Emerge works with teenage survivors of sexual abuse in Sri Lanka, helping them to heal, develop skills for self-sufficiency, and build a better future for themselves and others.

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Art therapy meets hands-on business education

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Hand-crafted with love, a foundation for freedom

Investing in courageous girls

At Emerge, we invest in strong girls, girls who we know will rock the boat and fight for a better future. Emerge works with girls who have survived abuse, often in their own families, and have had the courage to speak out, to work to protect their younger sisters, and to create a safe reality for their own children. What if these courageous and resilient young women had the skills, resources and networks to enact their own visions of change? At Emerge, we believe this is the best investment we can make.


During the summer of 2005, 19-year-old Alia Whitney-Johnson arrived in Sri Lanka as a tsunami-relief volunteer. During this trip, she encountered a heartbreaking reality: Girls as young as 11 who had survived rape or incest and had the courage to stand up for themselves in court were cast out of their own families, denied the right to formal education, and locked-up for their own protection.

A jewelry-maker since age seven, Alia decided to host a beading workshop to get to know the girls better. The act of creating jewelry soon became a tool for transformation, uplifting the girls’ spirits and ultimately helping them to overcome the emotional, social, and economic obstacles they faced. Emerge was born as a way to help girls heal while learning critical life and business skills through jewelry design. Bead by bead and girl by girl, Emerge has enabled hundreds of girls to develop healthy, self-sufficient lives.


Designed bottom-up, through an iterative process with participant input and feedback


The girls learn to make high quality jewelry and can use this skill as the foundation for setting up and managing their own small businesses. The curriculum tackles concepts such as budgeting, inventory management, product development, marketing, branding, and financing.


During Emerge Mentorship sessions, girls are paired with adult role models who cover a curriculum on topics such as body image, childcare, mental health, social responsibility, goal-setting and more. 

Life Skills

The Life Skills program teaches girls about goal setting, reproductive health, job readiness, money management, communication, crisis management, and community engagement. The curriculum includes outside speakers, demonstrative activities, and journal entries.


Emerge supports girls as they transition from the shelters to society by hosting annual alumnae reunions, providing general support and check-ins, and connecting them to a variety of local resources and service providers.

Words from the girls of Emerge