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DeKalb's Sozo Market helps people in developing countries

DeKALB – There’s a new shop to visit for holiday shopping this year, and proceeds go directly to those living in developing countries.

Sozo Market, 665 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, opened Friday. The items sold in the market – jewelry, baskets and clothing – were all made by rescued individuals, such as human trafficking victims, widows or orphans, living in countries such as Thailand, Zambia and China.

The nonprofit store is run entirely by volunteers. All proceeds go to those who were rescued.

“I’d like to see people say, ‘I’m buying things to help people in another country,’ ” said Despy Bales, Sozo Market’s founder. “I’m hoping [customers] will become aware of how much of a problem there is around the world and how fortunate we are here.”

The market works with missionaries in developing countries to sell the products. Missionaries teach the rescued how to make the products, and the money sold from the products goes directly to help them. The rescued will receive medical attention, Bible training and educational training on how to stay in their own country and be productive citizens, Bales said.

Amy Nordell, a Sugar Grove resident and volunteer at the market, said she wanted to help out because she is a friend of Bales’ and because it’s easier for the mother of two.

“I can’t necessarily travel to help in a physical sense, but this is something I can do indirectly,” she said.

Customers who purchase a product from the store will receive a card stating which missionary organization in the area will help the rescued. Narimon, an international network combating human exploitation in Thailand, even has cards with the name and age of the girl who made the product.

Sozo Market sells products from a missionary organization called the Rafiki Foundation, located in villages throughout Africa, and Eden Ministries, which rescues women from human trafficking in China.

Bales said faith is a big part of how they’ll run their operation.

“The missionaries are not just teaching people to support themselves,” she said. “They’re giving them a lot more than just making a living.”

Sozo Market is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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