The NoVo Foundation Launches Major Grant Program Aimed at Stopping Sexual Exploitation

The Life Story: Moments of Change is a web project that accompanies the NoVo Foundation’s new $10 million investment in efforts to prevent entry to, and help exit from, the world of sex exploitation.

The NoVo Foundation is taking a simple approach to tackling the extremely complicated issue of sexual exploitation: decrease entrance ramps, and increase exit ramps, to “the life.”

The New York-based grant maker has committed $10 million over three years to fund programs and services that help to achieve that goal. The “Life Story Grants” initiative was launched this month accompanied by a captivating website featuring the words and memories of survivors.

“The core mission of the NoVo Foundation is to foster a transformation from a world of domination and exploitation — including sexual exploitation — to one of collaboration and partnership,” said Jennifer and Peter Buffett, NoVo’s founders, in a statement announcing the grants. “The Life Story Grants are a critical step in achieving that mission and building a more just and balanced world.”

NoVo has identified several specific points at which investment in effective services can prevent girls and women from being trafficked or choosing the sex trade, or help them leave that world behind. One of those points is foster care, a system for keeping children safe that tragically serves as the launchpad for much involvement in the sex trade. A 2007 study found that in New York, three of every four trafficking victims had spent time in foster care.

Of particular concern are group homes, which have long been known as a recruiting grounds for traffickers and exploiters.

A graphic from the foster care section of The Life Story: Moments of Change.

“The pimps hang out at the group homes. It sounds horrible, but they do,” said Ne’Cole, a survivor quoted for The Life Story: Moments of Change web project. “They know where the vulnerable are.”

NoVo will focus its grantmaking on service providers that work on six different issues: housing, medical needs, law enforcement, mental health, immigration and systems impacting youth.

“Survivors shared that preventing vulnerable girls from getting into the Life altogether, and helping women in the Life leave when they are ready is one of the best things we can do in the short term, while working toward a world free of violence in the long term,” said Puja Dhawan, director of NoVo’s Initiative to End Violence Against Girls and Women, in the foundation’s statement on this project.

Interested providers can click here to apply. The deadline for letters of inquiry is April 19.

The NoVo Foundation, which has net assets of $536 million, was launched in 2006 by the Buffets. Peter is the son of famous investor Warren Buffet, who pledged several hundred shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock to establish the foundation. It is one of the largest grant makers in the world focused specifically on women and girls.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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