Tim Zello first became aware of the need for helping others with the skills necessary to reenter society in 1993 shortly after the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union, when he was the first foreigner to visit nine Siberian prisons where he spoke to hundreds of inmates. Then for four years Tim and his wife, Michelle, lived in Mongolia and Russia doing missions work. For the next eight years they helped train workers at residential rehabilitation programs in over 86 nations.
In 2003, Tim noticed a piece of jewelry that Michelle handcrafted for her mother’s birthday. After telling his colleagues about her creative ability and showing them jewelry she had made, the Zellos were encouraged to train the marginalized women and men at residential rehabilitation programs how to make jewelry so the residents could have a job skill that would help them successfully reenter society.
Using $2,000 from their personal savings, the Zellos purchased the sterling silver, semi-precious stones, and other supplies needed to make more jewelry with the hopes of selling enough of the finished product to raise the funds needed to provide their first training overseas.
They started selling the jewelry to family and friends. Word spread quickly of the quality and beauty of the jewelry and it wasn’t long before Michelle was selling the jewelry at home shows in their community.
Within a few months, the Zellos had the funds for the supplies and expenses necessary to travel to a Teen Challenge program in Bombay, India, where they trained women recently rescued from human trafficking and sex slavery at Falkland Road, the largest red light district in the world. In the first year after being trained, Bombay Teen Challenge sold $20,000 worth of jewelry.
Since then, they have empowered former sex slaves, prostitutes, gang members, and drug addicts in Pakistan, South Africa, Jamaica, El Salvador, Aruba, Swaziland, two more cities in India, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Siberia, Russia, three ministries in Uzbekistan, Dominican Republic, and Israel.