Dec. 7, 2017 By Tara Law
A Corona woman who escaped sex slavery and then became an advocate for other survivors has won a prestigious national award.
Shandra Woworuntu, 41, was named the 2017 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth National Honoree at a ceremony last night in Manhattan. She was one of 10 honorees nominated for the award.
She received $35,000 and will use the funds to provide vocational and therapeutic services to survivors via the non profit she formed called Mentari.
After receiving the award, Woworuntu spoke of the importance of individuals in enacting change.
“Each of us is an agent of change, and I believe that this platform will help me bring change… for a better world,” she said.
Woworuntu was born in Indonesia. When she was 24, she answered an advertisement offering temporary employment in the U.S. She arrived in New York in June 2001, believing that she would be placed in a hotel job in Chicago.
However, her recruiters proved to be her captors and used physical, sexual, and verbal abuse to force her into prostitution in New York City. Her captors would hold a hunting knife to her throat if she resisted.
She eventually escaped by leaping from the second-floor bathroom window of a house.
Woworuntu was eventually put in touch with the FBI and she later testified against several members of a sex trafficking ring.
In the years that followed, Woworuntu sought to help other victims of human trafficking. She would search for victims, advise them how to escape and then house them in her Corona dwelling.
She also helped the survivors learn employable skills such as house cleaning and cooking. In 2008, she started a catering company to employ women who were staying in shelters after escaping domestic violence or trafficking.
In 2014, she founded Mentari in Manhattan in 2014, which teaches survivors how to cook and offers other services
Since its inception, the nonprofit’s cooking program has enrolled 200 survivors of human trafficking. Of the 98 graduates, all but one has gained employment.