Disgraced anti-sex trafficking activist Somaly Mam’s new charity – which is headed by former staff of her fallen foundation, a Hollywood actress and a PR guru – announced yesterday that it has been given the green light in the US.
Following her high-profile fall from grace last year after a Newsweek article alleged that she had fabricated elements of her back story and coached girls into giving false accounts of being trafficked, Mam resigned from her multimillion-dollar foundation, which was later shuttered.
But in December, Mam – who has refuted the allegations – sought donations to open a new organisation, The New Somaly Mam Fund: Voices of Change.
The fund, which will combine elements of the work done by Mam’s local NGO Afesip and the Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF), announced yesterday that it had been officially named a tax-exempt nonprofit organisation in the US.
According to the fund’s 2015 business plan, Mam will report to former SMF staffer Rigmor Schneider. Founding board members include Jonathan Marder, whose company launched a PR offensive on Mam’s behalf last September, and actress Susan Sarandon.
The organisation, which will employ about 37 full-time staff and expects to generate more than $682,000 this year, will maintain legal entities in the US and Cambodia in order to “protect the Cambodian team if anything were to jeopardize the US operations as has happened in the past”, it says.