By Sarah Kuper
In the past few years, Theresa Bruno has visited France, Greece, India and China plus traveled throughout the U.S.
Only a small part of her travels had to do with her high-end English Village jewelry business, Jordan Alexander.
After years of leading efforts to enrich lives of underprivileged women and children in Birmingham, Bruno has expanded her efforts from Woodlawn across the globe.
“I see a homeless woman here in Birmingham or these young girls across the world and I think, ‘But for the grace of God there go I.’ I just landed lucky, I didn’t earn what I have and I don’t deserve it,” she said.
On April 7, she will speak at the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce luncheon about her experiences locally and nationally and how local businesses can have a global impact.
Bruno is now collaborating with A21 – a non-profit headquartered in Greece that is working toward ending human trafficking worldwide.
“We are a global business with a presence all over the world. I want to align our philanthropic efforts with something that will have a global impact as well,” Bruno said.
She recently traveled to Greece to dig deeper into A21’s mission.
There she saw firsthand victims of sex trafficking.
“I went to what they call a ‘breaking house.’ It’s a place where women are chained up, drugged and then raped over and over. It was horrific,” she said.
But Bruno also was able to see how A21 takes steps to save and rehabilitate these women.
“A21 has rented a lovely home deep in the woods where the girls who have been rescued have been rehabilitated. I got to work with the girls and I saw the power of what can happen when you truly deeply care about another human being. They will be reunited with family, and we teach them a trade,” she said.
Coincidentally, Bruno made her trip to Greece when the currents in the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea were pushing Syrian refugees onto Greek shores.
Greece was allowing refugees into camps for less than two hours before they sent groups across the Macedonian border.
Bruno visited the area and learned the journey across the Macedonian border is a dangerous zone where kidnappers hide. She said many women and children escape Syria only to be trafficked.
She said she knows the issue of sex trafficking is a hard one to hear about.
“It is so horrific. People don’t want to think about women and children going through it,” she said.
In addition to speaking about human trafficking, Bruno has designed a new collection of necklaces to raise money and awareness.
“They sell for around $50. All of the proceeds will go toward helping these women. Jordan Alexander doesn’t keep anything.”
After gaining a deeper perspective through her trip, Bruno said she sees clearer than ever that writing a check is helpful but there is nothing equal to taking personal initiative.
“It opened my eyes. It isn’t always about money – it is about teaching a trade or just pouring into them,” she said.
Bruno hopes other local businesses, no matter how big or small, will find ways to help others.
“A business just needs to find what they are passionate about. It’s important to see the faces and get your hands dirty. It softens you. It would be neat to see synergies across industries – like if all the power companies threw their weight behind one cause.”
Bruno said she’d like to see the fashion industry come together for a common cause like A21.
Jordan Alexander jewelry is based in Mountain Brook but celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Pink, Katie Couric and Michelle Obama have sought out her designs.
Her pieces are sold at luxury boutiques from Naples, Florida, to Aspen, Colorado, and Neiman Marcus will soon carry her collection.
Bruno said her work in luxury goods presents a paradox.
“I get homesick for these girls I meet when I come home and I work in luxury goods. I’m creating things that sell for a lot of money just because they are beautiful. I’ve got to make this business do good. That’s how it makes sense to me,” she said.
She hopes by using her business’ global presence she can make a global difference while spreading awareness in Birmingham.