Waves Making Waves: Wendy Dailey (‘00) providing sanctuary to victims of trafficking
While teaching English in Cambodia, Seaver College alumna Wendy Dailey (‘00) saw young victims of sex trafficking on a daily basis. When she returned to the United States, she teamed up with a friend to co-found International Sanctuary, or iSanctuary. The organization reintegrates former victims of human trafficking through the sale of products handmade by survivors.
WOS: How did you get involved with iSanctuary?
Wendy: In 2005, I was living in Cambodia, teaching English at an orphan care organization. Living in Southeast Asia, I was confronted on a daily basis with the reality of human trafficking. Girls were being exploited in broad daylight. It was everywhere. Upon my return to the States, my good friend, Stephanie Pollaro, was launching International Sanctuary, working with girls rescued from the red light areas in India. She needed someone to oversee operations stateside and asked me to co-found the organization. At that time, there were no funds. We didn’t really know what we were doing. God closed every single door and made it quite clear that this would be what I should do full time. A few months later, a newspaper article launched in the OC Register and the organization was in full swing. I didn’t have time for anything else. Immediately we had volunteers, supporters, events, and an organization to grow.
WOS: iSanctuary has a unique social enterprise model - selling products to benefit the fight against human trafficking. Why do you think this has been successful?
Wendy: Our success has come from creating a unique model. The girls and women we serve work directly within the social enterprise. All products are handmade by survivors of human trafficking in Mumbai, India, while all the orders are packed, prepared, and shipped by survivors rescued locally in Southern California. It’s a symbiotic relationship between Orange County and India. Neither program could exist without the support of the other.
WOS: Describe your job at iSanctuary. What’s your normal day like?
Wendy: Every day is different. The week typically starts with a staff meeting, focusing our team on objectives for the week and revisiting goals we’re aiming to accomplish. The rest of the week may be spent in various ways: at events, giving awareness presentations, learning from business mentors, meeting with my business partner to plan strategically, or meeting with local survivors to develop their future goals and plans. In a nonprofit, everyone wears many different hats. Since there’s so much variety, even if I don’t enjoy something like handling workman’s comp insurance or paying quarterly sales tax, there’s always ten other things that need to get done that I do enjoy.
WOS: What’s the best part of your job?
Wendy: I love that we are building something today that will serve girls and women tomorrow. I’m thankful for the survivors we have worked with and for the transformations we’ve seen in their lives. It is exciting to consider all the girls and women we’ll be able to reach on a global level as we grow.
WOS: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Wendy: Learning to be a leader is always challenging. Though I’m constantly learning and growing, it’s never easy. There’s always room for improvement.
The second most challenging thing is when there are discouraging days. Sometimes it feels like we’re unable to achieve success with the girls or women we’re serving for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of a lack of resources, sometimes it’s decisions they’ve made, and sometimes it’s because of the reality of the challenges that survivors of trafficking face on a daily basis.
WOS: How did your education at Pepperdine shape your career and/or you as a person?
Wendy: Pepperdine gave me a strong foundation to become the professional I needed to be. As an individual desiring to make a difference in the world, Pepperdine gave me experiences that broadened my perspectives and view of the world, balanced with ethical beliefs. The motto to freely receive and freely give always seemed to be incorporated into the education. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have attended Pepperdine. It truly shaped who I have become and led me to where I am today.
WOS: I was reading through your website…I love the stories, the statistics, and all the great info on the cause and how your organization helps. I read the OC Register article, which mentions you don’t get paid from your work at iSanctuary. Are there plans to expand the organization to include paid staff positions?
Wendy: The OC Register article was published in January 2009. For the first two years, Stephanie, my business partner, and I did not receive a stipend. When we were unable to continue due to our savings running out, the board approved a small stipend. Our staff of four team members are all full-time; however, they make huge sacrifices by making a choice to work at iSanctuary. It is our hope that we will be able to grow the organization to be able to pay the staff a fair and equitable salary.
WOS: What piece of advice would you give to others who would like to start an organization to help solve a social problem?
Wendy: Research, talk to experts, investigate the industry FIRST. Many times people start endeavors with the intention of “wanting to help” without fully understanding the magnitude of the problem. It’s critical to gain wisdom and insight from insiders to determine the greatest need. Then the organization’s mission and goals can be established considering the parameters, challenges, and limitations at hand. Starting an organization requires sacrifice, commitment, and dedication. If you’re founded upon strong clear principles, the vision for the solution will keep you motivated to work toward the future achievements, rather than being discouraged by challenges you were not expecting to encounter.
To get involved with iSanctuary, contact Waves of Service (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the organization directly.