Thanks to all of you who stopped by my table at Imagine Conference last weekend!
Remember how on Friday night Eugene Cho reminded us that even as Christians, we tend to be more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world? Yeah; that one cut me deep.
Well, what if I told you there was an opportunity to go beyond just being upset about human trafficking? What if there was an opportunity to learn not only about this unimaginable evil that has stolen the lives of millions of victims around the world and in our own backyard, but also about the triumphant stories of rescue and restoration made possible by anti-trafficking organizations? What if there was an opportunity to not only share what you learn with your people so they’re aware but also to raise money on behalf of these organizations so they can continue their vital work and move ever closer to abolishing modern-day slavery during our lifetimes?
AND what if I told you you can do all of these things just by putting on a dress? (Men, don’t stop reading.)
The Problem: Slavery Still Exists
There are more people in slavery today than at any other time in human history.
Here are the facts:
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year, according to the International Labour Organization.
In 2016, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 86% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran away. According to UNICEF, 2 million children are being subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade.
While there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the United States, it probably reaches into the hundreds of thousands.So far in 2017, there have been 117 reported cases of human trafficking in Pennsylvania.
And here’s the kicker: Only 1 percent of human trafficking victims are ever rescued.
These numbers are huge and hard to swallow. They’re so big, the faces behind them get lost, and we forget they’re people. Women. Children. Created with a destiny and a purpose, with inherent dignity, with great value and worth. We turn away. Because what can we possibly do to change any of this?
The Solution: Put on a Dress, Take a Stand, Change the World
Blythe Hill was a fashion blogger before there was an Instagram. She was also a bored college student in 2009 who came up with a personal style challenge to wear a dress every day in December, calling it “Dressember.” She completed it herself and thought that’s where it would end. Until the following year when her friends wanted to join her, then their friends, and their friends’ friends. Four years in, Hill had the idea of making Dressember into something bigger.
It was around 2005 when I started hearing about the issue of human trafficking. I began learning that slavery exists in every city in the world, around every major sporting event, at brickyards, brothels, truck stops and massage parlors. It’s estimated that there are currently over 30 million people trapped in slavery—more than any other point in history.
When I started hearing about trafficking, I felt an urgency to do something, and so naturally, I looked at my skillset for a way to engage. The problem was my interests and talents didn’t seem to line up with making a difference. I’m not a social worker, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a cop. I’m someone who’s interested in fashion, trend analysis, wordplay, and blogging. My interests felt shallow in the grand scheme of things. I remember feeling powerless, and thinking, “There’s nothing I can do.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it (see above)? But Hill stepped back, realized she’d created a “movement” without even meaning to around the style challenge of wearing a dress every day in December, and decided to align her interest in fashion with her desire to do something.
In 2013, Dressember took on new meaning, opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women by aligning with IJM, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. In 2015, Dressember added a second grant partner: A21, which exists to abolish modern-day slavery in the 21st century.
In just the past four years, Dressember advocates have raised almost $3 million to support the work of IJM and A21! Thanks to all of your support the past two years I’ve participated as an advocate (I blogged about it here and here), I’ve been able to raise nearly $2,500!
When you participate in Dressember, you become an advocate for freedom and dignity as well as a voice for the millions of voiceless women, children, and men around the world who are enslaved. How?
Become an Advocate
Commit to wearing a dress (or tie if you’re a guy; see I told you men not to stop reading!) every day in December and telling people about it. Link arms with fellow advocates to raise money and awareness for the fight against global human trafficking. These are the steps.
1. Join Dressember Pittsburgh.
Visit bit.ly/dressember2017 and click on “Join Team.” Don’t forget to select Dressember Pittsburgh as the team you want to join once you set up your personal page.
2. Set your fundraising goal.
You could start off at $50 or $100, but why go small? My first year, and I set a goal of $500. I raised $750! This year I’m going for $3,000.
3. Choose your personal url.
This is where you direct your supporters so choose something they’ll recognize, like your name: support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraiser/yourname
4. Change the world.
Spread the word, especially on social media, and encourage your friends and family to get involved by supporting your campaign. Every time you post, use #dressember, #dressemberpgh, and #itsbiggerthanadress, and feel free to check out my Instagram feed from last December for inspiration. You certainly don’t have to post every day; it was my way of staying on track, and my tiny group of fans really liked following along.
Feel free to share links to this blog post as well as the team page to encourage your friends to join us!
Our Dressember Pittsburgh team fundraising goal is $6,300, which is the approximate cost of one rescue operation.
5. Win prizes!
The first three people to join Dressember Pittsburgh and raise $50 on their page will receive an official Dressember pin from me! Plus Dressember does giveaways and offers incredible incentives to the top fundraising individuals and teams!
Not into wearing dresses (seriously you don’t need to own a lot of them—I’m planning to rotate two to three of them all month with different accessories)? Please consider making a donation.
That’s it! I can’t wait to do this with you. Let me know in the comments if you’re participating this year or plan to next Dressember, and of course please let me know if you have any questions!