Planting Seeds

Some of you may already know that our roots at Free The Girls are grounded in the belief that there is a good God - one who loves justice and mercy. One who protects, rescues, and brings healing to those in need. We believe in the inherent dignity and worth of all individuals, and that it is our responsibility to love and support others who don’t have the same privilege as we might.

We believe advocating, raising awareness and support, and investing time or finances is one way to do that. Another way is prayer.

We believe we can be sowers of seed, good seed, seeds of prayer.

We can plant seeds of encouragement and seeds of hope.

We can trust the seed, knowing and believing that God is forever faithful. In this season will you commit to praying with us, planting these seeds of prayer and trusting in the seed?

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Every quarter, we create a Prayer Guide those who’d like to partner in this way. You can download the newest Quarterly Prayer Guide here. You can also stay up-to-date by making sure you’re on the prayer guide e-mail list! Go here to sign up and please share this with anyone who might like to join in.

We’re continually encouraged to know that our prayers are heard and that we can trust that the sorrows of this world do not go unseen and unheard by God.

There is hope!

The seed always must overcome darkness in order to break through the ground and flourish. And as we like to borrow the phrase:

“We will be the hopeful.”

One more thing- we’re also excited to share that we’ll be at the Catalyst Conference this year! If you or someone you know is attending, we’d love to say hello. Come visit us at Booth #36!

Some Friday Inspiration

At times the world can feel a bit overwhelming. With constant news flashes of distressing events and heartbreaking stories, it can be tempting to think that the world is full of negativity. But we want to remind you that’s not the full story. We all can immediately call to mind moments of beauty, of redemption, of times that fill your heart with so much joy it feels as though it might burst.

We wanted to take a moment to share some light here. We believe that sharing more of those beautiful moments might help us remember that there are good people, people doing good in their everyday lives, and that the world can be a bright place.

With that in mind, we wanted to share two inspiring stories.

One story comes from one of our newest drop-off locations - Hanesbrands. The other comes from Central America where one of our FTG programs operates.

Stateside Story:

Free The Girls is honored to have hundreds of stores across North America and beyond who have taken a stand for justice in a simple but impactful way. Our “Bra Drop-off Locations” collect new and gently used bras from customers and send them to us on a regular basis. Without these drop-off locations, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Hanes and Hanesbrands recently partnered with us, and we have been hearing some inspiring stories already! We heard from one store manager about a recent customer who came to the store for a bra fitting and some new items. This visit was the first time she had ever heard about Free The Girls and even purchased a bra that day to donate to FTG! According to the store manager;

"She was so inspired by what we were doing with the Free The Girls donation boxes that she said she felt it was "her mission" to help us fill the box, not only did she bring in 2 full shopping bags of bras totaling around 50 bras to donate. but she also purchased another $200 worth of Champion and underwear products from Latoria to complete her wardrobe. This was very inspiring to see a customer return with this type of gift. The world is a little brighter today”.

It’s people like this woman who remind us that

people are doing good; people are being good.

This woman went above and beyond to support survivors of sex trafficking and we’re inspired by her passion and willingness to take up this mission to support survivors.

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International Story:

Danielle Snyder, Director of Mission to El Salvador, has been working in the challenging environment of San Salvador for years now. She’s our Program Partner for FTG and walks and works with the women in our Salvadoran program. Recently she shared:

“[There are] days when the system feels too big and too broken. I feel like my wheels are spinning and all that really happens is I get tired and dirty. But some days are different.

Yesterday was one of those days. Last January we launched a community resource center...The Lighthouse...here in a tough neighborhood in San Salvador. My primary job over the last 8 months has been to work to help the survivors of trafficking and exploitation that we serve transition to working through the different levels of the resource center in order to access services like counseling, life skills training, social support, and spiritual encouragement. I've struggled a lot, I've felt frustrated and helpless.

But yesterday I celebrated.

Three women completed level 3 after a lot of ups and downs. They are set to launch job training and make final preparations to step out into a new chapter.

Starting this level means they are involved in the community, they are participating in healing, they are making plans for the future.

I'm not going to lie, it's been an uphill battle. But today I realize that my default is sometimes wrong, that nothing is impossible, that God does redeem it all even in small ways that I don't even see coming.

Can I also mention that one of the teen moms in our program stepped from level 1 to level 2? That's big news too and something I could never have dreamed could happen within this year.

So here I am…daring to hope just a bit more, daring to believe that broken systems don't mean that everyone has to stay broken...not even me… “

 

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So today, take heart! There are beautiful things happening every day around the world.

There are inspiring people - those who are overcoming the most difficult obstacles, and those who use their power to empower.

The amazing thing is that ANYONE can participate! Anyone, anywhere in the world can be a part of our mission and make a difference for those who’ve come out of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. If you’re curious about how you can be involved, take a look around, send us an e-mail, or reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram!

We love to connect with pursuers of justice like you.

Calling University Students Pursuing Global Justice! 

We know you’re soaking in the last weeks of vacation and summer, but we also know you’re thinking ahead to what this next year on campus looks like.  Are you looking for a way to change the world (and your campus!) this next year?

We absolutely love students – your passion, your dedication, your willingness to go all in for a cause you believe in, your ability to grab attention on social media and in person.  We just love you all!

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And we’re honored that some of you love us, too!  Over the years, we’ve gotten so many inquiries from college students asking how they can be more involved in FTG.  We’ve tried a couple things here and there, but we wanted to commit to figuring out a greater opportunity this year and we believe we’ve found it.


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FREE THE GIRLS

UNIVERSITY REPS!

So here we go, calling for our first ever FTG University Reps! You’ll get a chance to get some experience in marketing and branding, in the way nonprofits work, in development, in event planning, in community education, in writing.  We’ve created a pretty great way for you to engage your campus in the global fight against human trafficking and get a really nice reference and recommendation letter out of it (that is, of course, assuming you rock this Rep thing as well as you rock those midterms!).

Our program enables you to…

Get educated on human trafficking including myth-busting and the complexity of survivorhood; become certified in educating others about human trafficking and hold an awareness event in your dorm, sorority, or campus; write some blog posts and do a social media take-over on our official handles; hold a campus-wide Bra Drive Fundraiser; help design an FTG shirt specific to your university; and collaborate with us for a unique way to use your specific talents and skills unique to your major to help trafficking survivors around the world work towards true freedom!

 

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Interested?  We’re now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Send us a DM on Insta (@freethegirlsbras) to inquire about the application process.  There are a limited number of spots so get going on this!

We can’t wait to meet our 2019-2020 UNIVERSITY REPS!

Everyday Abolitionist with Linnea Crowther

Linnea heard about Free The Girls from her mom who shared about an FTG collection bin at her church. Linnea’s interest was piqued and when she couldn’t find any locations near her that were collecting bras, she took it upon herself to start collecting. She engaged 10 businesses along with her personal contacts and ended up collecting 752 bras in her own community!!! Here’s our interview with Linnea.

May you be inspired to know that you, too, can make an important impact in the lives of survivors!

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Q. Where are you from and what are you passionate about? 

A. I grew up in the Chicago area, but I now live in Rock Island, Illinois, one of the Quad Cities spanning the Mississippi River in Illinois and Iowa. I live in an area with a lot of natural beauty, where it's easy to see the negative effects humans have had on our environment, so environmental causes are high on the list of things that move me to take action. But I'm also passionate about social justice. I don't know how anyone can ignore the inequality, poverty, and abuse that exist everywhere in our world, even in our own neighborhoods. I want everybody to have the same chance I've had at a good life.

Q. Tell us about your heart for justice and what you decided to do about it.

A. There's so much that needs to be done and it's easy to get overwhelmed by that. I think a lot of people get stymied by the idea that there's a huge lack of justice in the world and there's no way one person can change that. But once you get started and you see your small efforts make small changes, it helps you understand how you're just a piece of a big movement and your contribution makes it work. I started pretty small, throwing a little money at a few causes that mattered to me. Then I began volunteering with a refugee resettlement program and was able to meet and talk to actual people whose lives were being changed by the agency I was working with. It was a shot in the arm for me to try to do more. Now I feel like I'm not really satisfied with my life if I'm not actively working on something that helps others, whether that’s volunteering or serving on a board or heading up a drive (or some combination of all of the above).

Q. What inspired you to connect with Free The Girls?

A. A few years ago, my mom told me about the collection box her church had for Free The Girls as they were doing a bras & bucks drive. I loved the idea & was excited to learn about Free The Girls, but I wasn't really sure what to do with my new knowledge, other than send in my gently used bras. I really wished someone in my area would sign up as a permanent drop-off location (it's at least a couple hours' drive to the nearest one) or start a bra drive. But that didn't happen, and after Free The Girls had been percolating in the back of my mind for a couple years, I decided I was going to have to take the reins if I wanted to see a big effort for them in my area.

Q. How were you able to connect with and involve your local community? 

A. I started by reaching out to some businesses and churches I thought might be interested in being collection points for a bra drive in our area. I'm lucky enough to have a pretty big network of local friends and acquaintances who care about social justice, and eventually I found ten locations around the area that wanted to collect bras and bucks for Free The Girls – a coffee shop, a florist, a hair salon, and more. I created a Facebook event to publicize the drive, and I invited all the women I know in my area – and I also asked them to share it and invite their friends. This really helped me spread the word, as we ended up with well over 1000 people invited to the event.

I gave the drive a timespan of a couple months so lots of people could hear about it and have a chance to make their donation. I posted in the Facebook event page periodically – sometimes information about Free The Girls, and sometimes updates on how the drive was coming along. I talked about the drive wherever I went and asked the folks at the drop-off locations to talk about it too. I found that pretty much everyone I talked to just loved the idea. Gently-used bras are an easy ask, because so many of us have one or two that we don't like but didn't just want to toss, and maybe we weren't sure where to donate it. And sex trafficking has been in the news in our area in recent years, so I think it's something a lot of my neighbors have on their minds and are appalled by – but they don't know what to do about it. This gave us all a concrete way we could help change lives affected by sex trafficking, and everyone who donated was able to feel good about being a small part of a big movement.

I've also talked to a couple of the drop-off locations about becoming permanent collection points for Free The Girls donations. I would love to see this happen so we can provide an easy way to help, ongoing in our area. 

Q. How has your work with Free The Girls impacted you? 

A. I feel so empowered by the success of our drive! Being able to make such a big contribution is gratifying and makes me want to do more.

Q. Who are some of your heroes/heroines or people you look up to in this work? 

A. I'm inspired every day by the activist women in my community who are working for a better world. Some of them are running for and serving in local political office; some are heading up local chapters of important organizations like Dress for Success and Habitat for Humanity and the Sierra Club; some are being vocal and pushy about change that they demand in our community and country and world. None of them are famous and most probably never will be, but they get stuff done.

Q. If you could inspire others to become Everyday Abolitionists too, what advice would you share? 

A. Make use of your connections! Tell everybody you can about Free The Girls, and ask them to help you spread the word. This is a cause that resonates with people (especially women) – almost everybody you talk to is going to understand how important it is to help.


Thank you, Linnea, for being an inspiring example of an Everyday Abolitionist! We’re so grateful for your contribution!

Celebrating Freedom, Looking Toward Hope

I recently sent out an email to all of our staff which said, “Next week is 4th of July- Freedom, independence – it’s kind of our FTG jam, right?” And it is!

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We love freedom - true freedom. We love independence, defined by one of the women who has since graduated as, “Not having to rely on anyone but being able to do stuff for myself by myself.”

Sadly, this birthright, this basic human right, is denied to so many individuals around the world. There’s a reason human trafficking is often referred to as modern-day slavery, and this just isn’t ok. It has never been ok. We believe that each and every person bears the Imago Dei, the image of God, and that every individual on the planet throughout history has been created with inherent worth and dignity and belovedness which is in direct opposition to someone being “owned” by another, existing for another’s profit.

This is why FTG exists – to see women being given opportunities that already should have been afforded them, seeing them lean into the independence and freedom that is theirs by birthright. We get the incredible opportunity to stand and watch total restoration completely transform the women in our program. We get just plain giddy when we are able to invite our friends, our family, and total strangers into being a part of this redemption process whether that’s through donating bras, holding bras drives and fundraisers for us through Facebook or online, supporting businesses that become drop-offs or donate their own inventory, and sharing about us. We get to do this together, and it’s my favorite.

But just like all stories of true freedom, this is a hard-fought battle. Celebrating independence invariably comes after a period of heart-breaking struggle and war. You can’t commemorate freedom and independence if you haven’t lived the opposite side of that coin – oppression, enslavement, uphill battles, bullying, yes, even taxation without representation. And the reality is, not all battles for freedom are won. This is the tension that we at FTG live with daily and, I imagine, you do in your personal life as well. This never-ending struggle can be overwhelming at times, depressing and even crushing.

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But we carry on

bravely and boldly.

I recently read these beautiful words from Catherine McNiel, the author of a striking new book called All Shall Be Well, and it nearly took my breath away:

“But do not mistake hope for safety. Hope breaks us open. Hope is never naïve to suffering, is synonymous not with optimism but with courage. Hope knows with certainty that life overflows with both beauty and pain, and we cannot know which will rise to meet us. Trembling with possibility, hope sidles up boldly to despair, nestles close, and puts down roots. These two – hope and despair – stand always side by side, each determined to outlast the other. If we choose hope, we must join the standoff, with hearts and hands wide open, fighting the urge to fade into despair.”

And so we continue on in hope – not pithy hope that isn’t worth its weight – but deep, heavy, stuff-with-substance hope.

Like we shared a few posts back, WE WILL BE THE HOPEFUL.

We hope for a future where all are truly free. We hope to assist women in breaking generational poverty, ensuring their children and their children’s children are not at risk of similar exploitation. We hope to see literal and metaphorical chains breaking, allowing and calling forth independence that’s made to celebrate.

So this 4th of July, this Independence Day, light those sparklers, eat that watermelon, laugh with friends and family and truly appreciate the freedom of this country that was hoped and fought for a few hundred years ago. And as you watch fireworks light up the sky, remember that “it is for freedom that you have been set free” – and dare to hope that you’ll see that reality in your lifetime, and then take that step in hope towards living out your freedom in a way that helps others become free as well.

For True Freedom,

Courtney Skiera-Vaughn and the FTG Family

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p.s. This is not a sponsored post - we just love Catherine’s book!

p.p.s. If you’re looking for a fun and tangible way to support the brave women in our programs, we have a new club and we’d love you to join! The Underwire Club is a group of dedicated and passionate partners who give just $7/week ($28/month) in order to bring true freedom to women, communities, and generations to come.