Every morning when I wake up, I’m restless until I save lives,” says Somy Ali, the 45-year-old founder of No More Tears, a 501(c)3 organization that has helped 30,000 men, woman and children escape human trafficking and domestic violence since its inception in 2007.
Ali’s South Florida mission is more than a calling. To understand its genesis and her passion, one must go back to the Pakistani beauty’s childhood. Though born into wealth and privilege, life was overshadowed by a darker world that was immersed in abuse she witnessed and experienced. Her own sexual abuse by household staff began at age 5. Then there was the “beating room,” where she and her brother, Mohammad, hid under the bed to watch the near-daily domestic violence perpetuated on her mother. It continued when she moved to Florida and was raped at age 14 by a neighborhood boy.
Crushed by the physical and emotional damage, Ali dropped out of school, lived alone, got hooked on acid, survived more beatings at the hands of junkies, and finally moved back to Pakistan, where she was discovered at age 16 and cast in 10 Bollywood films opposite the “Brad Pitt of India,” whom she began dating—and who repeated the cycle of mental and physical abuse.
At 25, Ali had an epiphany. With no schooling beyond ninth grade, she realized education was her escape. She moved back to Florida, acquired her GED in a year, studied psychology at Nova Southeastern University, and credits her mentor, Dr. William Hammack for replacing acid with education. Armed with a bachelor’s degree, Ali was accepted into New York Film Academy, where one of her short films, I Can Survive, was shown at then-Senator Clinton’s rally to honor a gang-raped Pakistani girl.
Ali had found her mission. After volunteering at non-profit organizations for a year, she used her life savings to establish No More Tears in South Florida, which has become the second-largest human-trafficking hub in the country.
Ali says she helps the victims that no one sees. “South Beach, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Miami Beach—the statistics are increasing, and they are alarming,” says Ali about human trafficking and domestic violence. “One out of three women in South Florida is abused and one out of seven men is abused, and they have few resources. Wherever there is sexual and/or physical violence, we are there, working with local police, victim advocates, the FBI…. They all call me because we have no waiting list,” she notes. “We help people immediately.”
Ali secures hotel rooms and studio apartments for victims and helps them get back on their feet with tinely resources, including food, legal counsel, therapy, medical support and education via a network of providers who donate their services. She is there at every step, helping with empowerment skills and prospects that will help victims become independent. “My job is to ensure you acquire skills that make you financially independent, otherwise you’re going right back into that rut,” says Ali, who works 365 days a year and answers each call personally.
Beyond two volunteers a month and a few university interns, there is no staff. No one takes a salary. Ali relies on donors big and small, including Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan and Five Hour Energy Drink founder Manoj Bhargava, who have stepped up with sizeable donations. “Donations are most critical to keep helping victims,” she says, “it’s a struggle because it (trafficking and domestic violence) is something people don’t see, but it’s part of the Me Too movement and I hope it permeates throughout the world,” she says, “We’ve all been there. It’s time for it to stop.”
Her “Human Being” shirt, available on her website, has been seen on Fergie and Madonna. Ali created it after being asked when she arrived in the U.S. if she was Black, White, Hispanic or Asian. “I see myself as a survivor who is using her rage to do good,” she says.
For more information about No More Tears, or to volunteer or donate visit the website at nomoretearsusa.org.