Girls’ Night Out!

20 Sep

Two days ago I woke up to a Breaking News article about the bust of a sex slavery ring in Orlando, FL. Learning about the forced prostitution going on in my own “backyard” didn’t exactly surprise me yet I found myself shocked that this sort of thing could be happening… anywhere! Several years into my career of being a human rights activist and I still cannot wrap my brain around how someone could torture another person like that. Every single time I hear about an individual being enslaved I am outraged and it my greatest passion to shed light on this issue and help raise up an army of abolitionists to join me in this fight to end modern slavery.

Last Thursday, Sept 11th, I was able to do just that. AddressSlavery hosted our fist Girls’ Night Out to raise funds and awareness for the eradication of human trafficking and bonded labor. The event was a great success! 30+ women came with fashionable yet gently-used clothes & accessories to donate and a willingness to learn about modern slavery. After sipping some yummy wine, gnashing on delicious appetizers, catching up with old friends and making new ones, I showed a short documentary about the problem of human trafficking in Tampa, FL (which has the 2nd highest trafficking rate in the US).

AddressSlavery's Sept 11th "Celebrate Freedom" Girls' Night Out event

AddressSlavery’s Sept 11th “Celebrate Freedom” Girls’ Night Out event

The documentary showcased how living in dire poverty entraps individuals and puts them at high risk of being trafficked. After the video, I spoke about what GHNI is doing by helping impoverished communities become self-sustainable so that they would not be lured into slavery by people preying on their desperation. I explained how AddressSlavery is looking to help GHNI by raising funds (through the sale of gently-used items) for a grant that will be given annually to a group of individuals seeking to end the cycle of slavery in their community. We ended the night by raffling off several great prizes that were donated by compassionate local businesses and individuals.

In fact, I’d like to take a moment to thank each of them for their tremendous contribution that helped raise $413 for the cause (and that doesn’t even include what will be raised by the sale of those awesome gently-used clothing & accessories that were donated)! We are so grateful for Tuni on Park Ave for their generous $100 gift certificate, the very altruistic Maria at Lambs Eat Ivy for offering $100 towards salon services, The Bar Method for graciously donating $75 worth of classes, Aveda for contributing $80 worth of awesome hair and skin-care products, Red Carpet Boutique for the stunning Pia Gladys Percy gown that they donated, Warrior One Yoga for the sought-after 10 Class Package they gave, A very special Fairy Godmother/Disney employee who selflessly donated 2 Park Hopper passes, and Sleeping Moon Café (my favorite neighborhood indie coffee shop) for hosting the event at a fraction of the cost! Also, a huge Thank You to the volunteers who gave their time to help make Girls Night Out a huge success!

I am crazy excited to see that we have over a half of a grand already in the bank for AddressSlavery’s first grant (to be chosen in late spring/early summer 2015) and we are just getting started! With all of the awesome items that have been donated (Coach purses galore for anyone who is interested), we have thousands of dollars worth of garments and accessories just waiting to be sold! I’m in the process of seeking volunteers to help with photography and online sales, as well as registering for vendor spaces where AddressSlavery can sell our inventory. Please let me know if you have any leads on either.

Building a business is not something that I have ever dreamt of doing and still to this day I’m not convinced that I have the entrepreneurial ability required for such an endeavor but if it means saving people from slavery, I will die trying. Thank you all SO much for your support along the way!!!

PS. In my last post I mentioned that we had yet to sell an item. Well, I want to proudly announce that since then we have sold six items! I feel the ball rolling and can’t wait to see where it takes us!!

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If You Build It…

20 May

“If you build it they will come.” At least that’s what I’ve been told and I’m hoping this mantra is true in the case of AddressSlavery.

The online store for AS is all set up and we are currently featuring dozens of gorgeous gowns that were donated to the cause. We also have at least another 1/2 dozen just waiting to be photographed and posted. Likewise, I am in the process of trying to build some strategic partnerships and find volunteers to help with the operations of AddressSlavery.

I’ll admit, we have yet to sell an item and I think I know why that is. I have no idea what I’m doing! It’s true. I’ve never worked in retail, I’m as tech-illiterate as someone in their 30’s can be, my fashion photography understanding is limited to what I see on Pintrest and what can be captured on my iPhone, my graphic design skills are anything but skillful, and my network could use some expanding. I need help. Lots of it! Not to mention that I work about a gazillion times better when I have a team.

Now this is where I do excel: I’m a proselytizer. If I believe in it, hands down you’ll know where I stand and will have been asked to stand with me. =) And so this is my shameless plea begging you to join the ranks in an army of abolitionists, fighting for freedom as we AddressSlavery.

  • If you are in the Orlando area and know a thing or two about fashion photography, we need you.
  • If you have worked in retail or simply have a knack for pricing items for sale, we need you.
  • If you don’t mind being called on for tech or graphic design help, we need you.
  • If you the eyes of a marketer and the passion of an abolitionist, we need you (to spread awareness and market AS items on our website, ebay, and other social media sites).
  • If you have high-quality, gently-used items to donate, we need you. (Keep in mind, we are looking for all items – casual to formal. All we ask is that it be clean with a resale value of approx. $30+)
  • If you love to host parties, we need you.
  • If you’re a businesses consultant or can teach start-ups a thing of two on how to be successful, we need you.

No matter what your gift is, I’m pretty sure we can use it in the battle to eradicate slavery.  And even if you already have your hands full we could still use your voice. Please help spread the word about AddressSlavery. Remember that every dollar raised will be used to help the most impoverished and marginalized communities of the world escape the grip of poverty and slavery.

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with AddressSlavery, please contact me via email: AddressSlavery@gmail.com. Also, if you haven’t already, please follow AddressSlavery on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s make freedom fashionable and never allow for it to go out of style.

New Year. New Life.

10 Jan

Five years… half a decade… that’s how long I’ve been fortunate enough to work for GHNI. Blessed does not even begin to describe it. This job has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

So why am I leaving? Well, I’m not even sure I fully know at this point. All I can say is that it just feels right. And when something in my spirit nudges me, I listen. I don’t know any other way to live. Fate is the air that I breathe and passion the blood that runs through my veins.

To be honest, I don’t even have another job lined up. For the first time in fifteen years, I’m unemployed. But, like Indiana Jones, I’m taking a step although I cannot see what’s in front of me, and I gotta admit… it’s exciting! Previously my excitement came from visiting rural villages and travelling around Europe. This season, however, is about (re)discovering myself.

I’m not exactly the New Year’s Resolution type – I’m more of a “why put off till tomorrow what you can do today” kind of gal – but there is something about starting a new year with a blank canvas. What a fierce opportunity to redesign my life to the person I have become due to the experiences and broken roads that led me to today!

One thing that will not change is my passion to stop the suffering of impoverished and oppressed people around the world. Thus, as I’ve shared in previous posts, I will continue to volunteer with GHNI as I oversee the AddressSlavery project. We have waited to launch this initiative until now in celebration of January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month. With that said, I would be so grateful for your continued support in helping to spread the word!

Each one of you reading this, whether you’ve supported me financially or otherwise, has helped make my “calling” a reality. I would genuinely be unable to serve in such a vast capacity without YOU! So, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you.

And for my donors… you all have sacrificed greatly to see lives transformed. I can only hope that I have done your compassionate spirits justice. Together we have gone to Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia, India, and Nepal; let alone the two years of living abroad and working in one most influential cities of the world – Geneva, Switzerland.

We have walked together through experiences, such as overseeing an international conference where influential policy makers from developing countries learn the importance of servant leadership; delivering animal loans to poor rural farmers; educating at-risk women about the threat of human trafficking and how they can avoid becoming a victim; assisting entire villages to become self-sustainable; and more! There really are no words to adequately sum up the journey that we’ve shared and I hope to continue partnering with you as we AddressSlavery!

For those who wish to continue donating to GHNI, the funds you provide can be put towards the support of another staff member, be designated to help AddressSlavery, or go towards a Village Adoption project of your choosing.  I’d be more than happy to speak with you in further detail about these options if you are interested!

Until then, to give you an idea of how your future contributions can be used, should you decide to support AddressSlavery your donations will help to cover administrative expenses and the funding of a grant that will be awarded annually to a GHNI-sponsored village seeking to eradicate inequality and prevent human trafficking (by way of: school tuition for impoverished girls, micro-loans for rural village women, fair-wage opportunities for boys/men at risk of becoming enslaved, etc).

Again, I’d love to chat about how you can partner with these important causes so please don’t hesitate to call or email me at any time. And even though it is no longer my full-time job to eradicate poverty and slavery, I deeply hope that we will stay connected and support one another in our shared desire to spew compassion into the world. I will certainly post again on this site so stay tuned!

In the meantime… to close out this chapter of our journey together, let’s take a little walk down memory lane. And, since a picture says a thousand words, here’s 10 thousand worth of my favorite moments working with GHNI.

In Turkey connecting with a village woman while helping her do some laundry. She was very amused with my hand-washing technique… or lack thereof.

Our Turkish partner, Dr K., paying house visits to impoverished villagers who cannot afford to go to the doctors.

Spending a little QT at an orphanage in Nepal. The tiny child sitting on my lap is the one who ran me into a wall when we were playing duck-duck goose. I left with a broken toe and a full heart. I will never forget these smiles and the lesson that I learned from them: All we really need in this life is a little bit of food and a lot of love.

Nepali girls who were rescued from being trafficked. The next year I went back unannounced and they remembered me. Ran right up and smothered me with hugs and laughter. No words can explain that feeling.

The colors of the world. (Jordan)

This adorable little Jordanian girl was beyond excited to have visitors come to her village. We were beyond excited to be there and bring goats for an animal loans project. Years later we learned that the families that received the goats have all paid back their loan and are well on their way to escaping the grip of poverty.

Leaving the island where we are working in Indonesia; One of the poorest in the entire country (made up of over 17,500 islands!). The village children would not let us carry out own bags or shoes. According to the chief, it was their honor to care for us in this way. A lesson in hospitality that I will not soon forget.

In a slum village in Indonesia, three beautiful girls tackle the world together.

Likely my favorite photo of them all. They may not have much food in this Indian village, but love an family abound.

An Indian village girl who followed me around all afternoon. I fell madly in love. I think she was just intrigued. Either way, there was a connection we shared. Knowing that this precious little soul now has access to clean drinking water gives me such peace… and motivation to help other tiny humans just like her.

Rekindling a long lost love

6 Nov

It was rather unexpected. I didn’t think that I would feel the way I had when we first met but, after just a week and 1/2 being back in Orlando, I found myself falling again. Caught off guard just like the first time. I shouldn’t have been so surprised. And after several days with a kool-aid smile on my face I just had to admit it to myself… I love Orlando.

There, I said it.

Orlando gets a bad rep but I have to question if those who speak ill about this city ever really spend time indulging in it. I’ve been back 12 days and I’ve already eaten Cuban food, Malaysian cuisine, good ole fashion BBQ, authentic Italian, American bistro eats, and local coffee shop yumminess. Now given, I’m single so it’s easy to not break the bank while satisfying my taste buds (especially living back in a world that doesn’t look at you like a beggar when you ask for a “doggy bag.” Get with the times, Europe!), but I still believe that whether or not you have money in this city, you have an opportunity to enjoy it.  With so many beautiful parks and sun almost all year round, a picnic is always in order. As for those who looking for something a little more lively, there’s free art exhibits and music to be had almost every night of the week!

For a heat-loving, foodie, entertainment junkie like me, I can’t help but swoon a little driving/walking around this vast city. Of course Orlando is no San Francisco or Asheville but it’s not trying to be and every time I’m reminded of that I find myself excited to unearth another piece of this elusive city.

I’m not sure that Orlando is where I will continue to lay my head for years to come, seeing as I’m a free bird with a desire to find the perfect fitting job for this next stage in my life, but as a lady in love, if Orlando chooses to pursue me I will gladly accept.

I’ve also loved being back at the office, seeing all my old coworkers and being a part of a team again. Although short-lived as it may be (since I officially leave staff at the end of next month), I have really enjoyed reconnecting with everyone – especially our Field Staff. Earlier today I met with GHNI’s Regional Field Leader for South Asia and got to hear all about his visit to India and Nepal last month. I am beyond excited to learn that we have hired a female TCD Trainer to spearhead the counter-trafficking and gender equality teaching in Nepal! Additionally, my colleague’s trip to India brought about a partnership that has the capacity to reach hundreds of villages with the human trafficking awareness & prevention lessons that I have been working on. It’s all coming together and just in time for me to focus my (volunteer) efforts on AddressSlavery so that we can raise up some extra resources to help GHNI’s counter-trafficking work break through the walls of injustice.

So much to be thankful for! And as this is a month that’s focused on gratitude, I thought I’d share a little bit about the blessings that surround me. Now I’d love to hear about yours. Drop me a comment to say what you’re thankful for so that I can celebrate with you. And if we don’t chat before then… Happy Thanksgiving!!

Me out watching the Red Sox game with some of my closest friends from Orlando. The one on the left is my current (and former) roommate. Don’t worry – she doesn’t always wear a tiara. It was Halloween induced. The next girl over is originally from Dorchester, MA. Still a tried-and-true Sox fan, as you can see. And the girl off to the right is one of my friends who came to tour around Europe with me last fall. She always looks like she stepped off the pages of a magazine. Even after living out of a suitcase for 2 weeks! These ladies, plus a few more, are “forever friends”. Hard to come by and even harder (thank God) to lose.

When life gives you lemons…

7 Oct

“We can’t plan life. All we can do is be available for it.” -Lauryn Hill

Well, I did both. I made a plan and made myself available. I stayed in the Boston area a little longer than expected so that my flight to Asia would be less expensive. I even bought a flight! Butttt… I wasn’t able to get a visa, which means that my trip to India & Nepal has been postponed. I’m not sure yet when I will be able to get there, which breaks my heart since these trips are so vital to the work I do.

In Asia, relationships are everything and I desperately want to hug the necks off all the marginalized and oppressed individuals that I aim to serve. Luckily I believe that timing is also “everything” and thus I am trusting that there’s gotta be a good reason for a trip that I have been planning for the past 5 months to fall through. And, in case I needed a little confirmation of that, my non-refundable flight was… refunded! Thank God!

As I was faced with the reality that this trip was not going to happen, I found myself wondering: What then is the purpose of me sticking around the Boston area? It’s starting to get cold and I despise the winter; I haven’t truly lived here for about 7 years so my social circle is bite-size; I’m living in my parent’s basement; and… actually, I think the residing in an insect-haven, under the roof of my parental units at the age of 31, is reason enough for me to seek alternative plans. (FYI, my parents are amazing. It’s just that they are… well, my parents. Not the ideal roommates for any young adult. Can I still call myself that at 31… a YOUNG adult?).

That said, next Saturday I will be starting my drive back down to the Sunshine State where I will work from GHNI’s US Headquarters until life’s next big chapter unfolds itself. I’m not only available for it, I’m excited for it! I’m also excited for the ability to now focus on creating more resources to help villagers expel various forms of Trafficking and other human rights violations from their communities. Speaking of which, I have been able to create TCD Lessons on several aspects of slavery and inequality but I am still struggling with how to approach the deeply traditional practices of Honor Killings and Child Brides (though some of the other lessons speak to this horrifying practice). That to say, if you have any resources on either of these topics, please send it my way.

Additionally, AddressSlavery now has its first collection of gently-used special occasion gowns, and we will be posting them within the month. I am beyond grateful to everyone who donated and cannot wait to launch the sale of these items! Stay tuned for more details about that, including ways that you can get involved, if you wish to be.

I’ll be sure to update y’all when I’m settled back in Orlando. Can’t wait to break back out the sandals!!!

It’s Alive!

7 Aug

I am super excited to announce a new enterprise that I’ve been working on!  Although it’s not quite ready for the official launch yet, project <<Drum roll, please>> AddressSlavery is making some headway and I want you, my amazing supporters, to be the first to hear about it. 

AddressSlavery is the collection and selling of high-quality, gently-used garments and accessories to help stop modern slavery. The concept  was formed after many years of wearing and seeing friends wear beautiful special occasion gowns that often get used just once and then stuck in the back of a closet somewhere. 

Truth be told, how many times do us ladies really wear those bridesmaid dresses, engagement photo-shoot garments, or gala gowns? Yet we pay hundreds of dollars for them!  So I thought… why not free up some storage space in our homes while contributing to a very important cause: the abolition of modern slavery!

AddressSlavery is committed to helping end human trafficking by way of raising funds & awareness to prevent individuals from becoming enslaved. We are partnered with Before I Am Taken, a GHNI initiative, whose mission it is to stop modern day slavery on a global scale before it starts by offering total transformation of communities that are vulnerable due to extreme poverty.

100% of the funds that AddressSlavery generates by the sale of donated items (we are targeting garments and accessories that have a resale value of $50 and above) will be held in an exclusive GHNI account to be distributed on a grant basis for projects seeking to prevent or eradicate human trafficking and gender inequality. Me and a team of other volunteers who are committed to the cause will be responsible for running the operations of AddressSlavery and selecting the specific initiatives that it supports. If you are interested, we’d love to have you volunteer with us by becoming an Area Representative and voting member in the grant application process!! Email me for more details: Hopemore7@gmail.com. 

I’m beyond excited to see how AddressSlavery unfolds in the months/years to come and humbled to help develop this potentially powerful tool! For the next several months I will be concentrating full-time on the creation of this project and the finalization of some work that I have been a part of in the Field (consider joining me for a trip to India & Nepal this October!). Come the end of December, however, I will transition into volunteer status – consulting for GHNI’s counter-trafficking efforts and serving the AddressSlavery project.

In an effort to get this project started off well, I would be so grateful if you could take just a few extra minutes to read through http://www.AddressSlavery.org and let me know your thoughts/questions/concerns. I will let you know when the website updates are finalized and ready for the masses. Till then please keep this link just between us and the hundred or so others who read my silly little blog =)

Life is a Gamble

17 Jul

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The beautiful souls who made my stint in France/Switzerland an experience of a lifetime. Gonna miss seeing all these pretty faces!!

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Just 1 day after coming back to the States I made my bff pick me up in NYC and tow me around the city streets on the back of a rental bike. Needless to say, she was ready to put me on the next plane back to Europe within about 12 hrs of me being home.

I am in the motherland! Hard to believe it’s only been two weeks since I touched back down on American soil. Life has been moving right along and my friends & family have gone above and beyond to usher me into my new/old life. Still, I don’t think it’s fully sunk in that I’m not going back to Europe.

The car shopping process, on the other hand, has been a helpful yet painful little reminder that I’ll be staying in the good ole USA. I say “painful” simply because I am not a fan of making big purchases. I always feel like I’m taking a gamble and -this may come as a shock for those of you who know how adventurous I am- I hate gambling. Reason being: I always lose!  

Last year for a joint birthday celebration, my family (including lifelong friend Aileen) and I went to Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort for the weekend and I was the only person who didn’t win a cent. I even gave Aileen, who was striking it big, $20 to play for me since luck seemed to be on her side and that was the only time all stinking night that she got $0 return on her (well in this case, my) money.

This, on top of my bad fortune with the vehicles that I’ve owned in the past (where I’m pretty sure I’ve had to replace every single piece of machinery under the hood), leaves me loathing the car buying process. In fact, I’m not a fan of nice, new, shiny things in general. I always lose or break them. When I lived the temporary lifestyle of a vagabond expat this was not really an issue because my life abroad had an expiration date on it. Now I’m faced with making decisions & purchases that are investments and that, my friends, is 100% more scary to me than hoping on a plane and heading to a foreign country alone.  

Oddly enough, I gain a little peace of mind in NOT knowing where I’ll be living come January 2014. I’m 99% positive that it’ll be in the States (trying my hand at this whole settling-down thing) but which one is still a big ole question mark. In the fall I will start to apply for jobs in the cities that inspire me and just let the wind take me where it does.  As for what jobs and cities I’ll be considering… I’m not really sure yet.

Since I will remain a volunteer with GHNI, consulting and supporting their efforts to prevent of human trafficking, I don’t feel that I need a job in the humanitarian world, though I am certainly open to it! What’s most important, rather, is finding an exciting work environment that will afford me the opportunity to volunteer in a hands-on capacity for the various causes that I am passionate about. 

In the meantime I’ve got something up my sleeve: A little project that I’m starting through a GHNI initiative titled Before I Am Taken. BIAT is the branch of GHNI helping to raise support for our efforts to prevent human trafficking in impoverished villages. As I have and will continue to develop resources that our staff can use to educate villagers about human trafficking, gender inequality, sexually transmitted infections, and the like, I will also be working to raise up a team of individuals passionate about addressing modern slavery. 

I’m still developing the project proposal/business plan for this venture but should have enough clarity by my next blog post to fill you all in. Likewise, Before I Am Taken will soon have it’s own website. My colleague is currently in the middle of making some final adjustments on a BIAT blog (to be used until we are able to hire a professional website designer) so I’ll share that with you soon as well. Till then, if you want any juicy details don’t hesitate to leave me a comment on this post and I’ll call or email you!