¡Pura Vida, Mae!

By Carson King, Free the Girls Intern

What does theLORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

I first experienced the wonders of Costa Rica during my senior year of high school. My
small Christian school planned a mission trip to the tropical location, and many students
signed up, eager for the warm weather, breathtaking mountain views, and rich culture
that awaited them. Having studied Spanish for many years, I was ecstatic to serve the
Lord in a beautiful new way, adventuring to far away lands in hopes of seeing palm
trees and maybe even a sloth! Yet, God had a much different trip in store than I
anticipated. Known for its sandy beaches and “pura vida” lifestyle, tourists often flock to
this Central American paradise’s secluded islands, animal encounters, and zipline
adventures. But something felt wrong with this picture as just around the block from
these elegant resorts lay injustice upon injustice. My heart broke seeing these realities
as I took in the immense brokenness.



Yet when I interacted with these so-called ‘impoverished” people, I was blown away by
their unexplainable joy and love for the Lord. Though they were poor in provisions, they
were rich in spirit. Despite their discouraging circumstances, they always persevered
and trusted God to provide in supernatural ways. I’ll never forget driving away from the
small town of Guarari as the little hands of neighborhood children waved goodbye,
smiles as big as the sun shining across their faces. In that moment, I knew I would be
back. My heart had found its home.

I returned to my soul country twice in 2017, once for a mission trip and again in
September to study abroad in the vibrant city of San José. Eager to serve my new
community, I connected with Face of Justice Ministries, an anti-human trafficking
ministry near the capital city. Before my trip, I heard the word “trafficking” thrown around
in my ministry classes and occasional news broadcasts, but I had no concept of the
scope of the issue. Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, which opens up the market for
sex tourism substantially. Men and women from all over the globe flock to Costa Rica to
find solace in the temporary comforts trafficking victims have to offer clients. Face of
Justice’s goal is to bring light and hope to these dark places through prayer,
intervention, and restoration. I walked the streets with johns, pimps, and prostitutes on a
weekly basis, offering coffee and cookies as I listened to their heartbreaking stories and
witnessed the complexities of the sex industry firsthand. At first, workers rolled their
eyes at me, a blonde Midwesterner with a “white savior complex” who acted like she
understood. Yet as I continued to serve and invest, their hearts were softened as we
laughed, broke bread, and shared life together. Though we came from vastly different
places, the power of love bound us together. I learned that these individuals were more
than victims, more than what had been stolen from them. Each person’s unique story
carried pain and sorrow, but also beauty, love, and grace. There was hope in their eyes
as they dreamed about the future, what could be if only they could sustain themselves
without having to turn to the streets. At the end of my three months in Costa Rica, my
heart was heavy, but I strangely missed the streets. I craved the raw vulnerability and
authenticity and prayed that God would provide in bringing freedom to these workers.



Six months later, I am astounded to say that my prayers were answered ten-fold.
Without knowing the Costa Rica program was in its developing stages, I decided to
intern with Free the Girls, a brilliant non-profit that directly answered the deepest
prayers of my heart for these desperate women.

As we have labored to set up this program, I am reminded that these women are not just statistics or theoretical people.

I know these women, prayed over these women, and cried out for their very liberation. I
pray that each of your hearts would break for their deep, lovely, intelligent, kind, silly
souls and that you would love and embrace them as we launch our new Costa Rica

Let’s open doors and proclaim freedom for these women as chains are being broken in Costa Rica!

The Redemptive Power of Love ... or Doubling Your Impact Financially and Globally!

If you follow us on social media at all, you've seen us talking about the launch of our new Costa Rica program! We are incredibly excited about it, but we do need your help!  $30,000 seems overwhelming at times, but when you stop to think that amount will be changing 8 women's lives plus their families - well, it seems much more manageable.  That's only $3,750 per woman!  For an entire year!  Surely, we can get this done!!!

As I was watching the royal wedding a few weekends ago while brainstorming ideas for this fundraising campaign, the words from Bishop Michael Curry stopped me:

The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way."

There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over-sentimentalize it. There's power, power in love....

I'm talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world...  Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.

Ooh, that just resonates with us.  Unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change the world.  We believe this with every fiber of our beingAnd we are asking you to demonstrate that unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive type of love for these 8 Costa Rican women who are eagerly waiting to exit commercial sex and to begin walking into true freedom and the rest of their lives.

image1 (5).jpeg

Now, we already have some incredible businesses that have stepped up and partnered with us in this endeavor.  We have an anonymous matching grant for $7500.  Yes - when you give $50, that actually is $100.  So by the time this matching grant is gone, we'll be at $15,000 - which is halfway!!! And you can't beat that!  We are so grateful for this generosity and hope you take advantage of doubling your financial impact!

We're also so humbled with this collaboration of Threads Worldwide.  We have had a business-crush on Threads for years, and they are the nicest, loveliest people you'll ever meet!  Here's a bit more about this incredible company: "Threads Worldwide empowers women around the world by connecting them through business. Women in the US start social impact businesses selling jewelry handcrafted by women entrepreneurs and artisans in countries like Guatemala, Uganda and India. Check out their incredible work and how YOU can get involved by shopping, hosting, or even.. making money by making a difference as a Fair Trade Partner."

They have so graciously partnered with us in offering Gifts of Gratitude for those who help us with this endeavor.  Their vision aligns so closely with ours - sustainable employment and dignifying empowerment rather than handouts - that we were thrilled to be able to offer these as tokens of our appreciation, knowing that these gifts are helping their women entrepreneurs even as we are setting up our Costa Rican women to be entrepreneurs.  Now, these are limited so when they're gone, they're gone!

When you give at least $50 to this campaign, you'll receive this gorgeous family bracelet set of two (you can always purchase additional bracelets from their website directly!).  Made by women in Guatemala, we're keeping with both the Central America as well as the family theme.  You can keep one and give one to your child to remind them of the redemptive power of love and the importance of generosity.

When you give at least $200, you'll receive this stunning necklace.  Our staff is totally obsessed with this gorgeous piece!  Also crafted in Guatemala, with the deadly volcano having just erupted over the weekend, you can show your love and support for Guatemalans while being able to tell others about your impact on the lives of women in Costa Rica as well.

For those who have a heart for these women but who might not be financially able to donate currently, you have a place in this story as well!  When you create a fundraiser through our website (click here to start your own fundraiser for this campaign or email selah@freethegirls.org so our Operations Manager can help you walk through the steps!) and raise $500 or more, you will receive this elegant wristlet clutch.  These were handmade by women in Bolivia who, just like our Costa Rican women, were given the chance of employment to sustain their families upon leaving the sex industry.  

Aren't these all just stunning?!  Giving $50 (which matches to $100!) and reminding your family about global generosity.  Giving $200 (which matches to $400!) and supporting women entrepreneurs in Guatemala, some of whom may be relying on their business more than ever right now.  Fundraising through our website for $500 gets your community involved and supports previously sexually exploited women in both Bolivia AND Costa Rica.  You do have the ability to opt out of these gifts, but remember, these gifts are limited!  (But you should totally go check out Threads Worldwide's website to see all their other incredible products!)

Remember - there is power to change the world.  Power from unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love.  Join us today in showing these 8 women in Costa Rica that they are truly loved.

Click here to donate now!


image2 (3).jpeg

The Current Landscape for these Women

Costa Rica is aptly named; it is the rich coast of Central America.  With a thriving economy for the upper and upper-middle classes, a booming vacation market, and world-renowned beaches, the number of tourists and businesspeople who come to Costa Rica each year is over half the country’s population.  Unfortunately, it is also a country popular for sex tourism, known as “the Bangkok of the West”. 

This is certainly a different scenario than FTG usually works with as prostitution is legalized in this country.  With this legalization of prostitution, the number of tourists who show up on vacation with an intent to procure a person for their sexual services is estimated at around 80,000 people a year!  That’s not taking into account the johns who are citizens or ex-pats who live in the country who solicit sex as a part of the cultural norm - just those who travel purposefully for the sex tourism!  There are no laws against prostitution or against solicitation, only against pimping (or having a third-party in transactional sex) and any exploitation involving minors (under 18). 

However, just as in other countries where this type of sex work is legal, rates of trafficking often increase with the demand of sex tourists rather than decrease due to legal regulation.  Our partners in Costa Rica, Face Of Justice, estimate that 99% of the individuals in prostitution that they work with began as young adolescents.  As a reminder, there is no such thing as a child prostitute - if you're a minor and you're in commercial sex, you are, by definition, a trafficking victim.

There are over 300 brothels in the central San Jose district alone.  There are generally two sides to prostitution in San Jose.  There is the section of town known as Gringo Gulch, the higher end commercial sex neighborhood popular with Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.  These brothels often house the 18-35 year olds - the beautiful and young and “desirable” women.  The women working here are generally paid more, have safety measures in place, and operate within the “party scene”.  However, when the ladies “age out” or become less profitable or desirable in the eyes of the johns/clients, they are forced out of this area and many end up in the Zona Roja, or the Red Zone.

All of the women we will be working with come from the Zona Roja.

When asked to describe the Red Zone, Elizabeth, the co-founder and Executive Director of Face Of Justice said:

 “It’s just havoc there.  It is where the lowest of the lowest of the lowest of the lowest, the poorest, the most abused – it’s just this cesspool pretty much of abuse – drug abuse, sexual abuse, prostitution.” 

This is where the tourists and ex-pats largely avoid, the johns being locals and nationals.  Drug-deals happen in broad daylight, it’s known to criminals as the place to hideout after committing a crime, violence occurs openly and is regularly ignored. 

The women working in prostitution line the streets beginning at 9 am.  However, they make their way indoors around 5 pm as it’s just too dangerous to be outside after dark.  The women in this area that FOJ works with range in age from 14-82, with far less 18-35 year olds as women in this age range are often working in the brothels rather than the streets.  The 8 women that will be in our program are in their 30s or older.  Some of the older ladies have been in sexual exploitation for over 30 years, never being offered an alternative.

Because of the cultural norm of commercial sex, the FOJ staff said that for many girls and women within this country, their sexuality is their identity, that they don’t have a self-identity until they have become sexualized.  This fact along with having seen their own mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and sisters engage in prostitution, many of the women see this as their only viable option to take care of themselves and their families.  They’ve been groomed by family members, “loverboys” from the gangs, and the sex economy in their country to not see other options.  

Some of these women are third or fourth generations stuck in this cycle.  We're talking about breaking generational chains of oppression, poverty, and exploitation.  It won't be easy - but it's worth it.

When asked what the impact of FTG will be for these women, Elizabeth said that by giving these women the tools to empower themselves, it will allow them to dream, that they will discover their value and their true identity.  “This is a real and tangible way to offer these gals a way to take home food for their kids and also help them see that freedom is they can have options.”

Join us as these women go from a history of abuse and oppression to true freedom!  

A New Landscape of Freedom - A HUGE Announcement!

We have teased you long enough!

After nearly three years of countless emails filled with bra-math and customs questions, international text messages and FaceTimes, and, yes, tears of frustration and many prayers, we are incredibly excited to announce the opening of Free The Girls Costa Rica!

One of the precious women in Costa Rica who will be in our program.

One of the precious women in Costa Rica who will be in our program.

Friends, the 8 women that are starting this program are incredible.  They are strong, resilient, creative, and filled with hope.  Our local partner, Face Of Justice, runs an excellent facility and program.  Here’s a quote from them on this new venture:

“We are SO EXCITED to begin offering the Free The Girls program in Costa Rica!  Costa Rica is a country of great promise and beauty with an underlying skeleton in the closet that is trafficking and the sexual exploitation of men, women, and children.  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.”

The landscape of freedom for these women.

When I first read those words, I wept.  What a powerful way to phrase this idea.  A landscape is something vast – it’s not only where you stand but it’s your horizon, from the furthest point you can see all the way to where your toes touch the earth.  It’s where you are situated.  It’s all around you, it’s a way to orient yourself, a way to describe how you are positioned and where you are.

A landscape of freedom.

A FOJ staff member with another precious woman beginning our program.

A FOJ staff member with another precious woman beginning our program.

This is what we are working towards, friends.  And this is where we are asking you to be a part of this.

Today, we are launching a fundraising campaign to get this Costa Rica program up and running for the first 12-18 months.  You all showed up for our End-of-Year Giving Campaign in a way we’ve never seen before, and because of you, 10 new women were brought into our Mozambique program.  Now is your chance to be involved in something new, something never seen before in Costa Rica.

Quote from one of our new women in Costa Rica.  Handlettering piece from volunteer Brittany Newton

Quote from one of our new women in Costa Rica.

Handlettering piece from volunteer Brittany Newton

“I’m going to be able to move on because this is going to make me a new person.”

This is what you’re can be a part of.

We have boxes of bras ready to go.  We have 8 women poised to wake up in the morning and, instead of walking to the Red Zone in San Jose to sell their bodies, go out into the community as businesswoman and sell bras.  We have our partners, keen to walk through this new journey to this landscape of freedom with them. 

Will you join us?

We are looking for $30,000.  We have some plans in the works including a matching grant, some incentive gifts when you give a certain amount, and some other fun ideas that we will be rolling out in the next couple weeks.  But let’s start this off with a bang!  (Do note that we will still honor your gift with the incentive if you give today!)

These women are worth it. 

Be on the lookout for more information about this Costa Rica program including what the current landscape looks like for these women and how we are dreaming this new landscape of freedom pans out.

But in the meantime, click here to start this journey!

Stories from the Field: A trip to El Salvador

By Pam Gumns, Inventory Manager and Sorter-of-Bras-Extraordinare


I recently returned from a 6-day trip to El Salvador. My co-worker, Free the Girls' Operations
Manager Selah Davenport, was my travel companion. This was our first opportunity to visit one
of our international programs. There were so many highlights, it’s hard to know where to begin,
but a list seems appropriate:

1) First on my list was meeting Evelyn, our Free The Girls' Program Manager in El
Salvador. Evelyn isn’t just the woman who distributes the bras. She knows the women in
our programs well, maintains close contact with them, and provides ongoing support
and encouragement. Evelyn is beautiful inside and out; she is simply a gem.

R to L : Selah, Pam, Evelyn

R to L : Selah, Pam, Evelyn

2) Getting to know the women in our program was delightful. My Spanish is limited and so
was their English, so we had most of our conversations translated, but we even
communicated through pictures we drew, and we came to find out that a hug needs no translation. One day we threw a Mother’s Day party, complete with gifts and cupcakes to decorate. We learned things about each other, but mostly we learned we are all just women. We each have our own particular hurts, and brokenness and sorrows, but underneath...

we all want the same things – to be good moms, to provide good futures for our kids, and to live whole and healthy lives.

3) The Bra Selling Program really works! Of course I knew this to be true, but I now have a much better grasp of what the Bra Selling Program means and how it really is changing lives.
By selling bras and producing a regular, stable income, 

the women are economically empowered and able to provide not just bare necessities, but a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.

For them the peripheral benefits of steady employment include things like the ability to receive ongoing counseling and support, something that doesn’t happen if you are constantly trying to figure out where the next meal is coming from.

It’s real and it’s true: Free The Girls provides women with the ability to live lives of true freedom!

4) In a category all its own was the amazing privilege of being present when our most
recent container of bras was delivered. Being there when it arrived wasn’t something
we had planned ahead of time. Indeed if we had tried to plan it, then it most certainly
wouldn’t have worked out. But at 7pm the night before we were leaving to return
home, the truck pulled up with its cargo of 200 carefully packed Free The Girls boxes. I
am not going to lie, I cried. I had to as I thought of the Indiana volunteers working to
sort and pack and load those boxes and then being able to see the back of that
container opened and be part of this empowering human chain – passing the boxes to each other from the back of the truck to their upstairs storage room.


It was a holy moment for me.

International shipping requires equal parts knowledge, art, science, and prayer with a
healthy dose of patience! After seeing what it looks like from the receiving end, I have new appreciation for the good work done by our program partners, Mission to El Salvador and our shipping and logistics experts at L R International.






5) El Salvador is a beautiful country. We made time during our trip for a hike around El
Boquerón National Park, and a trip to the beach.

Taking time to practice healthy rhythms of work and rest and good self-care are important ways we take care of ourselves so we can do the work we do.

Photo May 05, 1 29 33 PM.jpg

6) The people! Without exception everyone I met was kind and friendly and blessed me on
my way. People warned me ahead of time to “be safe,” but I never felt unsafe while I
was there.

7) Although it was a trip to visit our Free The Girls program, we were able to participate in
more of the work of our partner organization, Mission to El Salvador (MTES). I can’t say enough good things about MTES and Jon and Danielle Snyder who run it. In a country with few social safety nets they are casting their nets wide in their community to help the homeless, the hungry, deportees, former gang members, minors with addictions, and trafficking survivors. I cringe a bit even writing that sentence, as those words feel like “labels” and they are faces with names, children of God just like me. MTES is doing the hard daily work and would appreciate our prayers (and Facebook likes too!)

I brought blessings and greetings with me from the US. Now I bring them back to you from our program and El Salvador: 
Dios te bendiga (God bless you),