      August 24, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  13. brad

    THis organization is giving women spiritual counseling (=religious?). Reminds me of a quote attributed to Carl Jung who was NOT a Christian:
    "I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. "

    August 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  14. Ninja's with no Brains

    I want to start an internet dating site dealing strickly with ex-trafficed women. I think it will be a hit in the America's.

    August 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  15. Reality

    Hmmm, Puresa Organics, a faith-based company??. The solution: convince this faith-based company that their faith is based on the heavily embellished biography, mythical resurrection and a mythical ascension of a simple preacher man aka Jesus. Rather easy to do in today's world of better educated proletariat.

    The company can then change their name to Puresa Organics, a human-care company!!!!

    August 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  16. brad

    There's an old saying: " A lier believes no one and a thief trusts no one." Could this be the reason Christians doing good things are usually ridiculed on this page?

    August 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Yes, I do not trust Religious folk, liars and thieves.

      My proof: All Tele-Evangelism and faith healers, priests who attack children, cults who invent gold tablets and alien gods, religions seeking world domination by whatever means will help them win, Missionaries. Hmm... I think that should suffice.

      Cheers!

      August 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • brad

      @ David Johnson: One day if you're stranded in the desert and someone stops to help, be sure to ask if he's a Christian first.

      August 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @brad

      Yes, if its a Christian he will give me a little food and water, for which I will need to hear his drivel about Jesus. The price of lunch. He will not let me eat or drink my fill, because a needy person is more likely to accept Jesus.

      I would also need to watch my wallet and above all, not pick up the dropped soap in the shower.

      August 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  17. David

    I am a big fan of using jobs and capital to help people in poor places. One of the best things you can do to improve a place is to have an economic engine that will improve the life of individuals. A lot of Christian (and other groups) recognize that you can't spread your message until you satisfy basic needs. No point in saying "come who thirst, I will give you water that provides eternal life..." unless you can first provide food, water, and basic shelter.

    As for the prison references, I would say that there are a lot of people who claim to be Christian since that is how they were brought up or that is what the family believes, but it doesn't make the person a follower of Jesus. There are also a lot of people in this country who celebrate Christmas and call themselves Christians because of it. All of these types fall into the Cultural Christian category.

    I will say though, some of the most idiotic statements come from politicians (Palin, Cheney, Gingrich, etc) or businessmen (ie Ken Lay) who call themselves Christians. Gingrich left one church when his Congressional district was redrawn because that church didn't fall in his district. Lay held prayer circles at his trial, even though he was greedy while he and Skilling ran Enron into the ground. This is also not to mention some of the hate speech by leading televangelists (Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, etc).

    August 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • David Johnson

      If you want to keep the separation of church and state, don't vote for the Republicans. The Republicans are the puppets of the Religious Right. They are trying very hard to convince the American Public that the founding fathers did not mean to establish a separation of church and state, but instead a Christian Nation.

      Vote for the Dems in November.

      August 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  18. David Johnson

    @Mike

    Statistics say atheists are better citizens Mike.

    I can see where there is possible abuse here. "They are taught how to sow and become part of the creative process in the design and production of the eco-friendly organic bags that the company sells to fund their mission."

    If all they are taught, is how to produce eco-friendly bags, it would tend to limit their job offers. No?
    95% is a high percentage. The women are dependent on this company for everything (missionaries?). I can't believe there wouldn't be some pressure here.

    Stats on Prison Populations:
    Christians (all Protestant sects, Catholics, Mormons, JWs et al) represent between 78% and 83% of the US population. The atheist population is estimated between 8% and 16%.

    According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians represent 83.8% of all convicts in prison, while atheists make up only 0.21% of the prison population.

    Christians make up a disproportionately larger number of convicts to the total Christian population of the US (84% convicts to 80%+ of US population) while atheist convicts make up a disproportionately smaller number to the US atheist population (.02% convicts to 8% – 16% US atheist population. – Source – http//www.holysmoke.org/icr-pri.htm

    It is a dramatic difference in the frequency of criminality between believers and non-believers.

    You mentioned in an earlier comment that the prison data could not be correct since not all evil doers are caught.
    This was a dumb argument since it would not be only atheist evil doers who would not be caught.

    Using proportions in this manner is the correct way to make a comparison.

    August 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • ImpudentRadish

      @David Johnson

      I'm coming in on Mike's side a little bit here, but I think you're both going about it the wrong way.

      To make blanket statements based upon a person's religion is to use faulty logic on both sides.
      Each person is different. You are both trying to argue from the specific to the general.
      Doesn't work when comparing religious beliefs using something as vague and transitory as "citizenship" for a qualifying characteristic or is it the other way around?
      @David .Laws are enforced unevenly and arbitrarily. You shouldn't use conviction rates for that reason.
      @Mike....Religious beliefs are as uneven and arbitrary as law enforcement. "Good" citizenship is very subjective.

      The Radish has spoken.

      August 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • PeaceMan

      @David Johnson

      Laws are enforced arbitrarily and subjectively, so using conviction statistics doesn't really work very well.
      And "citizenship" is very subjectively defined – you'll get a lot of different answers if you were to interview everyone in town.
      Religion vs Atheism in an argument requires that you speak only in general terms about the beliefs themselves.
      If you try to mix arbitrary and subjective terms like religion, convict polling data, and citizenship – you're not going to get anywhere near the truth or reality of the situation.

      @Mike
      "Christianity" is not, and never has been, necessary for "good citizenship". Especially when you'll get different definitions for both depending on who you ask.

      Little peacemaker me!
      Ow! Stop throwing things in my direction!

      August 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @PeaceMan

      The original conversation centered around the theory that all morals are provided by god. Atheists couldn't be as moral, since they don't believe in god. This is an argument that is much used against atheists.

      I believe the prison population stats are the best metric to prove/disprove this theory.

      If believers and non-belivers were equally moral, I would expect the prison population to approximate the overall population statistics. The stats show this to not be the case. The difference is statistically significant. There is a difference.

      You would need to argue that Laws are enforced arbitrarily and subjectively, in a manner that would skew the data toward one group or the other. Fact is, I think the courts might be more inclined to be more lenient with a Christian. Less likely to give jail time.

      Peace man, but I don't agree with you.

      August 23, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • brad

      Christians make up a disproportionately larger number of convicts to the total Christian population of the US (84% convicts to 80%+ of US population) while atheist convicts make up a disproportionately smaller number to the US atheist population (.02%)........"
      My brother-in-law has worked in prisons most of his life, even on death row. He has observed that most inmates seem to become Christians AFTER they're in prison. Are your statistics taken before as well as after incarceration?

      August 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • PeaceMan

      @David Johnson

      Well, that's what I get for sticking my oar in and telling you both that I think you're wrong. 😛

      As for all morals being provided by God, who came up with that one? If it were true it wouldn't matter one bit what you believed because God would provide the dam things! Did Mike ever think of that?

      As for your prison statistics, wouldn't you agree that there are an incredible number of variable exacerbated by the fact that law enforcement people are not actually required to enforce any particular law at any time for any reason?
      What about racial profiling? Babes getting out of tickets? Personal vendettas by individuals?
      In trying to point to the origins of "morals" within a prison population, you are completely discounting the ones that got away for a myriad of reasons – most of them IQ related as opposed to personal value systems – further skewing your statistics.
      As for sentencing, a judge is not supposed to ask what religion a person is. It's a violation of the First Amendment for them to do so unless it's actually relevant to the case. And people can and will lie – another variable.

      I'm on your side but the religious argument is deluded from the beginning. Attack it there. Toss the statistics.

      August 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • Ichthus

      Your first mistake is in thinking that Atheists make up 8-16 percent of the population. On average, around 5 percent can actually say they are, given their insight and depth of knowledge. Naturally, this still has no real bearing on the validity of their arguments in an academic setting.
      Your second mistake is in believing that gauging the "goodness" or "badness" of a group of people is in how many of that group are incarcerated for criminal activity. Since Christians believe "all fall short of the glory of God," this is self-inclusive. That means Christians are no better behaved or less susceptible to criminal behavior than anyone else. What your statistics show in reality is the fact that Atheists are indeed a tiny minority. Frankly, your case is fallacious, mere opinion, and is an equally unsubstantiated claim as the arguments made to prop up Atheism itself. Your focus is far too narrow to be truly groundbreaking. I wouldn't say that be virtue of being Jewish, one necessarily supports the actions of the state of Israel. So using statistics from prison populations is not a correct measure of society at large, or have you forgotten the majority of the population remains outside of prison.

      August 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  19. Michele Gomis

    Try this: post a comment that is not just plain ridicule. You will have to actually think about the subject. I know you will, rather, simply ridicule this post.....the easy way out. At least she's trying to do something positive.

    August 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • brad

      I understand that when religion is gone the world will somehow get better. The critics of religion will than have the opportunity to show how the world is getting better without religion. When making the world better turns into long, hard work and tests of indurance, we'll see how long the atheists last.

      August 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Brad

      I don't see how it could be any worse Brad.

      In fact, how would the world look dfferent if there were no god(s)?

      Let's see: natural disaster would kill thousands: Children would get cancer and be born with birth defects; Babies would starve to death, religions would war with each other; gays would be discriminated against; People would pray and they would find prayer doesn't work.

      Oh wait! All these things are happening right now. Does this mean, what I think it means? LOL LOL 'till my sides ache.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      David Johnson,

      Without hope the world would be unthinkable, hopeless.

      August 24, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  20. David Johnson

    The article says: "Women and children are brought to the Puresa Organics center in Katmandu, Nepal where they are given medical attention, food, shelter, counseling, and eventually job training. They are taught how to sow and become part of the creative process in the design and production of the eco-friendly organic bags that the company sells to fund their mission."

    Can you say sweat shop? LOL

    The article says: "Most rescue victims are either Hindu or Buddhist in their faith, since the company’s efforts have focused on India and Nepal. Meza states that while their ministry is Christian, the women are never forced into adopting those beliefs. She claims that ninety-five percent of the women seek to learn more about Christianity on their own."

    95%? WoW! I bet there is some hard sell involved here. LOL

    August 23, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • peace2all

      @David Johnson

      Hey Dave..! Awwwwwww my friend, you beat to the punch. Pretty much what I was going to post.. 😉

      Well..... I do hope that something 'good' is/will come of what this group is doing.

      Peace brother....

      August 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Mike

      Dave, as I said before I can no longer consider you a fair and intelligent guy when you claim that atheist are better citizens then Christians and then don't respond with intellectual honesty regarding this story.

      August 23, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • Heather Jeane

      David, when you give up your job, house, and most other comforts that you enjoy and go live in that third world and spend your days more successfully saving women from being trafficked than this group, you may judge. Until then, you are throwing out strongly biased and largely uneducated (on this particular topic) opinions... aka – hot air.

      August 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Peace2all,

      When I started reading your post I thought you were going to say, Awwwww, my friend, David Johnson, can't you find any good in what this woman is trying to do for these poor girls and women......guess I was wrong about you....

      August 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • peace2all

      @CatholicMom

      Sorry to disappoint you... But, I did say, in my post, that I do hope that there are good things that this organization is doing.

      You know CM.... we not 'always' agree... you gotta' know that by now 🙂

      Peace and respect to you....

      August 24, 2010 at 12:18 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Yes, Peace2all, I see that now. at least you do have 'hope' for good so there is hope for you, too!

      August 24, 2010 at 8:12 am |
    • jonathan hanemann

      Wow, what a nihilistic jerk you sound like.

      August 24, 2010 at 8:57 am |
    • Taught how to Sow?

      I agree, why do people of faith always think they have to push their own religion? Why can't they do good for the sake of good and not to "spread the word". Also..."Teach them how to sow"? Really? Is this Freudian? Teach them how to be pigs? Not teach them how to sew?

      And it is a sweatshop. Don't kid yourself.

      August 24, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Taught how to Sow?,

      You NEVER hit the wrong key?

      August 24, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • Kirstin

      I am happy that there is help out there for women and children who have suffered horrible abuse. I support a local free trade store which has many products created by women and children in refugee camps around the world. I am disturbed like many other readers that the organization is promoting Christianity. I was a religious studies major and to me it seems that this is part of a conversion attempt. While the main goal of the program is to help victims and restore a sense of life and order through spirituality, why are they not promoting the women to attend services at the Buddhist or Hindu temple instead of a Christian church? If religion is being used to discourage suicide why are the local beliefs not good enough?

      August 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Kirstin,

      If these women are being attacked by local men who practice the local religions and attend those temples, would you place any faith in those religions? They need to hear about the love of Jesus Christ to have any hope of healing…

      August 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.