The founding of the Somaly Mam Foundation was made possible by circumstance, when trafficking survivor and activist Somaly Mam crossed paths with two Americans determined to help build global awareness and support for the fight against child slavery.
In early 2007, friends and Air Force Academy graduates, Jared Greenberg and Nicholas Lumpp, became aware of a growing international crisis. The sex slave trade had developed into the third most profitable criminal industry, behind only narcotics and weapons. Governments had yet to effectively handle the problem, and funding for organizations fighting the illegal trade was minimal. Disturbed by the public's lack of awareness of these ongoing atrocities, Jared and Nicholas decided it was time to take action and help put an end to sexual slavery, once and for all. But with an industry that generates $12 billion a year, enslaves millions of young women and children, and is protected by corrupt government and law enforcement officials, they had their work cut out for them.
Fate intervened a few months later when Jared and Nicholas viewed an online video clip of Anderson Cooper 360 and saw a show spotlighting an extraordinary woman by the name of Somaly Mam. Sold into slavery at a young age, she later escaped and made it her mission to rescue and rehabilitate other victims and help them to reintegrate into their communities with economic and emotional independence and hope. The result was AFESIP, an organization that has transformed the lives of thousands of victims of the illegal trade since its inception in 1996. Somaly is now regarded as one of the most prolific activists fighting sexual slavery.
Jared and Nicholas hopped on a plane and traveled into the center of the sex slave industry. They talked with Somaly Mam, toured facilities, and met some of the young women who had been rescued. The experience changed their lives. Yet they realized that many people around the world do not know this industry even exists. Increasing awareness and funding organizations like AFESIP seemed paramount to combating the illegal trade. Then, during an inspiring conversation on a car ride from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap, Somaly explained her vision for a U.S. based organization that would take her life's passion to the next level: to expand and improve victim services, to prevent trafficking with grassroots advocacy and education, and to provide a platform for the survivor voice to be heard around the world. The Somaly Mam Foundation was born.