One of my new years resolutions is to try and refocus on helping others in the year to come. Although I love writing and illustrating about fashion, lifestyle, and design—it's easy to forget about those in need. For the year of 2014, I'm starting a new semi-regular segment on the blog called “Clothing for a Cause.” Clothing for a Cause will pair fashionably-conscious individuals with clothing-based charities that help those in need. If you are like me, you probably accumulate a lot of clothes over time and generally have plenty to give to those who are less fortunate than yourself. Clothing for a Cause will help provide a list of different resources for where you can donate certain items of clothing.
Free the Girls is an organization I came across a couple of years ago through social media. The non profits' mission is to collect used bras to help rehabilitate women rescued from human trafficking and slavery around the world. The women involved with the Free the Girls program can create a small second hand clothing business by selling the bras to other women within their community—this helps create a sustainable lifestyle that allows for a flexible and profitable work schedule. Women in the program for Free the Girls can make up to 5 times minimum wage, which is almost unheard of in some parts of the world. So far, women from all over have donated over 130,000 bras to help those in need.
There are about 27 million men, women, and children around the world that are still being used in some form of slavery—80% of which are women. There are many great organizations that help people escape from these conditions and assist in integrating them into the community and workforce after they have been rescued. The resources for effective rehabilitation, however, are limited. Fortunately, Free the Girls partners with safe houses and after-care facilities to help provide an opportunity for women rescued from sex trafficking to earn a living and re-enter the world with a strong sense of identity.
Secondhand clothing is a profitable market in many parts of the world, and used bras are a hot commodity (who knew?!). Free the Girls' largest market is in Mozambique and, in February 2013, they launched programs in Uganda, and El Salvador. Many of these rescued women were sold into prostitution at a young age and only now, after being rescued, are able to return to school and receive a proper education. The Free the Girls work model for rehabilitated women allows for a flexible schedule that can accommodate schooling when necessary. It is also a self-sustainable model—once the initial bras have been donated and sold the women can purchase more bras for a competitive wholesale price to help maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
There are 58 drop off locations all over the US and Canada. Check out the Free the Girls webpage to find a location near you or find the address where you can ship your bras. Free the girls accepts bras of all varieties-including maternity bras and sports bras.