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Conscious caught up with Shana Pederson, Founder and President of the Life Preserver’s Project. On June 12th, join Shana and the LPP team for a night of art, music, and fashion to celebrate the Somaly Mam Foundation survivors. Get your invite here.

The Life Preservers Inc. is a 501(c)3 Arts Collective, raising funds and awareness for the victims of human trafficking in the US through art.

Rachael Baxter: Shana, tell our readers where you are from, what you do, what is your role with LPP?
Shana Pederson: I am originally from New Mexico. I was raised in a family of artists and musicians. I eventually got my Art Degree from Hunter. Giving back to those with no voice was always part of my upbringing. My mother and Grandmother were both activists. I am the Founder and President of Life Preservers Inc. I am also a legal recruiter with a great company, PeterSan Legal Staffing.

RB: Why did you form life preservers?
SP: I formed my 501(c)3 Life Preservers back in 2009 initially as a way to utilize the arts to raise awareness and money for victims of human trafficking here in NYC. I had met Faith Huckle right as she was getting RestoreNYC off the ground and participated in a small silent art auction in Brooklyn. It immediately occurred to me that this kind of event was possible on a larger scale. I felt I had to do something bigger to help. Because I also work in the Legal Industry, I worked to use those contacts to further raise money and awareness.

RB: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
SP: It was staggering to me how prevalent human trafficking (slavery, really) was in our own backyard. Nobody seemed aware of until the past year or so. I wanted people to know this was happening right here too and that they could get involved and help make a direct difference to young women and men right here.  Many people thought this was a 3rd world problem only. We wanted to update that perception. We started with a pop up gallery at the RS Pop Shop in 2010 and moved onto larger annual fundraising events. Last October, I met Somaly Mam and her NYC team. For the first time this June, we are addressing the global problem of human trafficking and with luck, producing our largest fundraising event to date.

RB: What are three ways someone can get involved?
SP: We are always looking for volunteers, who can help raise money for the cause and by asking friends and family to donate also starts that dialogue about the realities of human trafficking. As we start curating more events, we are always looking for artists, fashion designers, and musicians who want to donate their time and goods. Finally (and this seems so simple), I urge everyone to being noticing the growing reports in the news to start educating yourself and your friends. Attend fundraisers, not just mine but those for GEMS or RestoreNYC, and others. But, the most important way to get involved is with education. If you or someone you know works in government, help with encouraging them to start pushing through safe harbor laws and anti trafficking laws, this is vital (globally).

RB: How has your organization grown over the past few years?
SP: We started as two friends in Barnes & Noble looking up "how to start a charity" books. Since then, we have grown  into a wonderful network of friends, artists, and colleagues that help us produce amazing fundraisers. We have been so blessed to keep growing and to continuously meet so many talented and special people. For the second year, we are combining forces with Ford Model Monica Watkins and her amazing organization, Art in Motion Show, along with so many talented artist and musicians!

Learn more about Life Preserver’s Project.
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