CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle White volunteers at Sisters Offering Support, an agency that helps women escape prostitution and sex exploitation. Here she prepares gift baskets for a fund-raising event.
off the streets
Michelle White's volunteer job with the Sisters Offering Support agency came with an education in humanity.
She admits she had misconceptions about prostitution before spending time at the agency. "At one point, I even thought if I had a great body, I could do that and make money."
In reality, prostitutes often suffer pain and humiliation at the hands of their pimps or customers.
White says that she has grown emotionally by observing the people she helps, and in turn, "I've really learned more about myself," she said.
White's contributions help to get young girls and women off the streets. But she says the small agency must compete against multimillion-dollar messages presented through movies, television programs and, now, the Internet that often glamorize prostitution. These messages can lure women into prostitution with the false promises of riches, she said.
"We need to dispel the myths," she said. "We are informing people that stripping and prostitution are not glamorous."
For the past couple years, White has spent two to three days a week at the agency. As a "volunteer" volunteer coordinator, she is responsible for organizing more helpers.
"Mostly, I do the everyday office stuff," she said. "One time, I folded at least 1,000 pamphlets," she said.
The agency conducts presentations at high schools and youth facilities and provides counseling for women who are trying to escape the commercial sex trade and exploitation. Preparing for workshops and manning community booths are also on her long list of duties.
White's latest project was preparing for the "Evening with the Angels" fund-raiser that took place late last month.
"I don't work directly with the clients," White said, "but I help indirectly by raising money or getting the word out to the community about prostitution."
White, who attends Honolulu Community College, wanted to donate some of her spare time to a worthy agency. "I have a lot of free time between classes, and I wanted to stay busy," she said.
"The people who work here are great. It's fun, and it feels good to come to work," she added. "They really help these women. I did not want to be at an agency that was all about making money."
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