freedom

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.

Human Trafficking Awareness : What you CAN do.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and for some of us the truth of this issue may be common knowledge. To others, even today, the reality of human trafficking still comes as a shock. 

Regardless of our familiarity with the issue, to be confronted with the statistics is overwhelming to all of us: 

40.3 million people living in slavery today**.

29+ million of those being women and girls. 

403,000 people in the US alone.

The average age of entry into forced prostitution worldwide is under 17 years old.

The complex trauma related to human trafficking and exploitation is very difficult to overcome.

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These daunting facts can stun us and keep us complacent, static, or frozen- too overwhelmed to do anything. We may ask, “How can I impact such a BIG problem? Is it even possible?”

The truth is WE CAN make a difference. 

YOUR VOICE MATTERS. 

Your actions matter, and your choices matter. 

This is really good news in the face of one of the most horrible realities in human history.

We at Free The Girls love the fact that we get to invite you into the work of supporting survivors of human trafficking in real, tangible ways. With our unique model, we are seeing women regain independence, empowerment, and hope. 

In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’d like to invite you to join our Export Freedom Project. As we’re getting ready to send a huge shipment of bras to the continent of Africa, you can join in and follow the boxes of inventory - from our warehouse in Indiana, across the ocean into the hands of survivors in Mozambique! There are many steps in the process of getting your donated bras into the hands of women. Once they receive them, each woman will sustain her business with those bras! 

And the most beautiful part? 

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Not only is she creating a business, she’s creating a life - a life of freedom and hope. 

As we think about the journey of a bra… we can’t help but think about the journey of survivors of sex trafficking. It’s a journey from horrific trauma and oppression to reintegrating into the life they were meant to live - within their own family and community. The dividends of your impact are realized not only in women victoriously leading and providing for themselves, but also for generations to come. 

Through holistic reintegration programming and the economic opportunity to earn a safe income- we’re seeing survivors free to be restored to who they were designed to be- 

WHOLE,
WORTHY,
POWERFULLY FREE.

In order to join our Export Freedom Project, we’re inviting you to create your own Facebook fundraiser* for Free The Girls and invite your community to join in. We’re asking each person to set a goal of $200 -and when you reach your goal of $200, you’ll be added to our insider group of Export Freedom Partners! In this private Facebook group, you’ll be getting exclusive updates, photos, and information about our Mozambique program and the women in it. 

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By joining the Export Freedom Project, you can literally SEE your impact. And not only will you be inspired by the difference your impact can make, but you’ll be able to share the inspiration and impact with your friends and family who have joined you in your fundraiser. 

This opportunity is an exciting way to move from paralysis or being slightly engaged in this issue to making a tangible impact and to SEE results. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

*If you don’t have Facebook, don’t worry! You can still join in! Here’s another way you can participate. Once you start your fundraiser, just send us an email and us know you want to join EXPORT FREEDOM!

THANK YOU.

Thank you for taking a stand. Thank you for caring.

Thank you for choosing to make a mark on this issue of human trafficking.

IT MATTERS.

**https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang--en/index.htm

What Happens When You Donate a Bra to Free The Girls?

Ever wonder what happens to the thousands of bras we collect throughout the year? Well today, we have our lovely Inventory Manager, Pam sharing a post about this interesting process! 

Free The Girls collects.

In the past 12 months, we’ve collected about 183,000 bras! If you’ve donated a bra to Free The Girls that bra has passed through our bra collection site in Chesterton, Indiana (population
13,403). The collection site is inside of Duneland Community Church, which generously donates space to Free The Girls for the storage and processing of the bras. DCC’s senior pastor, Greg Arthur is the president of the board of Free The Girls. We receive about 3,500 bras every week, so that’s a lot of daily deliveries by the postal service, UPS, and Fed Ex. We also have a large drop box outside the building, so if you live locally or happen to be passing through the area, you can drop off your bras in person. If you contact us ahead of time we’d love to meet you and give you a tour!

Free The Girls parties.

All the bra boxes, envelopes, and bags are opened, sorted, and boxed for shipping during an event we call a “packing party.” Human trafficking is a heavy subject so we decided to call the time when we sort the bras a “packing party” to help bring some fun to what we do. Last year we had 12 packing parties to sort and pack those 183,000 bras. Except for me (Inventory Manager, Pam) we are entirely dependent on volunteers to do the work. A typical packing party happens once every four to six weeks and has 40-60 volunteers. A core group of about 25 help at nearly every packing party and the rest are men, women, and children who come from around the community, local churches, and groups. We’ve had volunteers from high school golf and soccer teams, Scouts, National Honor societies, Key clubs, Bible study groups, and Soroptimists, Every packing party features snacks and refreshments. Food makes volunteers happy :) and builds community as we spend time together.

Free The Girls likes bras and bucks.

We get super excited when we find a box that contains both bras and bucks. If you hear a cheer go up during a packing party, it’s because we’ve found one of those boxes! Bras and bucks are the lifeline to what we are doing to help trafficking survivors and we appreciate all our donors. Monetary donations enclosed in bra boxes will be deposited after the packing party when the box is opened and acknowledged within two weeks. Please remember to provide your email address so we can thank you via e-mail and put more bucks towards our programs rather than on postage costs.

Free The Girls says “thank you!”

When you send us bras we keep track! We cut the label off every box or save the insert inside. Whether via e-mail, social media shout-out, or snail mail, we love to say Thank You! Please help us out by using our online donation form so we know how to thank you! If you happen to mail your bras from a 3rd party shipping location please enclose a note in your box with your own return mailing address/ e-mail address. We also love to highlight our bra drop-off locations and donors on our social media pages. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and tag us at #freethegirls <3 

Free The Girls recycles.

Nothing is ever thrown away. We sell poor-quality bras to a recycler for pennies on the pound. We recycle all the cardboard boxes we receive. And the miscellaneous non-bra items (like
panties) that we receive are donated locally.

Free The Girls shares.

Last year I took bras that we were not able to use to two women's prisons in Illinois and Indiana, donated maternity bras to a pregnancy assistance shelter, and made several trips donating bras to a day program serving homeless and at risk women and kids.

Free The Girls ships.

We ship to each of our locations once a year. In the past 12 months we’ve shipped a total of 873 boxes: 140 to El Salvador (en route right now) 48 to Uganda, and 685 to Mozambique! Overseas shipping is one of our largest budget items. In addition to the actual transportation costs we purchase boxes, tape, labels, pallets, and shrink-wrap. We even have our own specially designed Free The Girls logo shipping boxes. Our boxes are made using waterproof adhesive to withstand the demands of overseas shipping and are built to have a high edge crush test rating so they don’t collapse en route. The boxes even have handholds to make it easier for them to be carried by the women! Every time we send a shipment overseas we let you, our friends and supporters, be part of the process by donating to an Export Freedom campaign. Export Freedom donors sponsor a box of bras and receive a series of special emails (with photos not seen by the general public) showing the progress of their box as it travels from Chesterton, Indiana into the hands of a trafficking survivor. Export Freedom campaigns happen just a few times per year, right now
you can still participate in Export Freedom El Salvador!
 

Free The Girls would love your help.

We always need volunteers to help at packing parties. If you’d like to volunteer at a packing party or bring a group, please contact me at pam@freethegirls.org

Free The Girls thanks YOU! 

Thank you for following along and using your voice, your time, your creativity to play your part as an Everyday Abolitionist! 

Be sure to follow us on Instagram to get some peeks at our warehouse and live bra packing parties! Please share this post with anyone you think might be interested!

Here's to more Freedom!

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