1 Million Bras!

freethegirls

A million bras!

1,000,000! I mean what does a million even look like? A million miles is about 2 round trips back and forth from here to the moon! So we celebrate the amazing over the moon fact that you, our faithful donors, have made it possible for us to collect over a million bras!

In the beginning, our bra collecting was done in Denver by FTG co-founder Kimba Langas. Bras were stored in places like her basement and garage, and later at a storage shed, a friend’s garage, and a charity who loaned us extra storage space.  By the end of 2012, we officially moved the Bra Collection Site to Duneland Community Church in Chesterton, Indiana. At first we counted every bra, stacking them in piles of 10 as we packed them in boxes. But it quickly became clear that continuing to do that would be neither practical nor efficient. So we began to weigh the finished boxes of bras and use “bra math” to determine the number of bras we had collected. “Bra math” is one of my favorite parts of my job and involves figuring out how things how many bras fit in a box, how many bras we receive each month, and how many more we need to collect to be able to ship to one of our program locations.

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Fun FTG bra math facts:

1,080,000 approximate number of bras collected to date by free The Girls

200= the average number of bras that fit in a FTG box

693 = number of boxes shipped to Mozambique in 2018

180 = number of boxes shipped to El Salvador in 2018

40 = number of boxes shipped to Costa Rica in 2018

30= average number of volunteers helping at each “packing party” to process, sort, and pack boxes

To be honest though, the most important bra math number is “1.” And that’s you! I am consistently humbled and amazed by the generosity of our bra donors. I am touched by the sweet woman from Studio City, California who mails us one bra each month. I love that the Rigby and Peller at 90th and Madison in NYC encloses a “good luck” note with every single box they mail. And my heart smiles every time we open a package and find “bucks” to go with the bras. We couldn’t do what we do without each of you and our fabulous drop-off locations including all of the Title Nine and Rigby and Peller locations.

And what we have been able to do with these bras has been nothing short of life-changing for the women in our programs. These bras, your one million donated bras, have provided economic empowerment for women who have been able to exit the sex trafficking industry by selling them. And I think of the words of Fatima, one of the graduates of our Mozambique program. “When you give bras, you give life. We are able to do so many things because of what you give. And so you can’t get tired of giving because of what we have already demonstrated we can do when you give…it’s really good.”

Here’s a peak at some of those million bras over the years. We stand in awe and gratitude.

On behalf of Free The Girls - Thank you! Obrigado! Gracias! Here’s to one million more!

-Pam Gumns, Bra Math Extraordinare

Celebrating Leonor!

Free The Girls was incredibly honored to be the 2018 recipient of Somebody's Mama grant.  This amazing group of mamas fundraised for our Inheritance Project in Mozambique, raising over $8,300 and collecting more than 400 bras for our ladies in Maputo!  Not only did they raise bras and bucks, they also highlighted two of our own for their Mom of the Month blog, our Creative Director Abby Mortenson as well as our Mozambique Program Manager, Leonor! 

We encourage you to check out Somebody's Mama and all the work they do around the globe for women and children.  

Blog originally published here on Aug 29, 2018.


Mama of the Month: Leonor

Our community recently funded a grant for Free The Girls, an organization that supports women who have been rescued from trafficking. Their goal is for the women in their program to experience TRUE FREEDOM both through safe economic opportunities and holistic reintegration into the community. Our grant will help eight women receive what they need to build homes, buy land, or attend university through The Inheritance Project.

Leonor on the right with a program participant

Leonor on the right with a program participant

What does that look like in practice? Our newest Mama of the Month is at the forefront of empowering women in Mozambique. Every great program has, at its core, a passionate person. Leonor is that person for Free The Girls. After her husband left her and her daughter, Leonor had the resolve to change her life and the lives of her family members. She says,

“I returned to school years after I had abandoned my studies, and I went to Bible school as well. Now I am a leader in my church, teaching and preaching during the service and in Sunday School. It was hard when I first went back to school. There were times during the week when I wasn’t able to see my daughter. I would get home after she went to bed, and I would leave before she woke up in the morning. I depended on my sister to help me to be a parent to her. It was a sacrifice. However, now I am able to help my sister and her son return to school and I am able to provide for our whole household.”

As the Country Director for Free The Girls, Leonor is instrumental in helping women work through the program.

“Before working for FTG, I met some of the women who would be in the program. I saw how much they had suffered and I wanted to help. I love working with the women—helping them to have dignity and justice and to be whole again.”

Leonor oversees the program, caring for the women, helping them set up their businesses and save money, and training them in business practices and personal finance. To better help the women in her program, Leonor has returned to college to study psychology. The women she works with need significant help, and her studies will equip her to help them more deeply. Many of the women are difficult to work with and have negative attitudes. Leonor says,

“Although life on the streets is hard, many choose to go back. It is so difficult when a woman will not change—when a woman returns to the streets. When she chooses drugs and/or alcohol instead of freedom, it breaks my heart. Studying psychology has helped me to see patterns and to persevere with many of the women who struggle. ”

For the women who stay in the program, Leonor provides inspiration, and the effort is worth it.

“Since I enrolled in university. The women in the program respect me for my choice and are inspired by my example. When I see a life change, it makes all the difference. I love to see when a woman is able to help not only herself and her children, but to help her entire family. I love to see a woman’s business flourish.
We are about freedom. We want women to be free. We want them to be free to own a business. We want them to be free to return to school. We want their family to be free.”
Leonor with her daughter, sister, and nephew

Leonor with her daughter, sister, and nephew

Our model promotes true development, and the work Leonor does at Free The Girls is not a band-aid for the problems our friends in Mozambique are facing—this is ideas turned into action and finding real, tangible solutions that will empower the entire community.

What an honor it is that we get to be a part of the healing through our gifts. Our board of directors searches for projects where our little bits of good create lasting impact around the world. We would love for you to join us in making this possible.


From all of us at FTG, thank you Somebody's Mama!  

And thank you Leonor for all you do for our women!

Empowering Others From Wherever You Are!

Meet Everyday Abolitionist, Eileen.

Eileen works in the intimates department of a major retailer in Indianapolis. By waiting until bras go on sale and then using her employee discount, Eileen is able to purchase and send Free The Girls a generous donation of brand new bras each year!

“I am not a wealthy person by any means, but with my discounts added to a clearance price I can purchase things that help people. It also gives me a platform to speak to customers about the work of FTG. Many are unaware of your great organization so I try to educate them.”

For Eileen, being an Everyday Abolitionist means using her position in the lingerie department to make a difference. And as she mentions, she even uses her realm of influence to share about the work of FTG! We're inspired by Eileen and her passion - and her dedication to make a difference in the lives of survivors with her own everyday life! 

 

How can you take a stand against modern day slavery?

~ Maybe it’s donating a buck and a bra.

~ Sharing one of our posts on social media.

~ Buying a fair trade or ethically sourced product.

Being an Everyday Abolitionist can look different for each of us.

We so appreciate Eileen’s heart, her willingness to share about Free The Girls, and her desire to see a world where formerly trafficked women can be free!

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“I was able to tell the story of FTG to two new employees as I purchased my latest batch
of bras yesterday! My coworker who took my picture asked what it was for and when I told her she exclaimed, “I get it! I get it! Now I’m excited about it too!” Hopefully many others will ‘get it’ when they realize how simple it is to purchase a bra and help the mission of FTG.”
— Everyday Abolitionist Eileen

 

Are you an Everyday Abolitionist or do you know someone who is one?

We would love to hear your stories and see your photos of what being an Everyday Abolitionist means to you. Just send us an e-mail at media @ freethegirls.org or reach out to us on social media! You can find us hanging out on facebook and instagram. We can't wait to connect. 

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You Did It!

YOU ARE THE BEST!

Over the last few weeks, we raised nearly $16,000 from funds coming in strictly for the Costa Rica campaign!  

While we didn't quite hit our goal on the campaign site, all the incredible Facebook fundraisers that you all have been holding for your birthdays in June put us over our $30,000 goal! Not only did the last month prove we have an amazing tribe, but it showed us how this Abolitionist Community comes together for the bigger goal. We were able to double the global influence with Threads Worldwide and see how collaboration and partnership can truly increase impact.  

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This entire FTG Costa Rica journey has been one of unexpected twists and turns. Although we've been dreaming about an additional location for years, it's been stop-and-go ... and now feels like go-go-go! It takes a lot of communication and planning in order to start the bra selling program in a new place. And thankfully, everything is coming together so that eight courageous women can leave exploitive situations

...and begin a new lifestyle of freedom, dignity, and sustainability. 

I have been waiting for something like this. I have asked God to help me for so long. I believe things are going to be great.
— "Estefania" Soon to be entering our Costa Rica program *

 

The first shipment of bras will be heading out this month, and thanks to you and your generosity, these 8 new women are preparing to take their first steps into entrepreneurship selling bras!

We are continually amazed at the Everyday Abolitionists that make our programs possible. With your generosity of donating bras and bucks, sharing about human trafficking and Free The Girls, using your sphere of influence, you're able to make a difference! All of it matters! Every little bit helps!

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If you'd still like to make a contribution to the CR campaign, please feel free to give here or create a fundraiser and designate it to Costa Rica Campaign! 

Thanks for joining us in a declaration of RESTORED HOPE!

All the love.  All the celebration of freedom. 

 

*Names have been changed for protection of the women*

¡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.

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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.

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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
program.

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