It all started with a movie: The Whistleblower. Model Elsa Hosk watched actress Rachel Weisz's portrayal of a U.N. policewoman who stumbles into the world of sex-trafficking in this 2010 ripped-from-the-headlines thriller.
At the time, Hosk wasn't familiar with human trafficking—the devastating trade that an estimated 1.2 million children worldwide are entrapped in each year, including a significant number in the United States. After seeing the film, she couldn't get the horrifying practice off her mind.
Enter Fair Girls. Hosk read about the Washington, D.C.-based organization, which rehabilitates survivors, and wanted to see their work with her own eyes. She met with the founder, Andrea Powell, pictured above, and as many of the 50 survivors—just 16- and 17-year-old girls—in their shelter as she could. That was it. "After meeting with Andrea and the survivors in D.C., I wanted to do something," says Hosk. "Everyone can make a difference, and I felt so strongly about doing anything I can to help these girls."
Hosk dove straight in, and today, three years later, is still one of the organization's most vocal supporters. "It's a very hands-on charity, rescuing the girls, rehabilitating and supporting them," she explains. Specifically, in addition to offering emergency housing, the group provides counseling, legal support, and job training to 150 survivors each year. And the work, says Hosk, has been very rewarding: “I can’t think of anything harder for anyone to go through than what these girls and women have been through," she says. "They are a huge source of inspiration for me with all of their strength."
Sadly, despite increased awareness around the issue, thanks to activists like Hosk, human trafficking is showing no signs of slowing down. It's the world's fastest-growing criminal enterprise and a $32 billion dollar a year global industry. "We all need to come together and learn about human trafficking," says Hosk. "It is real, and it's happening everywhere. We need to open people’s eyes to one the most cruel things that is happening to women and girls today.”
Hosk is focusing her efforts on survivors. "We need to do anything we can to help them," she says. "They are not receiving enough support." Last Thursday, just days after she became one of Victoria's Secret's newest Angels, Hosk ventured to Washington to draw more attention to their needs. She hosted the Fair Girls' ninth-annual gala at Long View Gallery, which raised $130,000, money that'll do some serious good.
While Hosk was present to give a keynote speech, it was a survivor named Ashley, who wrote a poem that Hosk read aloud, that stole the show: "You may feel like you are alone. But all of us ladies are a queen and we stand strong on our throne. Never give up. Keep your head held high. Just know you're not alone and not being left in the blind." Not alone, indeed.
To learn more, or to donate to the cause, go to the Fair Girls website.
Photos: Courtesy of Michael Colella / Elsa Hosk