These days it seems every celebrity has an online presence, whether they’re sending selfies of a haircut into cyberspace or tweeting about a just-wrapped movie. But Dianna Agron uses social media in a truly inspired way. On her blog, You, Me & Charlie (one of Agron’s nicknames), the actress promotes emerging artists, and for her birthday, fans rally to give to her favorite charities. (Followers have raised more than $18,000 for organizations like GLAAD and the Trevor Project.) Now she’s trumpeting another worthy endeavor: Somaly Mam Foundation. Led by its co-founder, Somaly Mam, who as a girl survived years of forced prostitution, SMF works with governments to bring an end to the global sex trade while financially supporting other programs that run medical clinics and recovery centers and send outreach workers into brothels. Last winter Agron toured two of the shelters to see their good works for herself. The experience left her with one question: What more can I do to help? Scroll down for the exclusive interview with Agron and find out how you can help, too. For more, turn to page 73 of the recent issue, now available on newsstands or downloadable for your tablet.
How did you get involved?
About a year ago my friend Jenny Cho, who also happens to be my hairstylist, said, “I’m so excited about this trip to Cambodia.” She described Somaly and the foundation, and when she was finished, I told her, “I’m coming with you.” The way I saw it, when your friend is going halfway across the world for such an amazing cause, how could you not join in?
How much did you know about trafficking?
I’d seen documentaries, but you can’t fully grasp how devastating it is until you see the effects up close. Our first week in Cambodia, Somaly rescued a 4-year-old who had been raped and sold to a brothel. That was pretty intense.
Was it hard keeping your emotions in check?
I wondered whether I would break down crying, but that wasn’t the case. We viewed one shelter for the younger girls, 3-to 18-year-olds. They were smiling and laughing as we walked around the center. The littlest would come up and hug our legs, trusting us because we were friends of Somaly’s, while the other girls tried to teach us games. They love the “Gangnam Style” video, so we pulled it up on YouTube and danced to it together. Another shelter we visited was for young women who were going to school to learn a trade. That’s important because due to poverty, many Cambodians leave school by the end of fourth grade.
Where does the foundation go from here?
SMF is a relatively small organization, and it’s challenging for them to have a global presence. Fortunately, a group called Voices for Change—girls in their 20s who were once part of the trafficking trade—travel to educate people about the cause and explain the severity of the situation. One of the girls had lost an eye after being beaten during that horrific time in her life, yet she, like the other survivors, is upbeat and determined. For these girls, it’s not about remembering the past, but about looking toward the future.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
• Buy jewelry ($20-$100) made by SMF shelter residents at empowermentstore.org.
• Follow @SomalyMam to read tweets from star supporters, such as Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Kellan Lutz.
• Donate at somaly.org. Just $25 can fund a month of job training for one girl.
Plus, see Dianna’s best looks ever.
MORE INSIDE THE AUGUST ISSUE:
• Charlize Theron’s Beauty Must-Haves
• Stella McCartney’s Three Style Tips
• Alexandria Daddario Models for the 2013 August Issue
• Olivia Wilde is InStyle’s August Cover Girl!
• Behind-the-Scenes at Jason Sudeikis’s Photo Shoot
— Sandy M. Fernández