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Voices of Change
Somaly Mam Foundation
The Box
189 Chrystie
April 6, 2010

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographed by Billy Farrell of Patrick McMullan

Opposite Photo:
Lauren Bush and Somaly Mam

Lower Eastside hot spot, The Box, was the spot for a party honoring anti-human trafficking activist Somaly Mam. Lincoln Town cars were lined up around the block as New York City's socialites braved the grit of Chrystie Street, leaving with the satisfaction that they had helped an excellent cause and the bragging rights for being beBoxed.

The Box is the latest place to see-and-be-seen. There is no sign out front. If you do not know about The Box, you won't discover it by walking or driving by - the only sign is for a defunct sign factory. The club is the creation of Serge Becker (La Esquina), Richard Kimmel, Randy Weiner and Simon Hammerstein. The place looks like a decadent 1890's New Orleans opera house, dripping in shabbily chic glitz and oozing decadence. The Box is famous (infamous?) for its randy burlesque scene with drag queens, small people dressed in leather and nude dancers. If you visit (it is reservations only -, check out the tricked out bathroom stalls. I had to ask the bathroom attendant for an explanation. She explained and I finally got it, but a diagram would have been helpful.

But on April 6th, all was calm at the Box; the party took place before 11PM, the witching hour at the Box and the start of laissez le bon temp rouler. We were there to honor the passion of Somaly Mam, a former victim of human trafficking who has devoted her life to helping girls escape from their captors and recreate their lives through her work with the Somaly Mam Foundation. The evening began with with speeches from Bill Livermore (the executive director of the Foundation), Somaly Mam and Lauren Bush, who was the guest of honor for the evening. All spoke about how grateful they were for the help of the donors who have supported the foundation and how each person can make a difference if they will do what they can. When Somaly spoke, she drew a laugh from the crowd when she said that when she met Lauren, she did not know she was from a great American family. When Lauren spoke, she told the group how much she admired Somaly Mam and how her new clothing line, Lauren Pierce, gives 10% of their profits to a charity each year. Lauren is a founder of the Feed Project which sells Feed Bags and uses the profits to feed children.

The partygoers were then treated to a dance performance choreographed by famed choreographer Jermaine Browne. The dancers used the Somaly Mam red scarves in their performance which evoked the chair scene from Flash Dance.

The Somaly Mam Foundation launched their line of woven silk red empowerment scarves and pendants at the party. Both the scarves and the pendants carry Somaly Mam's heart and hand symbol, which according to the press release from Jonathan Marder and Associates is "a reminder that the world will only be moved when we bring together hearts and hands, merging compassion with action."

The host committee for the party included Amanda Brooks, Anh Duong, Katie Ford, Kiara Kabukuru, Josh Lucas, and Alexis Tobin. The guest of honor was Lauren Bush. Other well known guests included: Lauren's mother Sharon Bush; Lauren's sister Ashley Bush; Dylan Lauren and David Lauren; actress Samantha Mathis; Paul Johnson Calderon of High Society on CW 11; Greg Kelly of Good Day New York; David Lauren and Dylan Lauren; Francesca Hammerstein (the Hammersteins are part owners of The Box); Cator Sparks; Lorenzo Martone; and Angela Chen. (Scroll down for party pix.)

Here is a quote about the Somaly Mam Foundation from the press release by Jonathan Marder & Associates: "Somaly Mam, herself a survivor of human trafficking, has founded the largest shelters in Southeast Asia and has rescued more than 6,000 young women and girls over the past ten years. Universally recognized as a visionary for her courage, Somaly was honored as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2009. She is also the recipient of the first Roland Berger Human Dignity Award, the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, The World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), Glamour Magazine's 2006 Woman of the Year Award, and has won accolades from the US Department of Homeland Security. As she wrote in her autobiography, The Road to Lost Innocence, “People ask me how I can bear to keep doing what I do. I’ll tell you. The evil that’s been done to me is what propels me on. Is there any other way to exorcise it?”

Founded in 2007 the Somaly Mam Foundation is dedicated to ending slavery around the world with a results-oriented, three-step approach: Survivor Services, Advocacy, and Awareness. The common thread woven through all of its programs is the collective voice of the survivors. The foundation models its vision after Somaly's inspiring life, ensuring that survivors take charge in reclaiming their lives while refusing to turn their backs on those who remain behind."

Human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry, is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. With over two million women and children sold into sexual slavery each year, it is a global crisis that must be stopped."

Choreographer Jermaine Brown Somaly Mam
Samantha Mathis
Paul Johnson Calderon
Sharon Bush Greg Kelly

Amanda Brooks, Anh Duong and Alexis Tobin

David Lauren and Dylan Lauren

Lauren Bush




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