everyday abolitionists

The Impact of Community and How One Church Started a Meaningful Movement

Human trafficking.

Once you know about human trafficking – what it is, how it happens, and its after-effects - it becomes impossible to “un-know” these things. 

It’s a knowledge that can create a “holy discontent,” a dissatisfaction with the brokenness of this world that motivates us to take positive action to change the world.

Changing the world starts with taking that first step. It’s been five years since Free The Girls moved its bra collection site to Duneland Community Church in Chesterton, Indiana.  DCC’s commitment to fight trafficking initially began with the first step of simply saying “yes” to helping receive, sort, and pack bras for Free The Girls.  And that’s what we did. A group of friends got together every six weeks and sorted bra donations.

We decided to call our time together a “packing party” to make up for the fact that that the realities of trafficking are sad, scary, and anything but a party.

Over time our packing parties grew larger.  We began to receive more bras and we invited friends and others from the community to join us.  A leadership team formed. We started to serve lunch after the packing parties so we could talk and share more.  Our holy discontent grew as our trafficking knowledge increased.

Within the church community several felt called to do more. A group of Duneland Abolitionists formed and using the tools of International Justice Mission began to assess the problem of trafficking at the local level.  Another group called Just Love was begun to reach out and show genuine love to those working in the local strip clubs who are being exploited (though many of those women are not trafficked). One woman decided to operate a booth at a local seasonal market and sell the products of Women at Risk International. Others have run the Chicago Marathon, raising money for World Vision to build wells, knowing that those who have to walk miles for clean water access can be directly and indirectly vulnerable to trafficking.

Along the way we have shared meals and prayers, our ideas and our time because this scourge of human trafficking is something we can’t un-know.

So what might your holy discontent be? What breaks your heart? Is it orphans, refugees, the homeless? Maybe like us, it’s human trafficking.  So take that first step. Grab a friend or two and commit to doing a bra drive and/or a Facebook fundraiser. Read a book together about human trafficking and discuss it. Do an internet or Facebook search and find out more about local anti-trafficking efforts.  And if you live anywhere near northwest Indiana you are always invited to one of our packing parties! 

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”  (Bob Pierce)

 

 Guest blogpost written by Pam Gumns, FTG Inventory Manager and Packing Party Extraordinaire   

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Giving Tuesday

Have you heard about Giving Tuesday? 

Giving Tuesday is global giving movement.  Because if the world is going to come together for a global movement, shouldn’t it be for the sake of generosity?  Last year, 98 countries participated in Giving Tuesday and over 1.6 million people donated!!! 

Still want a bit more information?  Watch this video that explains a bit more.

We’ve never stated a goal for our End of Year Giving.  But we are going to this year.  Not because we’re greedy, not because some strategist told us to, but because we have a reason for this goal.  We have faces and names behind this goal.

We currently have a waiting list of 10 women in Maputo, Mozambique waiting to enter into our program, waiting to begin their own businesses, waiting to be empowered to call the shots in her own life and for her children, waiting to have a global family come alongside her on her journey towards true freedom. 

10 women.  10 families.

$20,000. 

That’s what it’s going to take.  $20,000 is our End of Year Giving goal.  This launches on Giving Tuesday (November 28th or the Tuesday after Thanksgiving for all our American friends!) and finishes on Dec. 31st.  It’s huge.  It’s lofty.  We’ve never raised that in 5 weeks before.  Truth be told, I’m nervous putting that number out for the world to see. 

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But these women are worth it.

And then I think, “But what if we raised it earlier than New Year’s Eve?  What if we raised it so we could tell the women before Christmas that they have a plan for 2018?  What if our Christmas present to them is a business?”

When I say “we” and “our”, I don’t mean the FTG staff or the Board of Directors.  I mean the collective us.  All of us.  You reading this.  Our 24,423 supporters on Facebook (think of if each person who liked us on Facebook donated $1?!?!  We’d surpass our goal!).  Our Instagram followers, those on our newsletter mailing list, the churches who receive our prayer guides, the Drop-off locations around North America who have leveraged their influence in their communities to spread the word.

We are in this together.  And why not be in it together on a day when the whole world is binding together in a magnificent show of generosity?

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So how do you do it?

We have a couple different options for you. 

1)    First, you can go straight to our site and donate online from your phone, tablet, or computer.

2)     Strapped for cash or want to expand your generosity influence by gathering your friends to also participate?  Start a Facebook fundraiser.  It’s incredibly easy. Seriously, hold a FB fundraiser for 1 day.  Create it, invite your friends, post about it, and you’ve done it!  (Some quick directions to do that: Go to your "home" page and scroll down. At the bottom left of the screen you'll see the word "CREATE". Under that, click "Fundraiser", pick your organization (hint..Free The Girls ;) ) and start raising money for a great cause!) Don’t have Facebook?  Start a campaign on our website and share through email to your contacts! 

3)    Spread the word and advocate.  We have some FTG Giving Tuesday at the bottom of this post! Download (or screenshot) and share them on social media- it's easy to use your circle of influence to benefit those women in Mozambique.

4)    Take an #UNselfie.  It’s a Giving Tuesday thing.  You’re showcasing your selflessness and your focus on others by being involved.  Print a sign (check the bottom of this post), scrawl the hashtag on a piece of paper, whatever you like- and tell the world why you care.  Share your heart and your passion for justice, restoration, and the power of many.

We would absolutely love for you to be a part of Giving Tuesday this year.  If it’s not with FTG, please support another organization or cause near and dear to your heart.  Because when the water rises, all boats float.

Happiest of seasons, friends!  Have a blessed Thanksgiving,

Courtney Skiera-Vaughn, Executive Director

 


P.S.

Here are a few graphics you can utilize during #GivingTuesday to spread the love on social media! Don't forget to tag #freethegirlsbras

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Everyday Abolitionist Q + A with Danielle Snyder in El Salvador

“I love that I have the opportunity to have a front row seat to see someone heal, and grow. I can see confidence and independence move into the lives of these women and that is truly an extraordinary thing to see.”

Danielle and her family live in El Salvador and run a ministry called Mission to El Salvador. Danielle is our program partner in El Salvador for Free The Girls and has a lot of wisdom and insight from her years of working in this position. We wanted to take a moment to ask Danielle some questions so you could get to know her a little better! 

Q + A 

Q. How long have you been in El Salvador and what brought you there?  

A. I have been in El Salvador for almost 8 years. We came after several years of volunteering in our free time with project in El Salvador because we saw a need for more resources for vulnerable individuals on the street in San Salvador. The country and people are so beautiful and our family completely fell in love with El Salvador! 

 

Q. What inspired you to become involved in the work of helping survivors of trafficking and exploitation? 

A. When we began our work on the streets, I met several women who I realized were being trafficked and exploited in El Salvador. I began to learn all I could about human trafficking, specifically in El Salvador. I still remember the first women who shared her story with me as I stood talking with her on a street corner. From that moment, I knew I had to do something. 

 

Q. How did you get connected with Free The Girls? 

A. Before our family moved to El Salvador, we met Dave Terpstra while his family was preparing to move to Mozambique. At the time, we had no idea that we would eventually be involved with survivors of human trafficking but as we began that work, he reached out and asked me to try a pilot program similar to what was happening in Mozambique. We already had several micro-enterprises at our site, so it seemed like a natural fit. 

 

Q. What are some hard things you see survivors up against in the area where you live? 

A. Violence is the hardest thing that survivors deal with. There is a constant threat of violence in their lives. It threatens their personal safety, and also their businesses. 

 

Q. When you think of the many people you've worked with, what is one story that comes to mind that brings you joy and keeps you motivated? 

A. There are many women that keep me motivated to keep moving forward, but this past year we have seen some major changes happening in the life of one of the women in our program. She was trafficked as a young girl, and now as a young woman she is doing her very best to raise her own daughter. Just this past year, she asked us if we would help her to learn how to read. Seeing her faithfully come to her literacy class every week, and continue to fight to move forward for her daughter has been incredibly encouraging and has brought so much joy to me and to many others on our team.

 

Q. If you had a superpower, what would it be? 

A. There are so many things I would love to change…the violence and the poverty that I see so often, but I think in my personal life I would love to be able to somehow make more time. More time for the women, more time for our organization, but also more time for my husband and kids, and more time to just think about, grieve when I need to, and celebrate as much as I would like all that I experience in this work. 

 

Q. What is something you love about El Salvador and the work that you do. 

A. I love so much about El Salvador, the volcanoes, the black sand beaches, the food! I also love that I have the opportunity to have a front row seat to see someone heal, and grow. I can see confidence and independence move into the lives of these women and that is truly an extraordinary thing to see. 

 

Q. Who is a hero to you or someone you look up to in your life? 
A.  I have a lot of heroes in my life in all different areas, but in this fight against human trafficking I must say that my sister-in-law Erica Chevalier has been a hero for me. She has cheered me on since I first even began to question how to get into this work, and she has been a constant voice of life and hope speaking into the work that I am doing. She organized a group of “Praying Aunties” that pray every single day for the women in our program and she always encourages me to keep moving forward, and that the work I am doing is worth the hard effort of facing the many obstacles. She also cares deeply for each woman that comes into our program, and she helps me to celebrate every small victory in the fight against human trafficking in El Salvador.

“The women in El Salvador have different lives because of Free The Girls, and I would love for FTG supporters to know we are all on the same team bringing this amazing opportunity to women in El Salvador and around the world. ”

 

Q. As someone who is 'on the ground' doing this work daily, what is something you'd like to tell supporters of Free The Girls? 

A. I would like FTG supporters to know that you are making a difference. It’s hard to see that when you don’t see faces or talk personally to the women in the programs. Your effort to organize bra drives, your donations toward shipping and program costs are so needed and so valuable. The women in El Salvador have different lives because of Free The Girls, and I would love for FTG supporters to know we are all on the same team bringing this amazing opportunity to women in El Salvador and around the world. 

 

Q. What would you tell a young person who's wanting to find a way to be involved in the fight against human trafficking? 

A.  I would tell them to go for it! I really didn’t know much about human trafficking until I met someone who had been affected by it. It was then that I began to learn all I could about human trafficking in my context. I think anyone interested in joining the fight should be a student of the context around them, learn all they can, and look for quality organizations making a difference in their area. Everyone can help in their own way! 

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”Everyone can help in their own way!”

 

If you'd like to get involved, we have our EXPORT FREEDOM campaign for El Salvador happening now.

You can sponsor a box a bras that will be shipped directly to a survivor in Mission to El Salvador's program - and she'll be able to make a safe and sustainable income for herself and her children. This makes a real difference and we'd love for you to partner! 

A big thanks to Danielle and her family + team in El Salvador! We're so honored and grateful to partner with Mission to El Salvador

 

Everyday Abolitionists / Thoughts from our Staff

 

Hello from the Free The Girls Staff!

January is Human trafficking awareness month, and We fully and whole-heartedly believe that each of us has a part to play in eradicating this issue.  

We wanted to take a moment to share a little about our hearts and what inspires us to not only do this work with Free The Girls, but to be abolitionists in our everyday lives.

Thanks for being here! 

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Courtney Skiera-Vaughn, Executive Director: 

I believe in the work of Free The Girls because I have seen how economic empowerment changes the trajectory of a woman and her family's lives! I have survivors of sex trafficking amongst my friends, amongst my heroes, and I think striving and working for freedom is one of the most noble things I can do with my life.

What brought you to the issue of human trafficking? The overwhelmingness of it all - I knew I just had to do something.

What is something simple you do that impacts the world? I donate bras! ;) I also research my purchases and try to buy fair-trade and slave-free as much as possible.  And I try to educate myself and engage in meaningful conversations with others that are willing to learn.  The great thing is we ALL have a part to play in making the world a better place.

What would you say to someone who wants to involved in the work of changing the face of modern day slavery?  Learn.  Read, discuss, ask questions, and volunteer.  Get your hands dirty after you've educated yourself on the issue. 

I would also say that we need YOU in this work.  YOU have a particular set of skills and passions and talents that are needed in changing the world for the better.  Don't think you haven't anything to contribute.  Come join.

Pam Gumns, Inventory Manager : 

 As the Free The Girls Inventory Manager, it’s my responsibility to maintain oversight for the processing of all bra donations and the shipping of bras to our overseas programs.  I depend on a bevy of volunteers as we currently receive around 18,000 bras per month! My church, Duneland Community Church in Chesterton, Indiana, donates space to receive and store all those bras. Our small church is totally committed to the cause and I am fortunate to live in community with others who care about fighting trafficking in big and small ways. 

As an individual I try to live as though my decisions make a difference – because they do!  Here are some ways I am involved: I believe that prayer changes things and changes us, so I pray regularly for Free The Girls, those in our program, and those enslaved around the world. 

I use my unique voice to educate, encourage others, and spread the word,

 even if it's just sharing the National Human Trafficking Hotline phone number (888-373-7888).  Labor and sex trafficking are related so I use my buying power to make informed decisions about the products I buy.  Are they made slave-free? I check slaveryfootprint.org which is a huge eye-opener.  I try to buy free-trade products (especially chocolate). 

 

Selah Davenport, Operations Manager:

Very simply, I am a child of God and I feel it is my privilege to do what I can to empower those marginalized and help give a voice to those who do not have the same opportunities I do.  I was first introduced to human trafficking when I read the book "Half The Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  It set me on the path to learn more about what fuels this egregious human rights abuse and how I can do my part. I learned that it is an issue that touches many communities, near and far. Along with serving as the Operations Manager of Free The Girls, I also volunteer with a local social enterprise employing survivors of sex trafficking in my city.  I've also started to research and learn more about Fair Trade products and companies so I can work towards being a conscious consumer and not by clothes or products produced by slave labor. I think the best advice I can give to someone who wants to get involved in field is to understand that you don't have to travel to an under developed country to make an impact.  The best place to start would be educating yourself...read books, watching documentaries...anything that raises your awareness. 

Then look in your community for ways to get involved...act locally, think globally.  Of course I must encourage supporting Free The Girls, we offer a tangible way for people to directly impact the lives of the brave women in our programs!

 

Abby Mortenson, Creative Director: 

Why do you believe in the work you are doing? I'm so grateful for the freedoms I have and I can't imagine having that freedom stripped away. I feel like I am called to stand up on behalf of those who are experiencing exploitation, trafficking, and forced labor. 

What brought you to the issue of human trafficking? About 8 years ago I read a book by Gary Haugen called The Good News About Injustice. I was stunned and outraged at the facts of slavery around our world and so I started researching human trafficking locally and globally to find out ways I could make a difference. 

What is something simple you do that impacts the world? I look for ways to get involved with anti-trafficking organizations. I've volunteered with The Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado, Restore Innocence, and now work with Free The Girls. I try to spread awareness about the issue and encourage others to find ways to get involved. I've also had the privilege of mentoring a few girls in the U.S. who've experienced sexual exploitation.  

What would you say to someone who wants to involved in the work of changing the face of modern day slavery?

There are so many ways to be involved. The issue is huge but it's not too big for each person to contribute. Use your specific gifts! You can pray for people and organizations. Share the truth with people, donate bras, give financially, buy fair trade, be on the lookout and report any suspicious activity, join a task force. Little things can make a big difference and we all have something to give!

We at Free The Girls love to talk about #EverydayAbolitionists. We believe that everyone can do something to work towards a more free and hopeful world. Although we are staffed in the United States, our partners and supporters are all over the world. We are proud to be a part of this global movement to stop human trafficking, and to see to it that survivors have a chance at true FREEDOM. Our job is to empower people to give and to help support safe economic opportunity for women in Mozambique, Uganda, and El Salvador.

Please check out our website for more information, and connect with us on Instagram or Facebook! We'd love to hear how you use your everyday lives to make a difference in the world!  So tell us!  How are YOU an #EverydayAbolitionist?