Most Americans believe slavery ended in 1865 with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, many young Americans are not aware that slavery still exists worldwide, including in the United States. It is hard to fathom, but over 1.2 million women and children are sold into slavery every year, many of whom end up in servitude in America.

The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) is a nonprofit charity organization dedicated to ending modern day
slavery in North America and around the world. Co-founded by Cambodian sex trafficking survivor and author Somaly Mam, prominent Manhattan philanthropists and celebrities came together at farwest-side venue Espace on Thursday October 20th, 2011 to dine for this important cause.

After an open cocktail hour, master of ceremonies Bill Livermore introduced Cambodian Royalty Her Excellency Hun Kimlen and her two daughters who spoke on her behalf about the ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking in Cambodia. Somaly Mam and Mr. Livermore then honored U.S. State Department Ambassador-At-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer for her lobbying efforts to combat human trafficking in the U.S. This was followed by a touching firsthand account of two sex trafficking survivors, Chea Lingya and Hok Sokleang, and how the Somaly Mam Foundation helped rescue, rehabilitate, and integrate them back into society. As part of the ongoing fundraising efforts to support the work being done in Southeast Asia, the pre-dinner Humanitarian “Fund-A-Need” charity auction garnered over $91,000 for the Somaly Mam Foundation.

After the auction, VIP attendees including women of the royal family of Cambodia, Susan Sarandon, Ron Livingston, Padma Lakshmi, AnnaLynne McCord, Russell Simmons, and Petra Nemcova enjoyed a gourmet dinner of brisket, fingerling potatoes, and mixed seasonal vegetables. While awaiting a luxe trio of flavored crème brûlée, guests were entertained by a lively performance from pianist Chloe Flower playing her new hit single “Revolution”.  The spunky artist expertly blends classical piano with pop riffs to create a sound
that is unique and inspiring; plus, the proceeds from her new iTunes album will benefit the Somaly Mam Foundation.

A bubbly AnnaLynne McCord and Somaly Mam presented the Voices of Change award to Philip Kowalczyk, CEO of The Body Shop Americas,  for their corporate initiative to end sex trafficking. Thanks to a collaborative effort between The Body Shop and ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking),  a landmark 7-million signature-endorsed petition to end human trafficking was presented to the UN Human Rights Council calling for specific legislative changes around the globe –changes which have now been implemented by a number of member states.

Radiant model and SMF Global Advisory Board member Petra Nemcova then honored Rush Communications’ founder and mogul Russell Simmons for his anti-trafficking philanthropic work. As the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Permanent Memorial to Honor the Victims of Slavery and the North-Atlantic Slave Trade he has raised awareness, especially among urban youths, about the legacy and history of slavery, as well as issues in modern day slavery.

Overall, the night was a smashing success and rose over a half a million dollars for the important work being done in North America and Asia by the Somaly Mam Foundation. Guests left feeling like their donations were going to a worthy cause, and received gift bags from The Body Shop with their popular seasonal Spiced Pumpkin Bath and Shower Gel.

To learn more about modern day slavery and Somaly Mam’s heartbreaking yet triumphant tale, read her best-selling memoir The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine.

Happy (and sad) Reading,

Jenicka

Images by Socially Superlative and via Black Tie Magazine.