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.