Be Brave & Be Bold

Happy New Year!

And just like that, we wish a big farewell to 2018 and turn to welcome and usher in 2019. I tend to get sentimental around New Years - it’s a natural season to reflect on the past with gratitude and to look forward in hope to the future. But that’s not always the case; I recognize the privilege I have in reviewing life with gratitude and hope. Because sometimes the past is hard to gaze upon - we’d rather forget about it, wave bye in the rearview mirror and never look back. Or sometimes it’s the future that is intimidating - the unknown that we tentatively tiptoe towards with hesitation, fighting to conjure up the slightest amount of optimism.

This is the very tension under which our women enter into our program.

Wanting to leave the past behind, not letting it define them, yet fearful to enter into who-knows-what, wondering if the past will just keep circling around them or, even worse, drag them backwards. And yet we are continuously astounded at the bravery, the boldness, the spirit of these women, fiercely grabbing the future by the horns and saying, “I get to call the shots now.”

Our theme for 2019 is BRAVE & BOLD.

And nothing encapsulates this theme more than our favorite story to come out of Costa Rica yet.

Angie, the incredible woman heading up our FTG CR program under our Program Partners, relayed this story a couple months ago, and we haven’t stopped smiling over it. The women had been selling bras for about 6 weeks at this point. Angie had gathered all the women to check in, to gauge how they’re doing emotionally as well as financially, allowing time for the women to discuss their success and frustrations with their new businesses of selling bras.

They went around the circle, discussing the average price to sell a bra - around 3500 colones ($6USD). One woman, a woman known to be shy and insecure, sat silently, waiting for her turn. This was a woman that no one really expected to be super successful due to her timid personality. When it was her turn to talk about how she’s been doing, she quietly said, “I haven’t sold any bra for less than 8300 colones ($14USD).” The other women were shocked! What?! This quiet woman continued to explain that she knew this was her one chance to ensure she could be done with prostitution, once and for all, and she didn’t want to ruin it. So she crunched some numbers, figured out how much she needed to make for rent, food, and other essentials and then to begin planning for her future. She knew she needed to sell each bra for at least $14USD, so that’s what she did. And she made so much that she was able to make her monthly bills AND buy a sewing machine!!!! She said her next month’s wages would go towards beginning to pay for sewing and tailoring lessons!

freethegirlsbraveandbold

The other women were stunned. More so because they said, “This just isn’t who she is!” But that’s the beauty of it. That IS who she is. She just hasn’t had the chance to be who she truly is before this.

Here is a woman who knew what she wanted and what she needed to do in order to achieve her long-term dreams - and she did it. Bravely and boldly.

She’s our hero, our model. She’s who we want to emulate as an organization. We want to be as brave and bold as this woman in all that we do - in the new things we’re rolling out in 2019, in our communications and reporting to all of you, in our asks and requests for bras and bucks to continue our mission, in inviting everyone to become an Everyday Abolitionist. We want our supporters to be as brave and bold as this woman in all you do - in your lives, in your relationships, in your standing up for injustices in your own country and around the world. And we can’t wait to see how our women around the world act this out, continuing to inspire and challenge us.

braveandboldfreethegirls

Welcome 2019. We welcome you with bravery and with boldness and great expectation.

Changing the World - One Everyday Abolitionist at a Time

Hi everyone! Courtney here. I wanted to give an update that I received last week. Amidst the craziness of end-of-year fundraising, preparing to ship thousands of bras to both Mozambique and Costa Rica in the next 6 weeks, and brainstorming on some new, exciting things that are coming in 2019, it can be easy to lose sight of the lasting impact or the ripple effect we have on the world.

Sometimes I can get so focused on the details - the little picture filled with tax receipts and renewing domain names and gathering data for our metrics and speaking and looking at spreadsheets of how many bras we have - that I can miss the lasting impact of the big picture. I rarely forget the past or the right-now or the future of our women, but I can sometimes forget the future of our staff, our board of directors, and our supporters.

But these futures are just as bright and glorious.

We announced at the beginning of this year that we had phased out our Ugandan program. Due to changing of import laws and taxes as well as the incredible number of NGOs working with this same population, we determined that closing our Ugandan branch after ensuring a transition for the women in our program there would be the best option as we seek to be good stewards of all of our resources.

I’m going to be honest - it was hard. Very hard. Especially since my personal journey with FTG began in Uganda as a program partner. I purchased the very first FTG bra in Uganda years ago. I watched women from our safe-home who had struggled with figuring out their “what next” to becoming thriving businesswomen. So phasing out this particular program was probably the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in this role.

IMG_3263.JPG

I purchased the very first FTG bra in Uganda years ago. I watched women from our safe-home who had struggled with figuring out their “what next” to becoming thriving businesswomen.

But just because we phased out doesn’t mean our impact fizzled out.

And just because FTG is no longer in Uganda doesn’t mean lives of trafficking survivors aren’t being revolutionized.

But my favorite part - it’s not us.

Nivas was our Program Manager for FTG UG. She’s an incredible woman with an amazing work history and a great mind for analyzing trends and being creative. Plus, she has such a heart for those in oppressive situations. When I called her to tell her that we were closing our Ugandan program, she so graciously said she understood but that I shouldn’t worry - she wasn’t stopping.

freethegirlsuganda

And she didn’t. Talk about an Everyday Abolitionist. I’ve been communicating with her on and off all this year, but I didn’t understand the full scope of what she was doing. Until yesterday. When I opened the very first newsletter she sent. And this was the opening line:

[We] have had challenges, and we have faced each challenge head on, looked up to God for wisdom and direction, changed methodology and finally God has seen us through 2018 with 125 Ladies, Hallelujah!!!
— Nivas in Uganda

125.

125 ladies.

125 women whose lives have been changed by Nivas and those she has found to partner with her. She has taken the training and curriculum FTG had given her and has become an expert, an Everyday Abolitionist in her community in ways we never even dreamed. She and her team have held seminars with both local and international presenters, they’ve cultivated a strong relationship with a church who prays daily for these women, and they have shops all over Uganda selling an assortment of things.

Receiving their certificates after training

Receiving their certificates after training

I’m elated. The lasting impact for the women that were directly involved in FTG has been a reminder for me that FTG UG was not a failure. But hearing about this ripple effect - that lives are changing, that seeds are being planted all over the world, that Nivas has taken the mantle of Everyday Abolitionist and has owned it more than I could have imagined….I feel so small - in a good way, the way you do when you stand in front of the ocean or in front of towering mountains.

You feel so small and yet still like you matter and belong.

I hope this doesn’t read like I’m giving FTG credit for what Nivas has done - I’m not . We are one small part of Nivas’s story, and I’m so honored that we are. But this is her story, her lasting impact on the world. What’s yours?

So friends - when you give your money, it makes a difference. When you give your bras, it helps change a woman’s life. And when you give of yourself - your time and your talents - it changes the world.

We’re over a third of the way to our 30&30 goal by year’s end. Keep up the generosity. And invite others to do so - you never know the ripple effect that action could have on the world.

30 + 30 and Why it Matters

freethegirlsbras

“…it’s what makes us able to extend the offer of empowerment to the women we serve and work with.”

30,000 bras.

That’s our End-of-Year-Giving goal this year. We’re focusing on what makes us tic, what makes us unique, what makes us able to extend the offer of empowerment to the women we serve and work with.

Our supporters, you all, have been remarkably and astoundingly generous with your finances this year. We have never seen such an outpouring of financial donations as we have in 2018, and the plans we have for the next three years because of this abundance - oh, friends, we can’t wait to share!

But the foundation of who we are remains bras. And since we are in a good place donation-wise this year, we want to extend the invitation to partner with us for Giving Tuesday and End-of-Year-Giving in collecting and donating bras.

If we reach our goal of 30,000 bras by Dec 31st, we will have secured the next two entire shipments to our overseas partners. That means over 30 businesses will have inventory. That’s 30 families. 30 women. 30 people whose lives yours has played a part in this holiday season. People just like Maria.

Her story is one of determination, inspiration, and HOPE.

So clean out the drawers!

Gather friends for your Christmas party and have a bra and a buck be the “cover charge”. Hang brassieres on a tree in your shop window. Be creative! Have fun! But be generous.

And while our goal is 30,000 bras and $30,000 - the other beautiful part is that if you and your community meet the 30+30 goal, you have more finances to give generously! You can spread the holiday cheer, pass on the gratitude and generosity to other causes and other nonprofits that you love and support. We want to cultivate a spirit of generosity and sacrificial giving amongst our supporters and all we come in contact with. So even if it’s not FTG, please give somewhere this year. As one of our brave women once told us to share with supporters;

freethegirls
You can not get tired of giving,
because we’ve already shown you what we can do when you give.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We can’t wait to see all the bras come in from your efforts this year! Don’t forget to tag us on social media @freethegirlsbras so we can share your successes, too!


Call for Bras!

The holiday season is quickly coming upon us. For most of us, we begin planning for travel to see family, budgeting for gifts, decorating and baking and blaring Christmas music (some of us a little earlier than others!).

But for so many organizations, the holiday season means end-of-year-giving and ramping up for the most generous quarter of the year. Your inbox is about to be flooded with asks and requests, all worthy causes for incredible goals. We understand that, so we are going to try and make our goal and ask a little different this year, a bit more doable for those who want to give to multiple causes. What are we asking for?

Bras.

Bras are the very foundation upon which Free The Girls was built.

We believe (and have seen with our very eyes) that something simple, a donated bra, can be the very thing that changes the life of a sex trafficking survivor in a developing country.

That donated bra will provide her with inventory, inventory that’s part of her own small business selling bras while she gets healthy, receives job skills training, and other support. It’s not just a job - it’s a different future altogether.

freethegirlsbras

 Some of our favorite quotes from the women are:

“When I started selling bras, I changed my life.”

“When you give bras, you give life.”

 Our supporters have always given generously! Earlier this year we celebrated the milestone of one million bras collected! That’s over 80 women in 4 countries who have been able to take ownership of their finances and their choices because of those 1,000,000 bras.

Free The Girls has a vision for a hopeful future where trafficking is no longer a reality. But since that day isn’t here yet, so we are still (always!) in need of donated bras. We’ve been overwhelmed with the generosity of financial donations and fundraisers by our supporters this year. But with the increase of welcoming 10 new women into our program earlier this year, in order to meet our goals and provide each woman with the inventory she needs, we are in need of 30,000 bras before year’s end.

So that’s our holiday ask.

30 bras & 30 bucks from you.

If 1,000 of you sent in 30 bras and $30, we would hit our goal for our next two shipments. Last year, through a combination of donations through our website, Facebook fundraisers, and old fashioned checks and cash, you exceeded our giving goal of $20,000. We are confident you all can roll in the bras just like you did the funds!

So set up a Bra Tree like Little Man Ice Cream did last year, throw a holiday party where everyone brings a bra along with their bottle of wine or dessert like Teresa Anderson did for a holiday party, have your church collect bras next to their canned food drive for Thanksgiving, or whatever else you can think of. You all continue to amaze and amuse us with all the ways you get bra drives done!

If you’d like to donate or collect bras here are some ways to get started:

*Go through your lingerie drawer and see what you aren’t wearing, what no longer fits, or what never fit right in the first place and send them to us or find a drop-off near you!

* Do a bra drive! We offer great resources here.

* Commit to having your place of business, store, school, club, or other public location become an official Free The Girls drop-off location. See how here!

*New inventory. We are always open to exploring new partnerships with those in the lingerie industry who might have new inventory to donate. Send us an email at inventory@freethegirls.org

Once you get ready to mail those bras and bucks, let us know by completing our online donation form, found here: Bra Donation Form (It looks like a strange form, but we promise you, all your information is safe and secure!)

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 2.35.51 PM.png

 

When Free The Girls first began our vision was small. Small as in, “Let’s bring a couple hundred bras in a suitcase to Mozambique to help trafficking survivors” small. We have been exceedingly and abundantly blessed since then to have our vision increased. We are currently supporting programs in Mozambique, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, and we ship inventory to each of them at least once a year.

Our women continue to amaze us with what they can do when we are able to equip them with what they need to be able to start their own micro enterprise.

freethegirls

We can’t wait to see how you show your support over the next two months! We thank you in advance for your generosity and all those unmentionables!

 

 

7 New Businesses

7 New Businesses!!!


Last week was a week of celebration.  After 3 long years of emails, phone calls, Skype dates, tears and prayers, the Bra Selling Program in Costa Rica officially began with seven women starting their businesses last week.

freethegirlscr


The learning curve for selling bras can be tricky for some, but every woman has sold some of her inventory and one woman had almost sold her entire first bag of bras by Wednesday!!!  These women know how to hustle!  They had already completed 6 weeks of job skills training, and when they arrived on Monday to receive the bras, we heard they were so very excited!  

These words from our Program Partners back in February keep replaying in our minds:

"We have known so many women who were tricked into a life of prostitution and sex slavery, that financially see no way out of their current situations. The ability to provide stability, training, family and most of all HOPE to such a deeply wounded population is something we’ve been waiting for and hoping for for YEARS and will make a HUGE impact on the landscape of freedom for these women."

Thank you to all who helped make this possible!!! There are 7 new businesses out in the world because of you. 7 women who are taking to the streets to sell bras, not their bodies. 7 families beginning the long journey towards true freedom. 

This is why we do what we do.


If this inspires you, check out some of the ways you can get involved!