#ChingonaFest: The Starfish Project

  Image credit: The Starfish Project

I have a story to tell you about a starfish.

Well, a lot of them, actually.

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The Starfish Project is a socially responsible business providing exploited women in Asia with alternative employment and a chance to heal and grow through counseling, vocational training, language acquisition, family education and grants, and access to health care and housing in their dedicated shelter. As of 2013, the Starfish Project has grown to support 50 women, allowing them to provide for their families through meaningful employment creating stunning pieces of jewelry.

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Starfish has expanded it's business model and holistic care program, expanding into poorer locations to reach more women by opening two more branches of the Project. As of 2013, the Starfish Project now operates and offers care and employment to exploited women in three different cities in Asia, committed to restoring hope for them and serving as a beacon of hope with the change they represent.

A very worthy cause, you think. But what the hell does this have to do with #ChingonaFest, you think.

I'll tell you.

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I founded #Chingonafest as a means to encourage Latinas to embrace our own voices in the face of a culture which dictates we conform, keep our thoughts to ourselves, and always put the needs of the many before our own. It's about female empowerment and finding the strength within to stand up for ourselves no matter what. Chingonafest is here because you made it happen, and it will continue to grow because you continue to make it happen. A Chingona knows that in lifting up women in need of support, regardless of culture, we make ourselves stronger. The hashtag may be culturally specific, but the spirit behind the hashtag is universal. Tonight's #chingonafest chat is about all of this and so much more.

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My BFF, Heather Jackman, recently joined the Starfish ranks in the role of Director of US Sales & Operations, and I can't even begin to express how proud of her I am. Heather is a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse who has supported Starfish long before packing up her belongings and moving from Tucson to Indiana  -- where the US offices are located -- with her new husband just recently. Tonight, Heather will be representing the Starfish Project as our featured guest.

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The Starfish Project has graciously offered one lucky winner one of these beautiful necklaces. To enter, you must follow Heather on twitter, a well as The Starfish Project, and Chingonafest (from which the chat's main tweets will be generated) And, while not required, I encourage you to sign up for the Starfish Project Newsletter, and shop their selection. If you see something you love -- and I think you will -- I invite you to take advantage of the Starfish Project's sale, offering free shipping on orders $50 or more.

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I hope to see you tonight from 10-11 p.m. EST. Don't forget to use the #chingonafest hashtag.

As Latinas we must work against the tide to force positive change for ourselves, as well as for our daughters. As women, the mission is the same. The only difference is the size of the playing field.