empowerment

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. 

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: 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

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!