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International Justice Mission

A21 Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy IJM

Dressember: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Thanks to all of you who stopped by my table at Imagine Conference last weekend!

Dressember at Imagine Conference

I wore a dress to Imagine Conference, and I didn’t die!

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:

The U.S. State Department last put the number of victims worldwide at an estimated 27 million, but according to its most recent report, it’s likely in the tens of millions.

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!

Donate

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.

Give to my campaign! My goal this year is $3,000. And don’t forget to follow along with me on social media during the month of December. I’ll post every day on Instagram and occasionally on Facebook.

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!

xoxo

Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy Imagine Conference

Imagine Spotlight: Dressember

Are you coming to Imagine Conference? Have you registered yet? The deadline is TODAY.

The Story: It’s Bigger Than a Dress

Dressember is a collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to promote the inherent dignity of all people. Since 2013, Dressember has grown into an international movement to save lives.
In just the past four years, thousands of women have raised more than $3 million to end human trafficking—I participated for the first time two years ago and since then I’ve raised nearly $2,500!—just by wearing dresses.

Started by Blythe Hill in 2009, Dressember began as a quirky style challenge with a clever name that spread like wildfire. In 2013, it took on new meaning, opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women by aligning with International Justice Mission, 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.

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!) 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.

Join our team: Dressember Pittsburgh. Our goal is to raise $6,300—the cost of one rescue mission. Simply visit bit.ly/dressember2017, click on Join Team, set up your personal fundraising page, then join Dressember Pittsburgh!

Donate

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)? Make a donation.

Give to my campaign! My goal this year is $3,000. And don’t forget to follow along on social media during the month of December.

Want to learn more about Dressember? Come to Imagine Conference this Friday and Saturday!

Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Dressember 2016: Join me, Pittsburgh!

Dressember Pittsburgh

Hey, local friends, want to help end modern-day slavery by wearing dresses?

Dressember is a collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to restore dignity to all women. In just the past three years, thousands of women have raised more than $1.5 million to end human trafficking—I participated for the first time last year; this year, you can help me bring this movement to Pittsburgh!

Started by Blythe Hill in 2009, Dressember began as a quirky style challenge with a clever name that spread like wildfire. In 2013, it took on new meaning, opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women by aligning with International Justice Mission, 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.

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? You commit to wearing a dress every day in December, telling people about it on social media, and sharing your personal fundraising page. That’s it!

Responses to common objections:

No, you do not have to own a ton of dresses to participate. The founder originally wore the same dress all month and just paired it with different accessories. I’m probably going to rotate three or four dresses.

Yes, it’s okay to wear your uniform, scrubs, etc. to work, and no, you don’t have to wear a dress when you work out or go to bed. When you have a choice of what to wear, wear the dress.

Yes, you can wear leggings under your dress when it gets cold.

No, skirts don’t count unless you wear them over your dress.

Yes, it’s fun. And easy.

Ready to sign up? Here’s what you do:

1. Join Dressember Pittsburgh.

Visit support.dressemberfoundation.org/pittsburgh and click on “Join Team.”

2. Set your fundraising goal.

You could start off at $50 or $100, but why go small? Last year was my first year, and I set a goal of $500. I raised $750! This year I’m going for $1,000, because why not?

3. Choose your personal url.

This is where you direct your supporters so choose something they’ll recognize, like your name: support.dressemberfoundation.org/yourname

4. Change the world.

5. Win prizes!

The first three people to join Dressember Pittsburgh will receive an official Dressember pin! Everyone who signs up and raises at least $50 will be entered to win a Noonday Collection necklace! Plus Dressember does giveaways and offers prizes to the top fundraising teams! So yay!

Questions? Contact me or visit dressember.org/faq for answers.

Finally, share away on social media! Feel free to share links to this blog post as well as the team page to encourage your friends to join you. Every time you post, use #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.

Can’t wait to do this with you!

xoxo

Everyday Advocacy Noonday Collection Start

Noonday Collection: The Start of Everything

This is a story about how I started.

None of this ethical fashion stuff was on my radar two years ago. Two years ago my babies were 1 and about to turn 3, and I was working as a freelance marketing director, editor and project manager for universities. So I was working mostly from home with very little childcare, which meant doing job and kids at the same time, plus the home stuff. So yeah, I was “busy.”

SOURCE-+Noonday+CollectionAt the time I was involved in an online bible study through She Reads Truth, and one day one of the leaders posted about a trip she was going on to Rwanda—it was a storytelling trip with a group of well-known, popular bloggers and photographers. They were going there to meet with people who had survived the genocide to hear and tell their stories. I am obsessed with stories so I thought it was a cool concept, and I noticed it was sponsored by an organization called International Justice Mission and a company called Noonday Collection, so I researched both.

Noonday Collection grabbed me from the moment I discovered it. Within minutes of being on the website an overwhelming sense of urgency came over me. I thought “I have to be involved in this.” And then I saw it: “Host a trunk show,” and I thought, “Oh, crap.”

Noonday Collection is a socially responsible business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world.

It started when Jessica Honegger and her husband Joe, who already had two young kids, were in the process of adopting a son from Rwanda. They were temporarily living in Kampala, Uganda, and got to know another American couple that was there starting sustainable businesses. Through that couple they met another couple, Jalia and Daniel, who had two kids they couldn’t afford to house and could barely afford to feed. They were college educated, unemployed, and homeless, but they could make jewelry out of paper beads. Jessica purchased some of the jewelry the local men and women had made and took it home with the intent to sell it to her friends at a trunk show to help raise funds for the adoption.

Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what the response would be, or what the Lord was preparing her for. Her friends went crazy, and she ordered more jewelry, and more, and more, selling it out of her car, until she ultimately decided to partner with her friend and sustainable business expert Travis Wilson. They started a company, focused on partnering with artisan businesses around the world to create opportunities for dignified work in vulnerable communities. Four years later, I ended up on that company’s website.

Not only did I host a trunk show (something I NEVER thought I’d do), but I became an ambassador—the first one in the entire western half of Pennsylvania.

After many sleepless nights of sensing God was calling me to something impossible given the demands on my time, I gave it to Him and submitted my application at 11:30 p.m., hoping to get some sleep. I had zero interest in anything direct sales, no extra time, and my “background in fashion” consisted of some retail experience and attending fashion shows with my mom, who worked at Saks Fifth Avenue. Like I said earlier, that was two years ago, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was in for, and I’ve never looked back.


I have learned the stories of the people behind the accessories I wear. Stories of people like Renal, who ran his own metalworking workshop and store in Haiti until it was completely wiped out when Hurricane Sandy hit. After months without work and no way to support his wife and young son, he heard about opportunities for good-paying, long-term work for craftsmen through a Noonday business partner. Noonday’s orders were the first he got, and they provided him with enough income to get his business back up and running. Not only that but he was able to repair his broken-down truck, which he now uses to take his son and other neighborhood kids to and from school. Having a working vehicle is a big deal in Renal’s community, and he’s thrilled to be able to give back.

Renal, Haitian metalworker

Renal, a Noonday Collection artisan [photo: Noonday Collection]

This bracelet, called the Briye, which means “shine” in Creole, is produced by the metalworking group in Haiti out of upcycled metal and leather.

Briye bracelet

Briye bracelet, kellysjol.noondaycollection.com [photo: Noonday Collection]

Latifa bracelet Noonday Collection

Latifa necklace, kellysjol.noondaycollection.com [photo: Noonday Collection]

Latifa was 16 years old when her parents could no longer afford to educate her. She went to the capital of Uganda, Kampala, to look for work and ended up on the streets selling whatever she could find to survive. A man took her in and informally married her, but he also abused her. She got pregnant at 17. By 21, she couldn’t take it anymore and left with her son and young daughter, who was sick. She was alone with no way to support herself, and everyone told her to just give up her kids. She adamantly refused to abandon her children. She met Jalia and Daniel, who now had a thriving business that employed over 100 people. They invited her in and allowed her to do housework. Latifa was so determined and had such a strong work ethic that she quickly rose through the ranks until she was put in charge of quality control for the entire workshop. She now runs her own side business selling charcoal and is able to afford a house and education for her kids.

Today, Noonday Collection partners with 29 artisan businesses in 12 countries, directly impacting more than 4,000 artisans and nearly 20,000 family members.

My work with Noonday and everything I’ve learned about ethical fashion and poverty and issues like human trafficking have had an impact on my family as well.

My girls see me in another role besides mommy who works on her laptop at home. My now 4-year-old understands that people in other countries hand make the pieces I sell and that many of these people are mommies like hers who are working to take care of their kids. She watched me as I participated in a movement called Dressember and wore a dress every day in December to raise money for organizations that fight to end human trafficking. My girls are growing up in a much smaller world than I did thanks to the Internet, and I want to be the first example they have of what it looks like to do for others, even those in other countries. Not only that but they’re starting to love jewelry too.


Visit kellysjol.noondaycollection.com to view the gorgeous spring/summer 2016 collection and purchase any time. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, contact me to host a trunk show. Interested in becoming a Noonday ambassador? Find out more here.
Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Dressember: It’s Bigger Than a Dress

If you follow fashionable people who follow fashion bloggers on Instagram, you’ve likely encountered the style challenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Said fashion blogger throws out style inspiration and a hashtag, and fashionable followers come up with their own interpretations and take and post selfies. It’s fun, if you have time and the wardrobe for that kind of thing.

Blythe Hill was a fashion blogger pre 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? I feel that all the time. But Blythe 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, she aligned Dressember with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. They raised over $165,000. In 2014, more than 2,600 participants raised over $465,000. This year, Dressember is also supporting A21.

I found out about Dressember because of Noonday Collection—Noonday is a huge supporter and brand partner—and decided to participate this year along with a bunch of my fellow ambassadors all over the country. Every day in December, I’m wearing a dress. I’m also learning as I go about human trafficking, the stolen lives of its victims, and the triumphant stories of rescue made possible by organizations like IJM and A21.

You can join me! You don’t have to wear the dresses. Follow along each day on Instagram. I’ll also be posting occasional updates on Facebook. Learn more at dressember.org, and contribute to my campaign at bit.ly/givetodressember.

Of course follow me here, and let me know in the comments if you’re participating this year or plan to next Dressember!

Everyday Advocacy

Start, or Why I’m Doing This When I Said I Never Would

a mommy and daughter

I tell my 4-year-old daughter all the time to never say never. Like the time she said “I never want to see my little sister ever again!” or when I said I would never have a blog, whatever.

I follow bloggers—mostly fashion, some mommy, some design, some business—and inevitably I compare my story to theirs and our family/house/financial situation to theirs, and I don’t want to share my stuff. This is why I say I will never start a blog. Never say never, Kelly. 

Humbly, prayerfully, I’m starting.

I’ll tell you why and why now in the coming days, but the short version is this: My heart was made new when I found Jesus, turned to mush when I met my husband, shattered when I lost my dad, and changed forever when I became a mother. Twice. To girls. I hoped I could coast for a while, at least until the toddler years were over. Then, on the same day in 2014, I was introduced to an organization (International Justice Mission) and a company (Noonday Collection) that wrecked me and my heart in the best way.

Now I know too much. About issues surrounding human trafficking and modern-day slavery and about everyday advocacy through ethical and Fair Trade fashion. But I also don’t know enough, and I haven’t done enough. This blog will record my attempt to start from where I am to change that. Because of and for my two daughters. Because we are all made free—created in God’s image and likeness to live out our purpose—but so many are not free. Because this is what I get for saying never.


Let not your heart be troubled: I plan to keep this as lighthearted as possible and to mix in our real life and humor. We live with a preschooler, a 2-year-old, and two cats. Funny things happen.