Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture.

The latest from my faith/media industry mail box –

NEW YORK, MAY 14, 2018 Nomi Network, an anti-human trafficking organization, will honor seven outstanding women at its 8th Annual Gala and Awards Ceremony for their efforts to eradicate the vicious cycle of human trafficking. The event will take place on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in New York City to raise awareness about human trafficking and encourage attendees to take a stand against this global issue.  Award-winning actor Penn Badgley, whose credits include Gossip Girl and The Paper Store, will be presenting the keynote address. Award-winning actor Harry Lennix, whose credits include The Blacklist and Man of Steel, will also be in attendance.

“Human trafficking enslaves approximately 46 million people globally and of this number, 70 percent are women and girls. Nomi Network chooses to puts faces to these numbers and believes that by knowing our women and their stories, we honor their tenacity and the hard work of those that advocate for them. In spite of these daunting numbers, I am confident that the monumental achievements of our gala honorees will see the eradication of modern day slavery in our lifetime,” says Diana Mao, president and co-founder of Nomi Network.

 The Abolitionist Award will be presented to Emily Nielsen Jones and her daughter Lexi Jones of the Imago Dei Fund.  Mrs. Jones, who co-founded Imago Dei in 2009 with her husband, Ross, has been a longtime supporter of Nomi Network after learning how vital economic empowerment is for women when addressing the root causes of human trafficking. Being a mother of a young girl drove Mrs. Jones to adopt a ‘gender-lens’ within the grant making at Imago Dei, choosing to focus on partnerships with female change agents who are building bridges of peace and creating a world where girls and women can thrive.  Following in her mother’s footsteps, Ms. Jones has always been eager to create a world for more human beings to achieve their full potential. She has traveled to Haiti, Tanzania and Rwanda to meet young survivors of trafficking and learn about the community driven-approaches seeking to empower women. Jones was recently chosen to join the leadership program Be the Change, and was selected to participate in the MA State National History Day for a group project on the Civil Rights Movement.

The Global Ambassador Award will be presented to Jeannie Mai of Fox’s Emmy-nominated talk show, The Real. In addition to being a style expert, television personality and executive producer, Mai is also an ambassador for the Pacific Links Foundation, an organization committed to rescuing women and children from sex trafficking in Vietnam by providing employment opportunities. She also proudly supports Nightlight International, Not For Sale, Step Up, and Heartbeat Vietnam. Mai participated in the 2017 film Stopping Traffic, which centered on the relationship between child sexual abuse, child-focused cyber-porn and prostitution. She has also been recognized as one of Ciroc, Variety and Women’s Wear Daily’s 2016 Women of Empowerment.  

The Abolitionist Award also will be presented to Nicola Forrest and her daughter Grace Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation, an international human rights organization that focuses on the eradication of human trafficking. The Forrests will be coming from Perth, Washingotn, to accept their award, where they work with Nicola’s husband, Andrew Forrest, to run the Minderoo Foundation, which oversees Walk Free. Recognized as some of Australia’s most generous philanthropists, the Forrests have given away more than $222 million to over 230 individual organizations and programs. The Forrests Walk Free initiative was inspired by Ms. Forrest’s school trip to Nepal where she visited poverty stricken orphanages. Nicola is now a founding director at the foundation, as well as a communication strategist for the Global Slavery Index and an ambassador for the Humanitarian Group and The Freedom Hub, both of which focus on the empowerment of trafficking survivors in Australia.

The Corporate Social Responsibility Award will be presented to Sarah Middleton of the PIMCO Foundation. At PIMCO, Mrs. Middleton is responsible for global corporate citizenship. To achieve this, she developed PIMCO’s employee volunteer program and implemented key corporate responsibility initiatives. Middleton represents PIMCO by being on the Points of Light Corporate Institute Leadership Faculty, Executive Committee for IMPACT2030, a board member for the Sisters of St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation, and chairing the Orange County Funders Roundtable.  

This year, Nomi Network will also be debuting the new Founder’s Award for Outstanding Service, which will be presented to Board Member Emeritus Susan Lee Cheung.   Lee Cheung has over 15 years of experience in advocacy as a legal assistant at Sullivan and Cromwell LLP, program manager for development at Asian Americans for Equality, and advocacy fellow at Covenant House International, where she focused on the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act. Most notably, Lee Cheung has served on Nomi Network’s advisory board since its inception in 2009, where she leads semi-annual budget meetings to ensure proper use and stewardship of donor funds in addition to developing the methodology for program evaluation in Cambodia and India.  

This is Nomi Network’s 8th gala and serves as an important annual event to raise funds and awareness, to recognize the organization’s critical work and achievements, and to celebrate their key supporters and champions. Honorees from previous years have included actress Mira Sorvino, actress Mamie Gummer, actress and activist Julia Ormond, TOM’s Blake Mykoskie, and Patagonia’s Wendy Savage. Leading companies such as Carlson Hotels, LexisNexis, and Exxon have also been recognized for their continued support and actions.

This year’s reception and ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at 6:30 p.m., at Tribeca 360° in New York City. The evening will include a cocktail reception, seated dinner program, dancing, and a silent auction featuring many one-of-a kind items. To purchase tables or individual tickets, please contact Sweena Varghese at or purchase directly online at                              ABOUT NOMI NETWORK:

Launched in 2009, Nomi Network is a vital non-profit organization that serves as an economic agency for the empowerment of survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. Nomi Network provides direct training, capacity building for organizations and social enterprises that employ survivors, and ethical sourcing options for brands that want to reduce their child and forced labor footprint. Currently, Nomi Network is focused on serving vulnerable women in Cambodia and India. The organization also produces a small collection of bags and accessories, and 100% of the profits from product sales are directly invested back into training and education opportunities.

For more information about Nomi Network, please visit and

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