Meet our Partner: Eyes That See

It's the final day of Partner Week and today, we're talking with Nikki of Eyes that See. 

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Eyes That See currently works in Ethiopia with women who desire to leave the sex industry. The women live at their center, The Keziah House, where they receive rehabilitation, counseling, access to health care, clean water, daily life necessities and education through an accredited school. Upon graduating the program, women are gradually  transitioned into the surrounding community and offered continual support as they enter the workforce and begin to live increasingly independent lives.

 ANGELA: How do women end up at Keziah House? How do you serve them?

NIKKI: When we first got started, our staff (all Ethiopian) used to walk the streets of the brothel handing out our information. The flyer said a bit about our program, and if they were interested in changing their lives, to come check us out. Well, it didn't take long from us searching for women who needed help to end up with a waiting list of more than 200 women who had come to sign up to be in our program. It was heartbreaking to see. We no longer go out and look for the women who are needing help. They come to us. They go through an intense interview process to see if this program is right for them. Once accepted to our Keziah home, their basic necessities are provided, they are given an education at an accredited school, offered intense rehabilitation and counseling, emotional support, and job training and placement assistance. More importantly, these women are offered love and community and a chance to find redemption and regain their sense of self worth.

 

ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges ETS has faced?

NIKKI: Unfortunately, finances have been our biggest challenge. Over the past years, there have been times we've had to postpone another class entering for a couple months due to lack of funding. That's why movements like Forget The Frock are so crucial to organizations like ours. Our funding is private, so we are grateful for this opportunity to partner again with you all. 

 

ANGELA: How has your work with ETS impacted you personally?

NIKKI: Wow, so hard to put that into words. I'd like to think I'm a more compassionate, kind, and loving person because of my work with ETS, but then I go and see my Keziah ladies and they shatter the very definition I have of those words. They are amazing women who are so strong and brave. I look at them with envy and wish to be like them! I strive to have their confidence when they walk out of the doors of the Keziah house on graduation day. Its an amazing thing to see. The joy in their eyes comes straight from a place that only one can know when overcoming adversity and redeeming ones life. 
 
 

 

ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through ETS, is there a particular woman that has stayed with you? 

NIKKI: That would be Eyersalem. (A smile comes on my face just saying her name.) I love her so much!! She came to us for the 4th Keziah class. She had a story similar to many others. After being admitted to our program, she went to the routine medical check that all women go to when entering the Keziah house. That is when she learned that she was 3 months pregnant. This was the first time this had come up for us at Eyes That See. Hearing the news, Eyersalem was so worried that she wouldn't be able to be a part of Eyes That See. She was certain that we would kick her out, so she was going to secretly have an abortion. Thankfully, she talked to one of our staff, who talked to our director, who talked to me and asked what our plan was. It was a new issue that was super easy to answer: of course she could stay and of course she could be pregnant and we would help her with the next steps of her journey. It was a lot to take in for me, personally. The fact that Eyersalem saw such value in Eyes that See that she was willing to do anything to stay a part of it, was just so very humbling. I remember meeting her for the first time and putting my hands on her growing belly. Seeing the joy in her eyes about becoming a new mom soon, but also finding redemption and hope without shame, is something I wish everyone could experience. I know I've said it before, but I look up to these ladies. I want to be like them someday!  

 

ANGELA: How do you define success at ETS? How do you evaluate the work that is being done there?

NIKKI: Defining success at ETS is easy, it's in the face of each one of the 103 women who have graduated from Keziah! It's in the faces of all 30 of the children that are now Keziah children because their moms are forever a part of our lives (3 more Keziah babies coming soon!) Seeing how one of these ladies enters our program - broken down, abused, lonely, and defeated - then walking along side her as she breaks away from her past and finds freedom and healing in Christ is very real proof that this is needed in Ethiopia. 

 

ANGELA: ETS has partnered with Forget the Frock for several years now. What were you able to accomplish as a result of the campaigns?

NIKKI: We LOVE partnering with FTF! Seriously, I get so excited when it is time to reveal the new shirts and then again when it's time to box and ship them off to the wonderful people who purchased them! We use the results of this campaign for practical things such as paying tuition: $250 pays for 6 moths tuition for just one of our Keziah ladies. And because of FTF, our last year's graduating class was able to have a fancy graduation party, where we rented out a restaurant, hung decorations, had music, and even caps and gowns for the graduates. It was a fitting way to celebrate all they had accomplished.  

 

ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals for the coming year? What are some concrete things you’d like to see ETS accomplish? How will the funds from this year’s FTF campaign enable you to accomplish this?

NIKKI: We are in the interview process right now for filling our 7th Keziah class. The funds from this year's FTF campaign will go towards the start up cost of having those new women move in. Each time we start up a new class, it is always the most expensive time. We like to purchase a new mattress for each woman (each graduating woman gets to take her mattress with her when she moves out) some clothes, supplies, medical care, and basic needs. For every 170 FTF shirts that ETS sells, it will cover the expense of one woman for an entire year at Keziah! 

 

ANGELA: Speaking directly to people considering buying a shirt to support ETS, what would you say to them?

NIKKI: Thank you! It's easy to scroll past something like this and not give it any attention. So thank you for taking the time to consider buying a shirt from ETS or any of these great organizations. It is extremely humbling to know that a shirt you chose to buy to put on your body will help another woman gain ownership back over hers.
 

Meet Our Partner: Pink Door

Another day, another partner to introduce! Today we're chatting with Rhonda of Pink Door to hear more about the incredibly important work they are doing in Berlin, Germany. 

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Pink Door is a faith-based, not-for-profit organization in Berlin, Germany that provides a long-term recovery program for women transitioning out of prostitution and sexual enslavement. They value personal empowerment, restoration, advocacy and connections to significant support. In January 2016, Pink Door opened its first safe house/transition home for women exiting sexual exploitation. Pink Door also operates a day school and offers classes to help women regain independence and dignity.  

ANGELA:  How did Pink Door get started?

RHONDA: Yeah…that takes us back to 2013. A group of us were serving at a drop-in café in Berlin’s red light district. This is a place where women who are sexually exploited can step in and, for a few minutes to a few hours, find relief from the nightmarish world they live in. The problem was that after those brief moments in the café, they had to go right back to the street. There was no safe place to send the women who truly wanted to escape from the street.
Well, we decided to do something about that. This has taken a lot of sacrifice from so many, but our safe house and day school opened on January 20, 2016 and now there’s a place for sexually exploited women in Berlin (and all over Europe) to find long term healing.

 

ANGELA: Who is your client?

RHONDA: I think you’d be surprised that our participants are women just like you and me. The exception is that they never experienced the innocence of childhood. Most have been exploited from a very young age, but behind those years of trauma, is that incredibly resilient woman created in the image of God.

 

ANGELA: How do women end up at Pink Door?

RHONDA: The phone rings and it’s a referral from another German orEuropean organization that we network with or maybe a social worker that knows Pink Door. They have a woman who wants out and the assessment and intake process begins.

 

ANGELA: How do you serve them?

RHONDA: That’s a great question: (without getting into a lot of sensitive details) we provide a long-term recovery and integration program. This includes a safe and caring home, staff that are committed to walking with our participants every step of their journey to wholeness, and a job readiness and recovery /day-school program.
 The program is really cool! In the recovery/day school program, we offer classes on various topics, such as healthy relationships, basic German language skills (if needed), health, job readiness, art therapy, horse therapy, theater, budgeting, basic math skills, communication skills, etc. and the women have access to a therapist. God is doing some amazing things through all of this.

 

ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges Pink Door has faced?

RHONDA: As with any not-for-profit who is reliant upon donations, funds are always an issue.  And the topics of sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and prostitution are not so easy to communicate. Some just don’t want to hear too many details on this subject, so this makes it challenging to raise the needed funding.
Another challenge is, the emotional toll this work has on our staff and volunteers is significant, so constant encouragement and support is always needed.
And of course, navigating the bureaucratic system here in Germany is like anywhere else--time consuming!
Unfortunately, being a faith-based organization in a very secularized context, we must always fight against the stereotype that we are “unprofessional” or “religious fanatics”. It’s not a level playing field, to say the least.
Then there are the prejudices and misinformation about sexually exploited women that our women must constantly struggle against.

 

ANGELA: How has your work with Pink Door impacted you personally?

RHONDA: Wow, where do I start?I have been impacted in so many ways, but probably the biggest is that I see we are all the same…we are all broken and in need of recovery and healing. This has pushed me into recognizing my own brokenness and to do something about it. Pink Door fosters a culture of recovery for staff and volunteers as well as for the participants in our recovery program. This is an important part of our value of RESTORATION for all of us. This has taken my personal faith to a whole new level.

 

ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through Pink Door, what is a particular woman or situation that has stayed with you? 

RHONDA: The woman who chooses not to stay with her recovery process and returns back to her former life is the most heart-breaking for us. But it has taught us that we cannot make decisions for them nor can we be the ones who give them the motivation to persevere through the pain of recovery. That must come from within themselves.
The best part? It’s witnessing the one who IS committed to recovery and perseveres through the pain to realize her God-given gifts and how she can use them to build a new life. Watching the miracles of those small steps of recovery is amazing, like the woman who finally sees her value and becomes more and more empowered to be the woman she was created to be!  These women have come through horrendous circumstances and yet, they are compassionate toward others beyond those whom we encounter in our daily life. They laugh, they are kind, they are grateful, they are empathetic. They are among the bravest and most resilient women we know.
 Another really cool way we serve is being a part of stopping the cycle of abuse and exploitation in families by helping the children of women in our program. One way we are doing this is by providing needed funds for the college education (very affordable by western standards) of a bright and beautiful child whose risk of being a victim of a sex trafficker was very high. Every time we receive an update on her grades and progress, we stop and celebrate!

 

ANGELA: How do you define success at Pink Door?

RHONDA: When women understand their value, experience restoration, and are empowered to live out their purpose. 

 

ANGELA: How do you evaluate the work that is being done there?

RHONDA: We have a system of benchmarks to track progress:
When women in the Pink Door program:
Permanently walk away and stay away from their old lives
Are no longer addicted or reliant on drugs or alcohol
Live crime-free lifestyles
Maintain school and/or employment
Are living independently and handling their own personal finances responsibly.
Are emotionally stable to the point that emotional issues no longer interfere with day to day living
Are responsible, nurturing parents

 

ANGELA: Last year was Pink Door’s first year with Forget the Frock. What were you able to accomplish as a result of the campaign?

RHONDA: Last year, we really didn’t know what to expect from Forget the Frock. So when the finally tally was made, we couldn’t believe it! We had enough to immediately assist two additional women to enter the Pink Door Program. These two women remain in our program and are making good progress in their recovery. Thanks to Forget the Frock! What an encouragement and incredible blessing for our ministry!!

 

ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals for the coming year?

RHONDA: We need to hire a Program Director to oversee the Pink Door House, the day school and assist the social workers. Also,  because jobs are essential to an independent life, we plan to further develop our job readiness program.

 

ANGELA: How will the funds from this year’s FTF campaign enable you to accomplish this?

RHONDA: Our goal is always for our women to become strong, healthy, empowered women. Moving into their own living space is a huge step toward that goal. In Phase II of our program, women move into an apartment, while we continue to provide various levels of support for them. This year’s FTF campaign will help to fund women moving into Phase II.

 

ANGELA: Speaking directly to people considering buying a shirt to support Pink Door, what would you say to them?

RHONDA: Well that’s easy. “Together We Can Make a Difference!” This is a difficult, dangerous and complicated battle and we cannot do it alone! Wearing FTF t-shirts not only shows your commitment to fighting injustice, but also gives you the chance to DO something about it! You are heroes in the fight for freedom for the women who come to Pink Door.

If you would like to support Pink Door during the Forget the Frock Easter Campaign, click here to be taken to their online store. 

Meet our Partner: Childero

Partner Week continues, and today, we're introducing you to our newest Forget the Frock partner, Childero. Childero is bringing light and hope to the orphans of Northern Uganda, who have faced decades of war, refugee camps, and the devastation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Childero supports 50 orphan children in partnership with in-country and US-based ministries, nourishing their spiritual hunger through weekly Bible study and fulfilling earthly needs through food supplements, educational support, clothing, shoes, feminine supplies, and basic medical care. Founder Jamie Bloyd and I recently chatted about the history and heart behind this great organization. 

 
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ANGELA: How did Childero get started? 

JAMIE: Sometimes God tells us 'no' so that we can think bigger and beyond our original desires.  I had a miscarriage on Valentine’s Day 2007.  I was crushed.  I had some health problems and we weren’t sure if we would be able to have children of our own.  I checked out a book about international adoption from the library and saw a post on Facebook from a childhood friend about adopting a baby from Uganda. My husband and I started the process to adopt from Uganda and were told we had too many student loans to be eligible.  I was very disappointed, but soon very clearly understood that God was preparing me to do something bigger for his kingdom - something to care for many more orphans than just the one we could adopt. 

 

ANGELA: What inspired you to create the organization?

JAMIE: I often have my best ‘ideas’ through dreams.  God kept sending me the same dream about creating this organization.  
After my mission trip to Uganda in November and December 2007, I was so deeply impacted by the suffering of the children.  We visited an orphanage and I got to love on a baby found burning alive in a heap of garbage.  I got to love on a little boy who had been fed battery acid in a bottle.  I was determined that I would not come back to the U.S. and become complacent.  I believe once you know about these things, you have an obligation to act.  Despite their suffering, those children had such joy in their hearts.  It has inspired me as I’ve faced my own suffering. 

 

ANGELA: What drew you to Uganda?

JAMIE:  Joseph Kony and the reign of terror of the Lord’s Resistance Army drew me there.  There had been so many decades of darkness. Children were night commuters, fleeing the bush to avoid being kidnapped and forced to become soldiers and kill their own families.  I wanted to bring God’s love to a region where there had been so much evil and brokenness. Thinking about the children alone in the night - the darkness - scared for their lives, taken from their mother’s arms - that really stayed on my heart.  That’s why I love the name 'Childero' which means "child of light" in Acholi.  I wanted them to feel God’s love and to know that no matter the darkness they’ve faced, they can be filled with the light and restoration of the Holy Spirit.

 

ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges Childero has faced?

JAMIE: By far the biggest challenge Childero has faced - and I have faced in my life - was the diagnosis of my 5-year-old son Paxton with stage 4 Burkitts Lymphoma Leukemia on March 3, 2014, right as we were preparing to launch the program. The day Paxton was diagnosed, his care manager said, "You know what type it is don’t you?" I said, "no."  She said, "Burkitts Lymphoma." I ran to my desk to Google Burkitts and found this: "Recognized as the fastest growing human tumor, Burkitt lymphoma is associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated. Burkitt lymphoma is named after British surgeon Denis Burkitt, who first identified this unusual disease in 1956 among children in Uganda, Africa.”
FASTEST GROWING HUMAN TUMOR. RAPIDLY FATAL. UGANDA, AFRICA.  
We were shocked and devastated. I didn’t know if he would survive, yet I felt an incredible responsibility for the orphans. I kept thinking, "but for the grace of God go I."  Only by the grace of God did our family find ourselves in a country where we could get the medicine needed to save his life; where we had access to doctors; with people that loved us and were praying for us.  I just kept thinking about all the children there who were alone and sick and hungry, who didn’t know the hope found in Jesus Christ. I thought about all the mothers who had sick and dying children, but no one to help them. 

 

ANGELA: How has your work with Childero impacted you personally?

JAMIE: When I first dreamed about Childero, I envisioned myself going to Uganda each year to personally connect with the children and see them and experience them and love them.  I wanted to see, in person, the good work God was allowing me to do.  Since Paxton’s illness and welcoming a new baby, I know it is not my time to leave Kentucky to travel there. Paxton’s diagnosis brought a lifetime of uncertainty that the cancer could return.  That he will have other significant health problems as a result of the toxicity of treatment.  He gets sick very frequently. In my mind, I often refer to the saying, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Right now I feel that it may be many, many years before I ever get to go back to Uganda.  That I will never sit under that shade. I will never personally meet many of the children. But in the midst of the most intense time of Paxton’s illness, I knew I could not control what was going on with Paxton: He was suffering and there was nothing I could do. But I knew I could do something to help the orphans.  We may be helping 50 children with discipleship and food and education, but the truth is that they have helped me just as much.  They gave me a focus on kingdom work, not despair and the Devil.  They saved me, too.  

 

ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through Childero, what is a particular child or situation that has stayed with you?

Because of my own experience with my son, the children who are sick particularly weigh on my heart. There’s one little boy we serve who personifies the stereotype of an African child:  extremely skinny, bones sticking out, heartbreakingly thin. Like many of our children, he has HIV/AIDS.  He also has Sickle Cell anemia.  He health cycles up and down, and I know one day we will lose him.  Even though Childero is doing well, we cannot afford to pay for continual hospital stays or comprehensive medical care. The healthcare facilities there cannot accommodate the many, many children like him that are chronically sick and dying. He stays with me in everything I do for Childero.  

 

ANGELA: How do you define success at Childero? How do you evaluate the work you are doing?

JAMIE: I define success as winning hearts and minds for Jesus. All children in our program are required to participate in Bible clubs regularly, which are held outside.  Their attendance is closely monitored as is their school work.  But we also look to gain hearts and minds through the ripple effect of ministering to the Childero children.  For every Childero child that comes to bible study, 10 more from the village join in.  They hear the laughter and see dancing and smiles and they want to be a part of it.  
 
 
Logistically, he have a Kentucky Advisory Board for Childero as well as a Gulu (the largest town in northern Uganda) Advisory Board.   We call them the KAB and the GAB.  The Gulu board is made up of 7 United Methodist Church pastors that are officially a part of the United Methodist Conference of East Africa.  They each nominated the children from their congregations that needed the most help and who were not receiving help from another aid program.  The Gulu board meets regularly with our in-country coordinator to assess the program, monitor how the children are doing, and report back to the Kentucky board so we can evaluate our work and the impact we are making. 

 

ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals you’d like to accomplish in the coming year? How will the funds from this year’s campaign enable you to do so?

JAMIE: This year brings something new to Childero.  Several of our older children are finishing up primary school and can go on to secondary school!  This is a huge accomplishment for them and something to be very proud of.  But secondary school is much more expensive than primary school.  I would like for all of our orphans to know that, if they stay focused on God and do well in school, they will have the opportunity to go to secondary school.  Since there are many more younger children behind them, the cost will increase dramatically the next few years.  The funds from this year’s campaign will allow the current children eligible to transition to move up to secondary school, and hopefully, pave the way for us to make that promise and commitment to the younger children, giving them a goal they can work towards.  
Funds from this year’s campaign could also allow us to increase the food allotment we give each child.  The food allotment doesn’t just feed the receiving child, but provides essential ingredients to cook for the whole family,  so its not just changing the life of that orphan, it is transforming the health of all the siblings in the family, too.  
 
 

 

ANGELA: What would you say to those considering supporting Childero?

JAMIE: Supporting Childero allows you to be a double blessing, because you are changing lives in Uganda and in the U.S. All t-shirts are being produced by The Shirt Garage, a screen printing company in Danville, Kentucky that employs disabled adults. While I have not personally experienced such a disability, I do know how it feels to be able to be of service to others when you have been on the receiving end of so much help. And you will be making a real difference in the lives of children in Uganda. 

Meet Our Preferred Partner: Feeding the Orphans

Each day this week, we will be interviewing the people behind our Partner Charities to help you get to know them a little bit better. We are kicking things off by chatting with Kristie and Sydney O'Leary of Feeding the Orphans.

 

Feeding the Orphans is a grassroots organization founded in 2010 by then-10- year-old, Sydney O’Leary. FTO advocates for the fatherless of West Africa in Jesus’ name, working to first meet the immediate earthly needs of the community and then build long-term relationships that foster knowledge of Christ. FTO works in partnership with existing Christian ministries when possible, but if needs are identified that reach beyond the scope of these ministries, FTO becomes the driving force to provide for those in need. FTO serves by feeding children, providing educational grants and scholarships, drilling clean water wells, coordinating medical relief missions, and operating Esther's Hope, a job skills and mentoring program that provides education and employment to single mothers to help them find independence.

 

 

ANGELA: Feeding the Orphans was started when Sydney was just a child. Kristie, what was your initial impression of her vision?

KRISTIE: When Sydney first came to us with her idea we were in the middle of our first adoption and we were personally fundraising for that.  I remember thinking to myself “This is such an amazing thing she wants to do, but we cannot help her fundraise, too. There’s just no way.” Then God nudged my heart that He’s the one doing all of it and to stand behind our daughter and her dreams and visions. So we did.  And He showed up like we never imagined. 

ANGELA: Did you ever imagine the organization would grow like this?

KRISTIE: Never.  Her goal was to raise $500 by selling the 'Kings and Queens' shirt and we thought that would be the end of it. 

 

ANGELA: At what point did you realize that this was more than just a kid’s fundraising project? 

KRISTIE: When, within two months of a 10-year-old girl selling a t-shirt and speaking out for the fatherless, $8,000 was raised. At that point, we realized this was God moving in a mighty way. Only God can turn a simple question into a life changing ministry for thousands.  
 
 

ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges Feeding the Orphans has faced over the years?

KRISTIE: Some of the biggest challenges we have faced are just the vast needs in front of us every day.  The girls that are prostitutes. The children that are sacrificed.  The moms that feel like they have no other choice but to give up their children.  The children who long to attend school, but have no means to do so. The babies fighting for their lives because they have special needs and there’s no money for medical care.  And then loving those little ones, yet watching them leave their earthly home.  The greatest challenge we face is knowing we can never help all of them, but resting in the hope of our Savior and that He loves each of us (and them) more than any of us can ever imagine.  Sometimes that is easier said than done. 

 

ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through FTO, what is a particular woman or child or situation that has stayed with you?

KRISTIE:  Regina.  A beautiful 15 year old girl. I had heard stories of her.  How she couldn’t care for herself and her siblings.  How she didn’t attend school.  How she was desperate. But the day we drove to her house was something I was not prepared for.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe as we got out of the car.  And she was cooking, but it wasn’t food.  It was grass she had plucked from the field to boil for her family. Yes, grass.  Only grass.  And I stood there and tears poured down my face as I looked at her and her family. Hungry and hopeless.  And our partner told me she felt she had no other choice other than to become a prostitute.  Instead, though, God intervened and He sent FTO.  He sent people to purchase FTF shirts and He changed her life. He provided food for her family and then a sponsor.  And He provided a way for her to attend school.  That precious girl who had so much shame that she couldn’t even look at my face on that hot August day is now a radiant, thriving, smiling teenager dreaming of being a nurse.  Her life was literally transformed by a simple t-shirt.
SYDNEY: Mercy and Favor.  About a year ago, we got news of two precious siblings who were fighting for their lives in Ghana.  They were both severely malnourished and little Favor could barely even sit up.  We immediately sent emergency medical care money and they started to make progress.  A few weeks later they moved into one of the orphanages we partnered with and two weeks after that I flew to Ghana to meet these special little ones.  They stole my heart the second I met them.  Today, they are thriving and two of the happiest toddlers you’ll ever meet!  

 

ANGELA: How has Forget the Frock impacted your organization?

KRISTIE: FTF has literally transformed this ministry. God founded it on a simple tshirt when Sydney was just 10 and now He’s using FTF and the sale of tshirts at Easter to transform lives all over Ghana, Togo and East TN.  

 

ANGELA: What are some specific things you’ve been able to accomplish with the funds from past campaigns? 

KRISTIE: As a ministry, we have over 600 children in our daily education and food sponsorship programs.  2/3 of those children do not have individual sponsors so because of FTF those kids are receiving an education and daily nourishment. They are going to school, learning trades and realizing they can achieve their dreams.  In the end, together we are raising leaders for the next generation. 

ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals for the coming year?

SYDNEY: One dream of mine is to finish Nyame Dua’s new home.  We just have a little bit more to do on the upstairs and then these kids will have a place just for them. A place that’s safe and a place where they will learn all about Jesus.  Another dream is to help Ho hospital in Ghana run their NICU and make sure that every tiny blessing from God is cared for and loved.  

 

ANGELA: What would you like to accomplish with the funds from this year’s campaign? 

KRISTIE: We would like to finally be able to purchase phototherapy lights for a hospital about three hours outside of the capital city.  This hospital receives abandoned babies and lots of pre-term babies on a consistent basis.  We have personally held some of these little ones, prayed with their mommas and loved on the doctors and nurses.  They are in desperate need of these lights and we are anxious to watch FTF help provide them. 

 

ANGELA: Speaking directly to people considering buying a shirt to support Feeding the Orphans, what would you say to them? 

SYDNEY: I would say thank you so very much.  By purchasing and wearing a simple shirt, you are literally saving lives.  You are feeding little ones, providing medical care to kids that desperately need it and you are also raising awareness about the plight of the orphan.  It’s an all around win, you get to wear a comfy shirt on Easter and support precious kiddos in Ghana, Togo and now the US. 

Starting the Conversation: Inviting Your Church to Host a Campaign

 
 

We've seen a lot of excited discussions on social media about the campaign, with many wondering how they can get their local church involved. This is incredibly exciting, and we wanted to give you a few tools and pieces of advice when inviting your church to host a campaign. 

We want you to know that Forget The Frock doesn't always begin in churches as a church-wide campaign. Often, it is a few brave souls (small groups, youth groups, Sunday school classes, etc.) that are inspired by the movement, that show up on Easter Sunday in very untraditional dress. Then, as they share their convictions and their heart for the oppressed, they see the movement begin to resonate with other people. The next year others begin to join them as they choose to "Forget The Frock," and before they know it many are on board. 

If you feel called to take the message of this movement to your pastors, certainly we want you to do just that. We are so thankful to the many that have! Know that we are here to answer your questions and help in any way we can. But also know that starting small, with your circle of friends, can have great impact too! (Hey, that's how this whole Forget the Frock thing got started!)  Don't be discouraged if your church initially declines to participate as a body--often, the church staff and pastors have logistical reasons they may decline to host a campaign, but in our experience, are always supportive of the heart and commitment of those who participate. Regardless of the way you choose to help us carry the message, know that we are praying for you and the impact you will have on vulnerable lives. 

Here's a sample email you can copy/paste/customize and send to your church staff to start the conversation: 

I have recently discovered an amazing opportunity for our church body, a chance to embrace the commands of James 1:27 “to care for the orphan and the widow.” I would love to tell you a little more about it. It's called "Forget The Frock."   
Churches across the nation are joining the growing movement. The Forget The Frock Easter campaign encourages people to use the money they would normally spend on a new outfit for Easter and instead, purchase a t-shirt that benefits orphan care. Forget The Frock isn’t focused on one specific organization, rather they encourage us to explore their shirt partners or other ministry organizations and then partner with a ministry that we feel called to invest in.
Participating in Forget The Frock is a simple way our church can rally together to care for the orphan, rescue human trafficking victims or invest in family preservation. I believe this could be a great opportunity for our body to actively join together for a common goal. The pictures these churches share on social media of their people coming together in their shirts is inspiring.
Forget The Frock has tons of resources available to make launching a church-wide campaign easy. You can check it out on their website www.forgetthefrock.org. I would love to talk with you more about this and how I can work to bring this simple campaign to our people. 

 

Here are a few links you might want to include: 

Forget the Frock's Church Hosts page: http://www.forgetthefrock.org/church-hosts/

Feeding the Orphans' webpage re: Forget the Frock: http://www.feedingtheorphans.org/forget-the-frock/

 

Good luck with your conversations, and please, reach out on social media or at info@forgetthefrock.org if we can help! 

 

A shirt that touches lives around the world.

We have such exciting news to share!

As you know, each year our Preferred Partner, Feeding the Orphans, uses 100% of the profits from your shirt purchase to fund orphan care initiatives. However, this year, they've gone even a step further. In an effort to be the absolute best stewards of every dime entrusted to them, Feeding the Orphans has made some exciting changes to how their shirts are made. This year, when you order the official Forget the Frock shirt from Feeding the Orphans, your fair-trade produced t-shirt will have been sewn in Haiti by a non-profit organization that trains and employs young adults that are aging out of orphanages. This high-quality shirt is then shipped from Haiti to the United States, where it will be printed by American workers before heading to you, the purchaser of the shirt.

Not only will Feeding the Orphans be using 100% of the profits for orphan care, the shirt manufacturer is a non-profit that trains and hires orphans as they reach adulthood AND uses their profits to care for child orphans in Haiti. That means that with every single Forget the Frock shirt you purchase, you will touch the lives of orphans in Haiti and in Africa. Now that is awesome. 

 

Check out this amazing video that gives all the details of this incredible partnership. 

Another year of Forget the Frock begins

Yesterday we launched our 2017 Forget the Frock campaign. We unleashed an army of Ambassadors and together with you guys, we linked arm-in-arm and began to share the message of this movement. It is so very simple. Wrapped up for us right there in James 1:27.

“To care for the Orphan and the Widow.”

Please hear me when I say six years ago we didn’t start out to create some grand movement among people, we just did something incredibly simple. Something we honestly felt God was just calling our family to do. We chose to buy a t-shirt that supported a friend's daughter's budding charity rather than an Easter dress. That’s it. 

When I try to think about the story God has written (and is still writing) with Forget the Frock… I see so many things, see the beginnings of so many stories. But, when I pull back… take a back seat view and dream… here’s what I see.

 
Emily and her younger sister in their Easter frocks. 

Emily and her younger sister in their Easter frocks. 

 

That’s me. Me, in all my "frocked" glory. There in the dress my grandma made me, with curls and a basket and a hat--because THERE WAS ALWAYS A HAT. 

While this picture is precious and floral (really, really floral) the only story that it could possibly tell is how Kentucky humidity is no match for a good set of sponge rollers in my hair. My view, my dreams are so limited.

The story I see God writing with Forget the Frock looks so much different than that picture.

The story I see God writing is the story of a generation of hearts changed and traditions altered. A story where we stand up and say there is too much pain, too much hurt, too much injustice in the world and we will NOT allow it to continue unanswered. WE WILL DO SOMETHING. And that "something" can be as simple as choosing a t-shirt over our normal Easter outfit. 

Because of this beautiful movement God is weaving together, the stories I get to share with my children will be ones of how their Easter shirts care for the orphan, keep families together, rescue the trafficked victim and defend the oppressed.  Life-changing stories and life-changing impact. 

To those of you who are joining us, thank you! I hope your heart has been softened to the hurt in the world and I hope you can see how your simple shirt can tell a beautiful story. 

 
 

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Cuddle + Kind

Every child should have one of these beautiful Cuddle+Kind dolls. Hand-knit by artisans in Peru, these wonderfully-detailed, fair trade dolls are the perfect blend of cuddly softness, safety and durability.  And for each doll purchased, Cuddle+Kind will donate 10 meals through partnerships with a variety of well-respected child hunger organizations. From September 15, 2015 to September 15, 2016 alone, Cuddle+Kind has donated nearly 630,000 meals through organizations working in the US and 64 countries around the world. They also employ more than 100 artisans at sustainable, fair trade wages in Peru, providing opportunity and empowerment to women. And the dolls they create are beloved by children all over the world. Just look at these darling stuffed friends:

 

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Shine Project

A look at The Shine Project, a non-profit providing scholarships to inner-city youth, and a selection of their fabulous jewelry that supports the cause. 

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Krochet Kids

Wintertime means a wardrobe of warm hats, gloves, scarves and sweaters, so why don't you share the warmth by giving a hand knit or crocheted item from Krochet Kids International? This non-profit organization hires women from Northern Uganda and Peru, teaching them to crochet and weave, employing them to make the items that they sell in their stores, and using the profits from these sales to educate, mentor, and empower a generation of women. 

Krochet Kids was founded by three guys who loved winter sports and learned to crochet so they could have an endless supply of unique hats on the mountain. Their unique hobby attracted attention from their peers, and soon they were taking custom orders and selling their wares to help pay for prom. 

Fast forward a few years, and these young entrepreneurs are spread to three different colleges, but each having experiences that broadened their global awareness and understanding of the cycle of poverty. As they traveled abroad and learned the heartbreaking stories of the poor and realized how fortunate they'd been growing up, they felt compelled to do something. With the encouragement of family and a little ingenuity, they found themselves together in northern Uganda with a bag of yarn, crochet needles and a group of local women and they began teaching them how to crochet and sell their goods as a pathway to independence. Krochet Kids was born and has since expanded its reach into Peru, helping to empower women on two continents through the opportunity for dignified work, teaching skills for advancement, and mentoring women on their path to independence.  Here's a video that explains more the vision and mission of Krochet Kids: 

When you purchase crochet and knit items from Krochet Kids International, you are directly investing in these artisans, supporting their work and their futures. Your beautifully hand-made item will come with a tag inside, signed by the woman that created it. What a thoughtful and impactful gift to give this season!

Here are a few of our favorite things, but there are so many beautiful items to choose from! Click over and visit their shop today!

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Man Cans

Ever wondered what to get some of the guys in your life? How about a candle that smells like bacon or a new leather baseball glove or freshly cut grass? 

Man Cans are candles scented for men. Forget florals and sweet smells, these candles are infused with a heartier scent. Each candle is poured in a soup can with a manly brown paper wrapper, and the simplicity of the design is part of the genius of this social enterprise. 

Man Cans was founded in 2010 by a kid, then-13-year-old Hart Main, who (during his sister's candle fundraiser for school) wondered why companies didn't make candles with scents that appealed to men. So, he set about to make his own candle, deciding that a soup can would be the perfect vessel. Along the way, he decided he wanted his company to do something for his local community, so he began purchasing soup, donating it to local soup kitchens, reclaiming the opened cans and then pouring his candles inside. Thus, Man Cans was born. 

In the beginning, mom did all of the actual pouring (Hart wasn't allowed to mess with the hot wax). In later years, Hart began taking a more active production role, but then the company's success made a small kitchen enterprise impossible, so Hart decided to hire out the pouring. He chose Beaver Creek Candle Co., which exclusively hires mentally and developmentally disabled employees to work in their facilities. 

When you purchase a Man Can, not only are you providing a job for the mentally and developmentally disabled, you are providing meals for the disadvantaged at shelters across the country through Man Can's "One Candle, One Meal" pledge. So this Christmas, spice up the ambience of your home with a 'Santa's Beard' scented candle. Grab a Gunpowder scent for your favorite hunter. And the Memphis BBQ scent would be perfect for the guy that likes to fiddle with the smoker out back. Whatever scent you choose, your candle will feed the hungry and provide employment for the disabled--that's an awesome gift to give!

(PS--They also sell 'She Cans' in more traditionally-feminine scents and wax melts for warmers in both Man and She scents. Just in case that's more your style)

Christmas GiveS Back Idea Book: Jewelry from Hands Producing Hope

Simple. Elegant. Sustainable. Those words describe the jewelry of Hands Producing Hope and their mission. 

Founder Rebecca Gardner encountered the Guaymi people of Coast Rica and felt drawn to their story. Marginalized, discriminated against and ostracized, the Guaymi people frequently live on reservations with little hope for the future. Rebecca and an in-country family of missionaries started Hands Producing Hope with the idea that "all people (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geographical location) be afforded opportunities to have dignified and respectable work, and to provide for their families and flourish in their communities."

Now, Hands Producing Hope is operating in two countries: Costa Rica and Rwanda. They hire and pay artisans above-living-wages to create the jewelry products, frequently using indigenous seeds or natural elements in the jewelry. The artisans and their families are welcomed into the HPH community, which teaches them life skills, provides educational and training opportunities for future advancement, and are taught about the incredible love that Jesus has for them. Hands Producing Hope involves the larger community to be a part of their mission, and as relationships are formed between the Guaymi people and the surrounding communities, small steps are being made toward racial reconciliation. 

Here's a great video depicting their work and how it began:

 

This Christmas, give the gift of beautiful, sustainably-made jewelry that will empower a woman and help her find dignified work. There are so many elegant options to choose from, here are a few of our favorites: 

So many lovely options, sure to delight your gift recipients! Top left: Orlando Bracelet $15. Top right: Kaia Necklace $24.  Bottom left: Maria Elena Necklace $52 Bottom middle: Irma Bracelet $10. Bottom right: Shalom Necklace $32

So many lovely options, sure to delight your gift recipients! Top left: Orlando Bracelet $15. Top right: Kaia Necklace $24.
 Bottom left: 
Maria Elena Necklace $52 Bottom middle: Irma Bracelet $10. Bottom right: Shalom Necklace $32

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Leather Goods from Mission Lazarus

One of my favorite smells is the scent of leather--isn't it just divine? (Although, our vegan friends may not share that opinion.) And I love how quality leather develops more character over time--it gets even more lovely after years of use. But hand-stitched leather goods have come under intense scrutiny in the pat few years, as laborers in developing nations are often paid a pittance to stitch the goods in deplorable working conditions. 

However, you don't have to give up your love of leather goods entirely! Meet Mission Lazarus, a social enterprise that works in rural communities in Honduras and Haiti to provide opportunity. The impoverished are invited to attend Mission Lazarus free vocational schools where they learn sewing, how to create leather goods or are trained to work on one of their organic agriculture farms producing coffee. All students and employees are paid a living wage that is 25% higher than the established, local Fair Trade wages and all employees are eligible for healthcare. 

Mission Lazarus' approach in working with communities is comprehensive and multilateral, impacting the areas of agriculture, education, medicine, church planting, orphan care, and social enterprise in every community they serve. Since it's inception in 2002, Mission Lazarus has grown to directly employ more than 150 people and has planted 27 churches in Honduras and Haiti. By purchasing one of their products, you'll be supporting their important work. And I can't imagine anyone NOT being pleased to receive these gorgeous goods under the tree this Christmas! (But, just in case you have a vegan on your list, remember that there's always coffee!)

Christmas Give Back Idea Book: Knit Gear from Mitscoots Outfitters

I know what you're thinking: socks for Christmas? Seriously? But when they're this fun, fashionable and functional, how can you resist? Cool funky patterns, bright colors and hi-tech basics for athletic performance, these socks aren't your ordinary box-store footwear. 

Mitscoots gear is manufactured in the USA in plants located in Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and California, then packaged in a facility in Austin, Texas that employs transitioning homeless, giving valuable jobs to those that need them most. And every time you make a purchase, a similar, high-quality item will be given to the homeless, to help them stay warm and healthy on the streets. 

Mitscoots was founded in 2012 by Tim Scott and his wife, Agata. In their volunteer work with the homeless community, one of the most frequent requests was for socks and other gear, like hats and gloves. As Tim developed his business plan, he knew that providing quality gear to the homeless community would be a cornerstone of his business model. But Tim wasn't content to just give handouts of free gear--he knew that this was just a temporary fix, as even the most high-quality gear would eventually wear out. "Top-down charities are all about people receiving. There's no 'Let's do this together.' Restoring dignity is missing."

One day, he had an epiphany, though: the socks would require packaging, sizing stickers and branding, and that's when Tim decided to hire the homeless to do the work.  Mitscoots provides part-time employment that instills a sense of pride and dignity in those that are looking to work, but are frequently unable to secure employment because of their living situation. It helps to bridge the gap between shelter and street living to full-time employment. Mitscoots also partners with a variety of local nonprofits to make a holistic impact in the Austin homeless community. This approach allows them to meet the immediate needs of the homeless, provide a pathway to independence in the future, and engage the American workforce in creating a quality product for the consumer--it's a win-win-win-win. 

Whether your recipients' taste in socks is purely functional or runs more to the fanciful, you're sure to find a product to delight them. What a great stocking stuffer to give this holiday!

For you Kentucky Wildcats fans, here's a new pair of lucky socks. (Other colors, too) Flatwater argyle sock $14 & Solid crew $10

For you Kentucky Wildcats fans, here's a new pair of lucky socks. (Other colors, too)
Flatwater argyle sock $14Solid crew $10

Have an athlete in your life? Get them the hi-tech comfort they deserve! Low-rise athletic sock, 3-pack $28 

Have an athlete in your life? Get them the hi-tech comfort they deserve!
Low-rise athletic sock, 3-pack $28 

Feeling patriotic? Show your American pride with some classy stars and bars.  The Independence sock $14

Feeling patriotic? Show your American pride with some classy stars and bars. 
The Independence sock $14

Fall weather means permission to drag out the boots, and a pair of comfy, padded boot socks are a must.  Natalia Boot sock $22

Fall weather means permission to drag out the boots, and a pair of comfy, padded boot socks are a must. 
Natalia Boot sock $22

These houndstooth socks with the yellow trim are sure to brighten up the dreariest January day! The Mac sock $14

These houndstooth socks with the yellow trim are sure to brighten up the dreariest January day!
The Mac sock $14

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Jewelry from the Starfish Project

Jewelry is a great choice for gifts: unless it's a ring, there's no need to worry about sizes and most every woman enjoys a sparkly bauble hanging from their neck or earlobes. But when you factor in the notion that jewelry from the Starfish Project will also bring hope to exploited women, it's a no brainer.

Starfish Project was founded in 2006 by Jenny McGee. After studying abroad in college and getting a taste of China, she and her husband traveled to Beijing to learn Chinese and immerse themselves in the culture. While there, a friend who worked in philanthropy exposed McGee to the masses of women, many who had arrived illiterate to the city from rural areas, hoping to find opportunity, and ended up living horrible lives of abuse and exploitation in the city's brothels. McGee and her co-founder, Priscilla Daeger, decided to do something about it. McGee began making jewelry and using the proceeds to fund assistance for the women. She also began teaching the women how to craft jewelry themselves, and out of this modest start, a successful social enterprise was born.

Today, Starfish Project can boast of many success stories: women that, not only have found healing from their past, but have developed longterm and satisfying careers. Women begin their journey with Starfish Project at one of their shelters, where they (along with their children) can find a safe, clean environment to make their fresh start.  Counseling, Christian mentoring and comprehensive healthcare are provided to care for a woman's immediate needs. Vocational and life skills training are offered for women to begin their first steps toward independence (while their children are also given educational scholarships and opportunities), and women are employed making jewelry at a fair wage, with healthcare and retirement benefits. But Starfish Project's McGee wants more for these women than just a simple job. Each day there are computer classes for the women to gain Microsoft certification, and women are given the opportunity to learn photography, graphic design, marketing, accounting, and management skills in order to jump start a lifelong career.

"My thought was to have them make jewelry while they learned to do something else," she explained to Kering Magazine. "Employing people to make something forever is not that thrilling to me," McGee said. "But seeing them able to do things they never thought they could do before is quite fulfilling." 

This Christmas, consider a purchase from Starfish Project. Your purchase will empower women to leave behind exploitive employment and find personal fulfillment and healing. And there are so many incredible options to choose from!

With on-trend colors, this statement necklace will bring color to the most drab winter day. 

Know someone with a love for dangly earrings? With a modern flare and minimalist vibe, these earrings would look fabulous in the office or with your fave pair of jeans. 

A simple, elegant silver bar with a hand-stamped cross. An understated way to wear a visible reminder of your faith. 

This necklace and earring duo would look fabulous from morning to night, whether paired with a business suit, a worn pair of jeans and a classic white tee, or that little black dress we all have tucked into our closets. 

 

2016 Christmas Idea Book

Christmas is a time of celebration and sharing gifts with loved ones, but wouldn't it be great if those gifts could also make an impact in the world? We've scoured some of our favorite non-profits and for-profit social enterprises to create this list of beautiful gifts. Not only will these treasures make your recipient light up with joy, they will also help to right a social injustice, create opportunity for the less fortunate, and bring hope to communities in need. Click through the Idea Book, and if you see something you like, click the image or the item name/price and you'll be taken directly to the item's purchasing page. Want more info on the organization itself? Click the logo and you can read about how your purchase will be used to make an impact. 

PS--On a mobile device? Rotate your device sideways for a better view!

A New Look and More!

Well, what do you think? Like the new website?

We have been working hard to update and clarify our website and get everything ready for the 2017 Forget the Frock Easter campaign. It seems so far in the future, doesn't it? But in reality, we are just 15 weeks from the launch of the 2017 campaign. Yikes!

Our team and our long-time partners have been working behind the scenes to prepare for what we hope will be the largest and most successful campaign yet. We have visions of working alongside our followers to feed more children and care for more women than ever before, spreading the Good News and the love of Christ through your small Easter sacrifice. But we are really going to need YOUR HELP!

As you cruise around the website, make sure you visit the page to Become an Ambassador--we need you out there telling everyone about Forget the Frock.

Invite your church to get information on our Church Hosts page--they can learn all about the movement and how they can host their own Forget the Frock campaign, either in support of one of our Partners or even a local ministry or outreach that they already engage.

And if your Women's Ministry or MOPS group is looking for a great speaker, visit our About Us page, where you can read about how Emily is speaking at events to empower women to live out their God-given potential in service of the Kingdom.

And don't forget to check back often, here on the blog or on our social media pages: we'll be featuring stories from some of our recent events and bringing you our annual Purposeful Giving guide just in time for Christmas!

-Angela