It seems like a giant leap from a career in public relations to founding an organisation to stop human trafficking, but Stephanie Lorenzo, a young woman from the Hills area, is making a difference in a unique way.

In 2009 Stephanie founded Project Futures, a not-for-profit organisation whose objective is to help prevent global human trafficking and slavery, and to help people take action against it in their own communities. Project Futures achieves its objectives by partnering with service providers in Australia, Cambodia and Nepal.

Stephanie, born in the Philippines but brought to Australia by her parents when she was just one, grew up in the Hills and studied for a Bachelor of International Communications at Macquarie University. She thought she’d build a career in PR and marketing, but then read a book about a woman who was forced into prostitution at a very early age, and her focus and purpose shifted dramatically.

“I read The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam when I was on a cycling challenge in Cambodia,” Stephanie told Sydney Hills Living. “I’d never had any experience in the charity world, but I thought I could raise money for her organisation, which does amazing work in Cambodia, and that was the impetus for what Project Futures does.”
Stephanie’s efforts on the cycling challenge in Cambodia, when she convinced nearly two dozen people to join her, raised over $80,000. That was the catalyst for Project Futures.

“I couldn’t do that and then just do nothing,” she said. “So three months after that I started Project Futures as a not-for-profit charity to raise awareness and funding for projects.

“We ran quite a few events as a way of raising revenue but it’s only in the last two years that our corporate revenues have grown, and that was because of our connections we’ve made through our events,” said Stephanie.

“We were a volunteer organisation, with no paid staff. We used our marketing skills and friends’ networks to harness the skills of young people. That was the reason for Project Futures.”

Astonishingly, human trafficking is the third largest crime industry worldwide, generating up to $32 billion every year. Nearly 30 million people are enslaved around the world, according to the Global Slavery Index, Walk Free, and two million children will be sold into sex slavery in the next year, according to UNICEF.

Stephanie thinks her own generation are more socially aware and more active, and like to call themselves activists.

“Project Futures is about raising money with like-minded people. I’ve never liked the term not-for-profit because in the end you are making a profit but giving it away. I prefer the term social enterprise,” she pointed out.

Project Futures has grown in a short time to now employ two people full-time, with a third coming aboard very soon, and includes a board of eight prominent business and corporate identities and academics to oversee its operations.

Events and partnership manager Stacey O’Connor commenced with Project Futures last November, and together the Project Futures team are now raising close to $1 million a year for anti-trafficking projects, and are looking to grow that to $5 million over the next three to five years. In just five years of operations, Project Futures has made a significant difference.

That contribution meant that in 2013 and 2014 Stephanie was named one of Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence, and nominated as Australian of the Year.

Stephanie boils the story and purpose of Project Futures down to a central message of harnessing people’s purpose in their lives to make a difference using their own particular talents. By combining those talents people can take effective action and achieve surprising results.

Stephanie’s story of a “typical young woman”, as she too modestly describes herself, should be a catalyst for others to stand up and make a genuine difference.

To find out more about Project Futures, or if you’d like to donate or assist Project Futures in any way, Stephanie and her team can be found at:

Level 2, 151 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000.
Email: contact@projectfutures.com
www.projectfutures.com