The Somaly Mam Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The foundation is dedicated to combating the global sex slave trade through the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the victims and through raising global awareness on the issue. The foundation funds effective organizations in various parts of the world that are combating sexual slavery in the field. Activist organizations funded by the Somaly Mam Foundation include those that are rescuing girls from brothels, offering them shelter and safety, giving them basic education, and helping them reintegrate into new communities. Due to a lack of awareness and reluctance of world governments to address the issue, there is a lack of funding and support. The Somaly Mam Foundation funds these organizations, allowing them to grow, have a larger impact, and eventually become self-sustainable.
Global awareness, and especially U.S. awareness on this issue is extremely low. Starting in the U.S., the Somaly Mam Foundation plans to increase awareness through a multilevel educational campaign including the use of celebrity voices, events, university clubs, online interaction, information, and other individual efforts.
1. Raising money through corporate sponsorships, events and other means
2. Granting money to qualified recipients fighting sexual slavery in the field
3. Increasing awareness through an integrated marketing and educational campaign
• In June 2007, Inspired by CNN coverage of Somaly Mam, Jared Greenberg, a management consultant for Insigniam Performance, and Nicholas Lumpp, an internet entrepreneur, flew to Cambodia to meet with her. Together, the three formulated a plan to further Somaly's fight; the result was the Somaly Mam Foundation.
• The foundation was created in July 2007 with an official launch date in September 2007.
Somaly Mam was born in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia. Her family struggled through poverty and limited opportunities. Although she did/did not receive formal schooling, she was later trained to be a midwife after the genocidal regime. However, Somaly was sold many times by her grandfather as a slave and coerced into prostitution. She was forced to work in a brothel with many other young girls that were treated horrifically through torture, manipulation, and scare tactics. One night she watched a close friend murdered by a pimp. At this moment, Somaly realized that she was trapped in a dangerous and desperate world. She made it her mission to escape and later find a way to stop this vicious cycle. Her past is a major contributing factor regarding her passion and effort to help young children and women involved with human trafficking. Because of poverty and the adversity young women face in Cambodia, Somaly Mam worked diligently to overcome the traumatic background in her life. She has very diverse experiences that helped build her work ethic and job skills. At the age of 21, Somaly became a midwife at Choup district Hospital in Cambodia. A few years later, Somaly traveled to France and began to learn its language. She became the Director of Personnel at a European Restaurant in 1992-93. However, her most rewarding experiences related to social work, such as her earlier days at the Maison the Retraite in France. Somaly also met her former husband, Mr. Pierre Legros, who is also dedicated to social causes, such as victims of human trafficking. Somaly later returned to Cambodia to bring back some of her experience and ideas to her homeland. She began establishing an NGO in French called “Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire (AFESIP),” translated in English “Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances.” She became co-founder of AFESIP and President of AFESIP Cambodia in Phnom Penh. This organization’s main cause is the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of girls forced into prostitution.
Glamour magazine named Somaly Mam “Woman of the Year” in 2006. They decided to do a feature story and the perfect woman for the job was Mariane Pearl. Pearl is a columnist for Glamour, and she is now on a mission to seek out extraordinary people and explore what she calls, “a question that a child could easily ask and an adult could hardly answer: Who changes the world, and how?” Pearl has gained recognition as a documentary filmmaker and the author of A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl, which is now a major motion picture staring Angelina Jolie. Pearl visited Cambodia to meet with Somaly and see the destruction caused to young girls that are forced into prostitution and brothels. Here are some of her observations and emotional reflections on Somaly’s spirit and determination: When I leave that evening, Somaly smiles at me. Her smile serves as a quiet triumph over despair and human cruelty. I think back to something she told me at the beginning of my visit. “I am not sure what being happy really means,” she said. “But when I cuddle with the girls, giving them the love I never received, then I do feel happy.” “Part of me hasn’t healed and never will,” she confides. But I can see how the girls give her hope. There is no telling how many girls she will inspire—and how many of them will rescue their sisters and ultimately change the fate of the next generation. For more information about Somaly Mam and Marianne Pearl’s journey to Cambodia. website
Glamour Woman of the Year 2006
Olympic flag bearer, Torino 2006
US State Department “Heroes of Anti-Trafficking” award
Award “Mimosa D’Oro”
Festival du Scoop Prize, France
Excmo Ayuntaniento de Galdar Concejalia de Servicio Sociale, Spain
Award “Principe de Asturias for International Cooperation 1998” Spain