a step forward.

It’s the last day of the month. The last day of the year. The last day of Dressember.  
  

sadly, this one didnt make the cut

 
 I’m really okay with not wearing dresses or blogging everyday anymore. It was a great and challenging experience, but I’m pretty excited for a more flexible style and schedule and jeans. I love me some jeans!

Did I have a crazy revelation or raise a boatload of money for Nepal? No, not so much. But that’s fine. I opened up about Nepal and trafficking. I learned about a few more organizations and got to be a part of a global movement to combat human trafficking. I hope y’all feel like you know a wee bit more about what’s going on in the world.  

So, though the month is over and nothing feels drastically different with my life or the slavery situation in the world, it’s okay because this was a step forward. A month to be open and vulnerable. A time of intention and purpose.

I don’t want this to be the end. And it won’t be. I can guarantee that. This was a good jump start for my trip to Nepal. For my future working to fight trafficking, whatever that may look like. I already have a couple plans for the beginning of the year to continue this journey or awareness and education.  

So, here’s to the new year. Here’s to education. Here’s to taking steps forward. Here’s to justice and grace. Here’s to value and dignity and feeling loved. Here’s to the beautiful people of Nepal.

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wake.

The last few years, I’ve read countless articles and a couple books about how to help people well.  about how charity can actually hurt people more than it benefits them.  about how short-term trips may cause more damage to the economy and organization you work with.

This realization causes serious cognitive dissonance in my life.  I want to help but I’m scared that I’ll hurt someone in the process.  And I have.  I’ve been a part of several projects and worked with a number of organizations before I was conscious of my actions’ consequences.  That freaks me out.  To what extent did my trip to Haiti cost the orphanage we stayed and worked at?  How did I make those parents feel when I “adopted” their family for Christmas?  How did handing out food to the same people year after year help them provide for themselves?
It’s these thoughts that haunt me.  these thoughts that hold me back and make me ponder why me?  what can I offer?  what difference can I make?  and how?  how do I go about this and cause the least amount of damage in my wake?

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photo credit: Jason Schuller

So, these books and articles were helpful by making me aware and mindful…but they also made me timid and anxious about helping people.  Have you ever thought about these things?  How your best intentions of benevolence may be received as maleficence?

Have you also thought about how not acting on the needs that you see may be contributing just as much?  We’re in this awful place of tension.  It’s hard to process and work through.

You see hungry people so you want to give them food…but you also know that handouts encourage dependency and that’s not terribly helpful now is it?  but there are hungry people?!  what do you do about it?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I guess you do what feels right to you; what gives you the least amount of cognitive dissonance.  Could you have ruined someone’s life with one meal?  no, probably not.  Can you learn from that experience and modify your actions for the next need you run across.  Of course!

What I’m saying is, it does no good in the world to spend all your time thinking, theorizing, and strategizing how to help your cause because you don’t want to mess up.  Those things all have value, they do, but I believe we must act as well.  And we learn so much, maybe more, from those actions.  From the mistakes we make.  At what cost, you may ask?  That depends on the situation.  But we can’t sit in a room and account for every possible consequence.  That’s not feasible if you really want to make a difference for this cause you care so deeply about.

Maybe making a wake is part of the process.  This sounds so cruel (please don’t take this as an extreme) but maybe hurting others now can help you become a better helper.  Maybe you have to be part of a flawed process, in order to see the flaws.  To gain a better perspective about the people and the situation you’re working with.  To walk through it with someone and understand how the process made them feel.  To ask better questions of yourself and the community you’re working with.  Notice I said with, not for.

There are so many obstacles that could get in our way.  so many.  but we have to work around them.  we have to get over our fears and do one small thing to start with.  Soon enough, these small things will add up to make this great wake behind us.

i have a dream.

It’s the end of the month and I feel like I keep saying the same thing over and over.  Trafficking sucks.  I love Nepal.  It’s prevalent there.  I want to do something about it.

Now, what does that look like?  I honestly don’t know.  For years, I’ve dreamed about starting a women’s ministry.  One that uses the story of Don Quixote and Dulcinea (Aldonza).  Something that helps these girls see they are loved and valued even if they don’t share those same feelings.  Something that shows them hope for future opportunities and a full life, despite what they’ve been through.

There would be training, because empowerment is a far better solution than a simple rescue-op and setting them free into a foreign life after being oppressed in a trafficking situation.  Uncertainty-management theory suggests victims are likely to return to the trafficked lifestyle for fear of what lies beyond that world (Thank you, Comm Theory).  There would also be counseling, because let’s be real, we all need counseling.  Patience, love, grace, support.  An open and honest community.  books, resources, time and space to process and heal.  I really believe this is key.  Everyone is going to handle things differently.  It’s a process.  a journey that each person needs to go on themselves, with the love and support of others.

These ideas are just ideas.  Nothing is in place.  It may just be a dream for the rest of my life, I’m not sure.  The more I look into organizations and what is currently being done, I see there are so many good NGOs out there.  The more I work at a start up nonprofit, the more confident I become that it must be a calling.  The more I think about this dream, the less sure I am.  photo-3

DQ and Dulcinea were a huge part of my process.  I fell in love with their story and can see myself in it.  It’s like one of those books or movies you love dearly.  You know the one you want everyone in the world to see and love….but they don’t.  They come up with all sorts of faults or say it’s just okay, or sit on their phone the whole time you’re watching it.  It’s super disappointing.  And your instinct is to protect this thing that you love so you don’t have to go through the disappointment again with someone else.

Maybe this is what I’m feeling.  Or maybe it’s not the right time for the dream.  Or maybe that dream was to get me through a season of life.  I honestly don’t know, but that’s where I’m at and I’m okay with it.  It may not take the form of a full-fledged nonprofit.  It may be purely online, one on one, visual, or written. I have no idea.  But I’m thankful God shared this redemptive story with me a good five years ago.  This nonprofit vision helped me see a purpose for my story.

love146.

I first heard about Love146 the summer after my freshman year at Northwest.  It was a rough season but that’s when I was just starting to explore this world of trafficking and exploitation.  I was working at at summer camp for the week and they shared this story.  Of how the founders were moved with compassion.  How they came up with the name Love146.  I think I had watch Taken recently and it was so easy to picture the scenario.  So easy to fall into this desperate situation without a way out…unless Liam Neeson is your father.

So, take a few minutes to watch this video and learn about this organization working to fight human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

12 years a slave.

For the 27 million kids and women involved in modern day slavery, it’s not a choice.  They were trafficked, tricked, and threatened into it.

It’s straight up slavery.  forced labor.  no way out.  It’s a business.  You use the people to get what you want.  to further your cause.  to stack your pocketbook.  The traffickers know what’s up.

You want to see how this works?  Alright.  Watch 12 Years a Slave.  It’s based on a true story.  A free black man lived in New York with his family.  A business deal went awry when the partners had ulterior motives and sold the man into slavery.  Despite his pleas and free papers, the man didn’t stand a chance down south.

SPOILER ALERT: he was a slave for 12 years.  His owner was an ass, for lack of a stronger term.  He was cold hearted, power hungry, and ruthless.  He can do what he wanted with his property. rape.  pillage.  beat.  demean.  There was no sense of value for these people who make his money for him.

This movie makes me sick.  because it happened at one point in history.  and it still happens today.  Though it looks slightly different, it’s more prominent today.  Can you believe that?  do, because it’s true. Take some time to watch this movie.  It’s worth every minute.

higher ground nepal.

I want to take a few minutes to highlight another nonprofit doing wonderful things in Nepal.  I haven’t actually made contact with the founders, but we have several mutual friends and I hear nothing but good things.

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At Higher Ground, our mission is to restore the lives of individuals at risk of exploitation, human trafficking and social injustice through awareness, counseling and socio-economic empowerment.

Higher Ground has a cafe-bakery, craft workshop, and community development sector.  They employ and train many people, mostly women, who are in vulnerable places.

Let me tell you two things I love about this organization.

  1. They empower people.  They offer up skills and encourage dignity in the vulnerable individuals they employ.  They are trained with practical skills they can use in the city or back in the mountain villages.
  2. They’re sustainable!  I was planning on donating any Dressember money to Bimala and Higher Ground Nepal…but they’re self-sustainable between the cafe and jewelry businesses.  How awesome is that!?

I’d encourage you to check out the site and see what Higher Ground Nepal is all about.

gifts.

I just found several cool organizations through this article.  If you’re looking for meaningful Christmas gifts still and are okay with them coming a little late, check out these 3 shops.  If you want to see all 8, check out the article linked.

The items sold by the following brands are made by victims of trafficking, be it sex slavery or forced labor.  You can support the organizations and individuals by making a meaningful purchase this season.

Punjammies: Indian women: adorable PJ pants and sets.home_pg_row1_1

MULXIPLY:  Nepali men and women: handcrafted goods (jewelry and bagsmulxiply.PNG

Good Paper:  Philippines and Rwanda ladies:  some good, quality, quirky stationery!  handcrafted_handsigned