The time was the 2006-2007 school year. I lived in Denver, CO with my sister and brother-in-law, Amy and Dave Terpstra. They often discussed the idea of being missionaries in Mozambique, Africa. I asked them, what do you really want to do there?
My sister’s response was simple, she wanted to work with women and especially the moms with young children. Dave spoke about a lot of ideas, but the one that stood out the most was his idea of Free the Girls.
I remember him sitting at the computer as he told me his idea. His eyes lit up as he talked about how it would provide job opportunities to women rescued from sex trafficking and allow them to support themselves and their children. It seemed like such a great idea, but I never imagined how that idea would become a global movement in such a short time!
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. My husband, my oldest son and I flew to visit Amy, Dave, and their family in Mozambique, Africa. Before leaving I sent emails out to family and friends asking them to send me their gently used bras. The idea was to try to collect a few for the brand new Free the Girls program in Maputo, Mozambique. I was so excited that we had enough to completely fill an extra large suitcase full of bras to take with us! (Though, I have always wondered what TSA thought as they x-rayed my bag stuffed full of bras.)
During our visit, we had the opportunity to visit the aftercare program where the children of trafficking survivors in the Free the Girls program live. I could not even imagine the lives that these children must have had before coming to this program. You would have never known, however, as the children were happy despite all that they had been through.
The children came running up to the car as we drove up, then held our hands as we were shown around the property. I loved watching my own son sit and play with them. My sister told me that the children were calling my son a doll because he was white like their dolls. Watching them play together made me want to help support Free the Girls even more because I wanted to be able to support their moms who were making a decision to better their lives and the lives of their children.
I didn’t really know what I could do, but I did know that I wasn’t the only woman who had bras just sitting in her dresser that she never wore. Why do we hang onto these bras when they could be helping other women; other moms earn a living? Being a mother, I would do anything to better the life of my child. Why would I not help these moms, these trafficking survivors, do the same for their own children?
I left Mozambique resolved to do my part to help Free The Girls help trafficking survivors. I do this by continuing to hold bra drives to collect gently used bras from women in my community. It may seem like a small thing, but to a mom rescued from trafficking in a developing country, those bras represent independence and economic empowerment.
Blog and photos courtesy of Bethany Ogilvie.