Valentine's Day and Spreading the LOVE.

www.freethegirls.org

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

We know that this day can create all different types of feelings and reactions - annoyance and eye-rolling, sadness or loneliness, super high expectations placed on a significant other which end in disappointment, or, on the other end of the spectrum, butterflies and appreciation over the sweet gestures from your dear one.

Regardless of where you are relationally this year - remember that you are loved.  And that you are worth loving.  Your worth is not set by how many flowers or chocolates or date invites you have; you are valuable for just being you.

Now if you're still looking for a gift for a special someone (romantic partner, BFF, your mom, co-workers, whomever!), we do have some ethical and fair-trade ideas for you. Or maybe it's time to treat yourself! 

For those wanting to go the traditional route:

Chocolate - Tony Chocolonely is always a great go-to and just a blast to say. Each bar is divided inconsistently and unequally, making a powerful statement about inequality around the world while still tasting delicious.  Dove Chocolate has also stepped up in the world of fair-trade, employing women farmers and partnering with CARE to ensure quality chocolate while helping improve the lives of women around the world.

Jewelry - Some of our favorite fair-trade companies are in the jewelry game.  Threads Worldwide employs women artisans from over 15 countries around the world and have seen communities thrive when the women invest with solar energy and clean water.  Many of their artisans are survivors of sex trafficking or are special needs, and you know how we love economic opportunity for those with limited options!  Plus, they have partnered with FTG before, donating percentages of their profits back to us for Trafficking Awareness.  What can we say?  We love these gals!  Not only does Noonday Collective also sell beautiful, fair-trade jewelry, they also support adoptive families.  They donate 10% of their trunk show proceeds to families waiting to bring their kiddos home.  To date, they've helped over 3500 families welcome their babies while supporting over 4400 artisans around the world!

Flowers - We would encourage you to go to a local florist and help empower small businesses in your local community.  Often, they'll have flowers unique to your specific area of the country which makes it that much more special. If you can't find a place local to you, we recommend Farmgirl Flowers - they source their flowers ethically and honestly and support farms who pay living wages, avoid harmful chemicals, and have medical benefits for their teams! 

Guy gift ideas - Does your fella need some awesome socks that also help treat HIV, provide clean water, or plant trees to help the environment?  Conscious Step Socks has a unique collection that will keep your honey's feet warm while also doing some good around the world.  One World Fair Trade has a cool, rugged leather bracelet made in India or a glasses holder complete with mustache (one of our staff's husbands has this, and he loves it!).  

Check out our Christmas Ethical Shopping Guide for some other ideas as well for all the people you want to present thoughtful, ethical gifts to.

Or maybe you celebrate with a gathering of friends!



"Galentine's" Day Party Ideas: 

Maybe you want to gather your gal pals around and choose to encourage one another and support the global sisterhood this Feb 14th. 

Host a Bra Drive for Free The Girls! It's so fun to gather around a cause. You can have your girlfriends come over for sweet treats and bring a gently used bra they no longer wear. You can gather and ship those bras to FTG and they'll go towards inventory for a survivor of human trafficking. She'll sell the bras in the second hand marketplace and make a safe + sustainable income for herself! You can read more about our program here.  We also have all the details here on how to host a bra drive here

Host a Scarf Party with Shining Light International : Shining Light International is empowering oppressed communities in Northern Pakistan through education. Although it may be too late to order scarfs for this Valentine's Day (sorry for posting this a little too late!) this is a great idea for a future party or next V-Day celebration. 

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Sole Hope party : Sole Hope offers HOPE, healthier lives, and freedom from foot-related diseases through education, jobs, and medical relief in rural Uganda. They have ideas on hosting parties that benefit the children and families they work with. They have Shoe Parties where you and your friends can help cut out and prepare the fabric that will be made into shoes for their clients in Uganda (these kits go on sale the first of every month).  Or a Care Kit Party where you gather basic medical supplies for Ugandans to have in their homes.  Click the "Sole Hope Party" link to learn more. You can also check out their current campaign for a Shoemaking Workshop

 

 

www.freethegirls.org/blog

 

No matter what you do (or don't do) this Valentine's Day, may you feel LOVED and CELEBRATED because we think you're amazing! 

Love, 
Free The Girls

Lifting Up our Global Sisters {Winter Prayer Guide 2018}

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On a quarterly basis, we like to offer up a prayer guide for those faith partners and supporters around the world. We are so grateful to the many churches, organizations and individuals who have put their faith into action by standing with Free The Girls in our efforts to see trafficking survivors live healed lives. 

This winter, our prayer guide is focused on our program partners, and the women and their families that have been involved with FTG, past, present, and future. 

We'd love for you to join us in bringing these requests to God. Feel free to download and share this guide! 

2nd Annual National Bra Drive!

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Last March, we had our first ever National Bra Drive.  Almost all of the 140+ FTG Drop-off Locations around the country participated, displaying new photos and many offering deals for their customers or clients if they brought in bras to donate.  It coincided with My Freedom Day, an initiative by CNN that showcases what students around the world are doing to shine a light on modern day slavery and trafficking. 

It was so much fun seeing photos and videos of all of you, telling us what freedom meant to you and sharing images of collected bras + bucks.  We even had some hold fundraisers on Facebook or through our website to spread their impact even further.

So this year, we want to do it again!  March 14th is My Freedom Day and will be the official launch day of our 2nd Annual National Bra Drive! 

Last year we focused primarily on our Drop-off Locations, but this year we’d like to invite everyone – Drop-offs, supporters, ambassadors, volunteers, social media likers, fundraisers – to get in on the action.  You hear us say that human trafficking is a global problem and thus requires a global solution.  Let’s see how many of the 50 states we can get holding a bra drive and how many members of our FTG international family we can get in on it as well!

We have 6 weeks until the launch!  Our staff will get the ball rolling in their home-states with bra drives in Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Tennessee.  We’ll share a link so you can let us know which state you’re in holding your bra drive in the weeks leading up to the event! We'll also have printable labels you can include in your box as we’re going to do our best to keep a tally this year of how many bras & bucks come from our 2nd Annual National Bra Drive!

So time for spring cleaning! Clean out your drawers, invite your friends and community to be involved and let’s prove, once again, that something simple can be made extraordinary!  Download a sign here, and let's get organized!  Email our Operations Manager at selah@freethegirls.org for help on setting up a bra drive or fundraiser, and she can walk you through it all and provide some resources for your event.

Let's gather some bras and celebrate freedom together!

Raising Girls to Love the World (A Voice Becoming + Free The Girls)

We're so excited to introduce this guest post from our friend and author, Beth Bruno, who's just come out with an extraordinary book called A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living. We've collaborated with Beth to create a conversation and action guide for mothers and daughters. Read on to find out more more and be sure to check the links below to download the guide! 

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Words from Beth:

American women have a complicated relationship with bras.


In the small college town in which I reside, we all await an appeals court decision on the topless ban. The group, Free the Nipple, argues that banning women from going topless sexualizes their breasts. And yet, on average, American women spend hundreds of dollars per year on this
one piece of lingerie that enhances, beautifies, and protects the same breasts.


As a mother of two girls, just entering this stage, we have had our fair share of conversations
around why, when, and what bras they wear. They fall on different points of the spectrum of
Free the Nipple and Victoria’s Secret, as do I.


But more than raising girls who dress respectably, I am committed to raising girls who do not
have a myopic view of themselves and the culture in which they live.
The teen obsession with bodies, boys and besties leads to small story living. The antidote?

We need to call them to something bigger and cast a vision for a global sisterhood they are joining as they enter womanhood.

I work to prevent domestic sex trafficking. Spending a lot of time in high schools and fielding far too many calls from concerned or desperate parents, I am learning that here in the States, we
have gotten “at-risk” all wrong. We are missing the young teens who fill empty souls with
dangerous exploiters, the ones living small stories without a vision to something greater.
Author Kate Conner suggests the answer to small story living is to

“Crack the door and let all of broken, beautiful humanity flood in like a sunbeam.” She writes, “Let it in; let it move her. Let it inspire her, wreck her, challenge her. Let it change her. If you want her to catch the fire, you’re
going to have to put her near a flame.”

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When it comes to raising daughters, I am convinced we need to expose them to the reality of
girls around the world. They need to know that when a girl their age starts her period in
Uganda, she stops going to school because sanitary pads do not exist. They need to know that
when girls in Mozambique start developing breasts, they may be more likely to be assaulted if they do not wear bras, yet bras are expensive and rare. They need to know that women in many parts of the world are not given equal rights and opportunities and therefore exploited.
They need to know this because we are sisters. If we believe women were created in the image
of God, then we should expect to see intrinsic qualities shared across generations and culture.

We belong to a global sisterhood that is stronger when we come alongside each other, using our talents and treasure to benefit others. And when our vision is as large as the world, there is not much time for teen drama.

So, women, how do we navigate these conversations? How do we empower and activate our
youth to offer themselves fully to the world in solidarity with their cross-cultural sisters? I’m
glad you asked!

In partnership with Free the Girls, and in conjunction with the release of my book, A Voice
Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living (Faith Words/
Hachette)
, we have created a conversation and action guide for mothers and daughters.
Discover talking points around tough realities of sexual exploitation and trafficking as well as
tangible action steps to take with tween and teen girls.

{Download the Guide}
{Order the Book}

Let us raise a generation of girls whose eyes are set on the bigger story their life tells.

As Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found in playing small, in living a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Girls are capable of changing the world, the ones here in our homes, and the ones exiting sex trafficking in Mozambique. Let us make a way for their voices to intersect.

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Beth Bruno is the founding Director of A Face to Reframe and author of A Voice Becoming. She
lives in Colorado with her husband of 20+ years and 3 children. Find more about Beth and her work at www.bethbruno.org

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!  I do hope your holidays were filled with joy and light and surrounded by loved ones.  Our Board of Directors gives the staff a generous two week holiday break that is always much needed, so now we are back and ready to hit 2018!!!

Even though Free The Girls is our day-job, it’s so much more than that for our little staff of 4.  Our program partners are deep friends and we are so invested in the women and their families, so receiving texts in broken English from our Program Managers fills us with delight, and voice memos and videos and texts from the women in our program just make our day – even when we are “supposed to be” unplugged.  Though we were technically on vacation, we were still in communication with our FTG family around the world.

Danielle (our program partner with Mission to El Salvador) sent us a photo of the El Salvadoran Christmas party.  Due to safety concerns, we won’t’ be publishing that photo, but the women and their children are standing, arms around each other, in front of a table filled with gifts, chocolates, and poinsettias.  A young girl, probably 8 or 9 years old, is standing in front of Danielle and Evelyn (our Program Manager), fiercely hugging a blue teddy bear and smiling side-eyed at the camera.  It’s a darling photo, and Danielle said it was a great time!

The day after Christmas I received a video message of three of our Ugandan women wishing us a merry Christmas and then breaking into Jingle Bells and dancing around the home laughing and shouting.  My husband and I had taught the Ugandan women a variety of Christmas carols when we lived there and even took them caroling one time (a practice not observed in Uganda, and one they thought was ridiculous and hysterical), so they wanted to Christmas carol across the ocean to us.  Oh, it made me grin. (Take a listen below!)

But there were difficult times as well.  Dave Terpstra called me the week before Christmas telling me about one of the Mozambique women.  While she and her children were running errands, her home burned down.  According to Dave, the fire destroyed everything – bed, all her documents, every morsel of food in her cupboards, clothing (presumably including her inventory of bras).  Thankfully, none of the family members were injured as they were away from the house at the time of the fire.  But Dave said, “Everything was completely devastated....  So, of course, we jumped into action.” 

FTG was able to give her enough cash for essentials for her and her children as well as extra boxes of clothing and bras to sell. 

The bed - no more mattress - with singed, unwearable shoes on top.

The bed - no more mattress - with singed, unwearable shoes on top.

But there is a hopeful glint to this story.  Apparently, she had been wanting to begin building a brick house for her family – and so now her neighbors are coming alongside her to help her achieve that dream. 

She’s looking at this tragedy as an opportunity to get the house she always wanted! 

We will continue to be giving her extra boxes of bras to sell for the next few months as she works on rebuilding her life, and perhaps she will be one of 2018’s Inheritance Project recipients as she continues working on her new brick home!

The outline of her new brick house with the help of her nieghbors.

The outline of her new brick house with the help of her nieghbors.

We are only able to help in these times of crises because of your support throughout the year.  We sent our first shipment of the year this week.  In the last few weeks, an entire shipping container has been boxed up, fumigated, loaded onto a cargo ship, and has left New York headed for Maputo, Mozambique!

For those who have sent us bras in the last several months, that’s where your bras are headed.  For those who have sent in financial donations, your gift is helping those bras get to Mozambique into the hands of this woman working to rebuild her life yet again, along with the other women in our program.

And friends, guess what?  That end-of-year campaign we spoke so much about – that $20,000 goal of ours – that large figure (for us!) that would allow us to invite 10 new women into our Mozambique program? 

You did it!

You not only did it, you crushed it.

You all DOUBLED what our goal was!

Free The Girls has never brought in that much money in a single month before.  If I’m being honest, there was dancing, gasps, screams, and maybe a few tears when our staff saw those numbers.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. 

Thank you for being the people you are, the generous people who are dedicated to justice and freedom, the people who are not content to sit idly by while millions of people are denied the simple choices we often take for granted, the people who donate their bras and bucks, the people who are stepping up around the world to be Everyday Abolitionists.

Thank you.

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So those bras that are headed over to Mozambique – those will be the very first bras placed into the hands of these women, their first batch of inventory for their own business as they become entrepreneurs.  We can’t wait to meet the new women.  We can’t wait to introduce them to you. 

We’ve a feeling 2018 is going to be pretty spectacular.

- Courtney