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.

Use Your Power to Empower

I’ve been thinking. Thinking about what it means to chase justice, to find freedom, to use my power, to name my truths, to raise my voice.

I recently attended the Women’s Empowerment #JusticeInstitute in Chicago. It was a day spent listening and learning from those who speak the language of justice. And friends, justice is a powerful language.

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JUSTICE IS A POWERFUL LANGUAGE

Wheaton Sociology professor, Amy Reynolds, shared about sexual terrorism and the ways that fear impacts our behaviors. Pastor Kim Whetstone encouraged us to embrace empowerment and move beyond anxious leadership. Author Kathy Khang, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “use your power to empower” discussed what it means to raise your voice and asked “how can we lift someone up when we think it’s a competition?” The speakers that day so beautifully wove together their personal stories, their work and their research, leaving me with a fresh resolve to be more purposeful in using my own voice. When my now-grown sons were young they sometimes used tears and gestures as they struggled to say what was wrong, and I had to tell them “use your words.”


Our language has power and we use our hashtags to abbreviate in clever ways. But our hashtags also tell a story and give us a place to come back to, a place we can find again if we search, as well as a place for others to find us. At #freethegirls we are #eternallyoptimistic and #everydayabolitionists who envision a world where all are free. #chasingjustice – is something we do at FTG, but we hope that we do it in a way that invites others in, because it’s not a competition.

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While today I’m still pondering the ways that I am supposed to use my power to empower, one thing seems very clear to me. I want you know that you are invited to join in this important work, that’s why we started The Underwire Club. It’s a $28 per month investment in the real and important work of chasing justice by fighting human trafficking.

I’ve read and heard a lot of fundraising pitches, and the ‘give up your daily latte and support us’ plea is a common one. Sometimes giving is sacrificial, but Free The Girls isn’t asking you to give up anything!  In fact, The Underwire Club also comes with benefits. You’ll have the opportunity to follow a survivor’s journey on a more intimate level as well as the opportunity to have a virtual coffee date with a FTG staff member!  

So I encourage you to joyfully drink your latte, giving out of your abundance. Give because you are using your power to empower! Give because the $28 per month to support The Underwire Club is raising your voice to speak your truth; to say you care and are willing to invest in helping women find true freedom.

#chasingjustice #womensempowerment #JusticeInstitute #freethegirls

Written by Pam Gumns

Everyday Abolitionist with Maria from Horse & Soul

 

What is an everyday abolitionist?

“Everyday Abolitionists don’t sacrifice their own identity for the cause, they make the cause part of their identity in small, meaningful ways every day.”

Read more about our take on Everyday Abolitionists one of our previous blog posts here.


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Today we are excited to share about another Everyday Abolitionist, Maria from Horse & Soul.

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

A. While I am originally from California, I now reside north of Houston in Conroe, Texas.  I grew up riding horses competitively in hunter/jumpers and eventing, and it is a deeply rooted passion in my life.  Horses were always a refuge for me, a place where I could get away and heal.  They were special to my life and allowed me to connect on a level that I acutely needed but had not experienced with people.  It wasn’t until later in my early twenties that I was able to find community where I could experience this same thing with others.

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

A.  Everything that is wrong in the world, both on a micro and macro level is rooted in lies that people believe.  Lies can lead to two extremes causing people to either be the ones taken advantage of or the ones taking advantage.  If we believed the truth about ourselves and others - that we are precious and valuable - the world would become a much safer place.  I decided to help individuals and groups expose the unhealthy thought patterns that keep them stuck and help them move forward with healthy alternatives.

Q. Tell us about Horse & Soul! 

A. At Horse and Soul we help people live with hope and confidence in every area of their lives. We have served women coming out of addiction and incarceration, families on the verge of divorce, corporate teams wanting to grow in communication, and parents with their children working through past hurts and in need of tools for understanding one another. It is beautiful to see how every single time the horses intuitively know exactly what each person needs and God, in his gentleness and mercy, knows exactly what each person needs to hear.

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

A. The Executive Director of FTG, Courtney Skiera-Vaughn is a wonderful friend of mine and I love what FTG is doing to transform the lives and restore the dignity to women coming out of sex trafficking.  I love how God’s heart for justice and freedom has so many facets, from physical freedom, to emotional freedom, to spiritual freedom.  What a blessing to partner with an organization with the same piece of God’s heart! 


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

A. We were able to connect with and involve our local community through social media and bra collection events! We love seeing the community become passionate about setting the captive free and empowering women!

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

A. Our work with Free The Girls has been a powerful reminder in our connectedness and our global responsibility to one another.  God loves seeing people come together to say "yes and amen!” to each other.  The beauty of the Kingdom is when we do so, we all win because it is His purposes that prevail.


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

A. Start with where you are and the passions you already have!  Your passions are there for a reason and can be used by God.  When we pursue our God given passions two things happen - 1) we become the best and happiest versions of ourselves, the way God created us 2) people become attracted to what you are doing because of the joy they see in you.  

Q. Anything else you'd like to share? 

A.  I just want to thank you for taking the time to let me share a little bit.  Free The Girls is a gift to both the women you serve and those serving. It’s an honor to be a part of your community.