My Noble Obsession Is to See A World Without Slavery

Photo Credit:  Vanna Dutch Photography

I’m probably not much different than you. I’m a mom in my late 20s with three young kids and a loving husband. I had a typical upbringing with plenty of love and disfunction all woven together. Growing up, we never had much money but we also never lacked anything. It is safe to say I am pretty much just like everyone else in America

How then did I end up sitting on a bed in Asia’s largest red-light district? Well… we’ll get there… but first let me tell you about my noble obsession.

My Nobel Obsession

On the streets of Sonagachi, there are over 10,000 women who sell themselves as prostitutes each day. As I walked down these streets in Kolkata, India I was overwhelmed that many of these girls were teenagers or younger. 

I asked myself, how did they end up here? What is their story? And if they were offered the choice of another life, would they take it?

The answers to these questions were darker than you could imagine. These women and girls were victims of extreme poverty and exploitation. Many were sold by family members at a young age to traffickers who brought them to this place. Some were born into brothels and have never known a life outside of sex-slavery. Others ended up in Sonagachi as an act of desperation to feed themselves and their children. 

But no matter how they got here, not a single woman I met — not a single one — would choose this life for themselves if their circumstances were different and they had a choice.

This clairified my noble obsession to see a world where there is no more slavery. Where people no longer suffer from vulnerability and exploitation, but can live a life of freedom and reach their God-given potential

A Cup of Tea in The Red-light District

Before my time in Sonagachi, I had never spoken with a woman in the trade. I had spent the last decade fighting human trafficking through academic research, grass-roots movements, and raising awareness, but actually being there on the ground and seeing this with my own eyes was something all together different.

She invited me into her bari (home) and offered me a cup of cha tea. It was a small cramped space no bigger than my kitchen, maybe smaller. As I sat on her bed (which almost filled the entire room) we talked about her life in Sonagachi. As we spoke, I realized that each of these women's situations are very layered and complex.

We offered her a choice of freedom and if she accepted it, our partner organization that operates on the ground in Kolkata would help her build a new life where she is free from slavery.

Photo Credit:  Vanna Dutch Photography

The cup she gave me was made of clay. It is the equivalent of a styrofoam cup in America. You use it once and then throw it away. I couldn’t help but see the similarity between these throw-away cups and how these precious women are treated.

At that moment, God confirmed in my spirit that this is where I belonged. I resolved that I would make it my mission — or you could even say my nobel obsession — to help these women.

Saving the World with Cups and Conversations

About a year ago I started a social-business that equips people with practical ways to fight human trafficking. It is called All of Us Matter

Photo Credit:  Vanna Dutch Photography

My time with the woman in Sonagachi confirmed what had been stirring in my heart for some time, that conversations matter. It is in these spaces where so many of us gather over a cup of tea or coffee and strengthen each other. 

We hear about each other’s struggles and joys and also lend a hand to help during our times of need.

What better place to bring the message of freedom. To inspire people to have conversations that equip them to fight human trafficking. 

That is why All of Us Matter places inspirational art on coffee and tea cups to serve as a reminder to have conversations that matter, not just for us, but also for our brothers and sisters trapped in slavery.

The cups come with conversation starters and practical ways that all of us can get involved right where we are through our daily lives.

We are also a social business which means we exists for the purpose of fighting slavery.

I hope you are inspired by my nobel obsession and join our movement to see a world without slavery.

Start conversations that matter, let's be a voice to the voiceless. 

Crystal, Founder, and Visionary at All of Us Matter

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Matthew Russell