free the girls

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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FTGgivingtuesdayabolitionist

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MINI BRAlapalooza

We love BRAlapalooza and want you to join! 

We had a blast last year at our BRAlapalooza events in Denver, Colorado and the Chicago-area! We're so grateful for all who attended in support of our mission and vision of seeing girls and women free to live full and restored lives! 

 

This year, we're doing a MINI BRAlapalooza presented and hosted by our friends at Schomp MINI on Thursday June 29th at 6:00pm! Head over after work to take in a heavenly Colorado sunset from the gorgeous rooftop view! Enjoy heavy apps, drinks, mini desserts, live auction, mini golf, along with other games and plenty of prize opportunities!

photo via: groupon

photo via: groupon

Photo courtesy of Schomp MINI

Photo courtesy of Schomp MINI

The Schomp Mini rooftop (photo above) is the perfect space for an evening out! We're so grateful for them and excited to hang with all of you wonderful people!

 

Our Fall BRAlapalooza will once again be presented by Schomp Automotive and held at the historic Turnhalle at the Tivoli on Saturday, November 11th at 6:00pm. Enjoy a delicious buffet dinner, drinks, dessert, live auction, pick-a-prize auction, wine pull, and other games! Tickets for this bigger event will go on sale later this summer but you can bundle tickets for BOTH events if you buy before June 29th!

Both events will celebrate the women in our programs as they journey towards true freedom—and you are invited to CELEBRATE.

Tickets are only $35 for mini-BRAlapalooza and if you want to plan ahead and get your tickets for our Fall Bralapalooza, you can save 10% —buy tickets for MINI Bralapalooza below for $35 or both events for just $100!

We can't wait to CELEBRATE with you! 

 

Honoring the Mothers in our Lives

Mother's Day is a time to honor and show our gratitude for the mothers we've been blessed to have in our lives. You may be celebrating your own mother, a mother-in-law, or someone who has been a mother to you. Maybe she's a sister, and aunt, or a friend. 

You could give flowers as a token of appreciation (we love flowers, too) or maybe a little gift, but what if you could give a gift that honored mothers in other parts of the world? What if your gift could bring joy and blessing to more than just one mother? 

For some of the women in our program, their children are their proudest accomplishment. I'm sure if you're a mom, you would most likely agree. The relationship of mother and child is one of the deepest and truest bonds - and it's something to celebrate! As we consider the women in our program and what they've been through (sexual exploitation, gang violence, poverty, injustice, to name a few...) we are amazed at the strength and tenacity they show in providing a safer life for their children. The love and support they give their children despite their circumstances is inspiring to us all. 

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Honoring our mothers and theirs. Give the gift of freedom today!

By giving a gift in honor of the mother in your life, you're bringing freedom and hope to a survivor in our program. Your gift helps our mission of holistic reintegration for survivors of sex trafficking.  

We'd love to take this opportunity to invite you to give the gift of Freedom for Mother's Day. If you make a donation to Free The Girls in honor of a mom (and the mothers in our program), you're supporting our mission to provide safe economic opportunity and holistic reintegration to survivors of trafficking - many of which are mothers striving to give the best to their kids. 

We'd be honored if you'd give a gift in Mom's name today! 

Happy Mother's Day to you and yours! 

If you'd like a downloadable card that you can gift to mom on Mother's Day, just get in touch! We'll send it right away. E-mail Abby at media@freethegirls.org 

 

Being a Woman in El Salvador (Part III)

“Violence is an obstacle that prevents women from developing their own initiatives, and economic activities.”                       

-Ana Elena Badilla, UN Women representative

 

This is a guest post from our wonderful partner program in El Salvador. You can see the original post along with Spanish translation over at Mission To El Salvador's blog

You can also read Part I here and Part II here

"In El Salvador, violence is a significant risk factor for women and a very real obstacle to their personal and economic development. The gangs which control so much of the country, plus the deeply entrenched machismo, create an environment where women are not safe in their own neighborhoods.

Gang control is so pervasive in neighborhoods around El Salvador, that many girls are forced into sexual slavery as girlfriends of local gang leaders. The girls have no choice in the matter…they must join the gang or be killed. The problem has become so grave that young girls are fleeing El Salvador, and other countries in the region, with the hopes of finding safety in Mexico or the United States. According to this article, 32,142 females fled the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) in the first 9 months of 2016. One out of every 3 of those females were girls under the age of 18. Since 2014, 15,000 girls under 18 have been detained by immigration officials. Violence is a major factor in their decision to leave. There is truly a refugee crisis fueled by the real threat of sexual slavery facing underage girls in Central America.

Forced sexual exploitation by criminal gangs is nothing more than modern day slavery. Urmela Bhoola works with the U.N. to combat human trafficking and she had this to say about the issue, “The forced recruitment of girls and young women into gang-related activities, and especially being forced into prostitution through providing ‘conjugal visits’ to gang members in prison, are extreme forms of sexual exploitation and human degradation that involve exercising powers akin to the right of ownership over these individuals.”

Is there a future for these women that have suffered such violence? Is there healing to be found for families and communities? We dare to hope that the answer is yes.

Some women who have been exploited by gangs eventually find their way out, and begin to walk a path toward freedom. These women are now our clients and we are honored to serve them. In our partnership with Free The Girls, we work to provide economic stability for women who are survivors of exploitation.

Every woman has a different story…maybe she aged out of the gangs, went to jail, or was able to get away from the situation. We have also found that every woman has a different dream.

Ingrid* got pregnant at a young age at the hands of her “boyfriends” and after a few kids found herself aging out of the gang. She also found herself with no job, and no economic security at all. She started selling bras, and gained enough confidence and sales experience to eventually find full-time work.

Carmen* was recruited as a young girl into her neighborhood gang. Saying “no” was not an option and before she knew it, she was in jail because of the gang lifestyle. That eventually proved to be her ticket out. She started selling bras, and she was really good at it. Today she has her own place, supports her children, and does it all completely on her own.

The road to freedom is a complex one.

Economic stability for these women is absolutely key as they are at a high risk of being re-trafficked. But they also need a supportive environment, access to counseling, and opportunities to learn how to manage finances and care for their children in a healthy way. We are working to provide these things and give these girls the best possible chance of success.

Being enslaved and exploited is not the dream that girls have in El Salvador. Too often, it has become their brutal reality. But we know that even out of the darkest ashes beauty can rise, and we have been privileged to see these women take on the difficult task of working toward their own freedom in every sense of the word.

As we wrap up this blog series, we thank you for supporting these women through our work. We ask you to pray for these women as they fight so strongly and bravely for their freedom. Watching them heal and grow is truly a beautiful thing to see."

*Name has been changed.   

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?