If you follow me anywhere on the internet, you’ve probably noticed me posting about several organizations and causes that are near to my heart. Since social media can sometimes feel a little cluttered, I wanted to collect all these special things in one place–ye olde blog–so that you, my Grasshoppers, will be able to see them more clearly.
But first, a question: Have you ever been sold for sex?
That’s not rhetorical. Many of us will say no, but some will say yes.
Some will say, I was lured into a relationship by a man who turned out to be a pimp, a sex trafficker, whatever you want to call him.
Some will say, I sold myself because I thought it was the only way to pay the bills.
Some will say, I allowed myself to be sold because, if I didn’t, they would have hurt my family.
For some, it happened as young as twelve or thirteen. But at any age, it is devastating.
I first heard about The Wellhouse when my church hosted a seminar on sex trafficking. In the midst of the brutally nightmarish tidbits of information about how sex trafficking works, who’s at risk, and how to spot a woman who’s trapped, The Wellhouse presented itself like a beacon of light to women who’ve been taken, sold, abused, and fed the lie that they cannot escape, or else.
Located in my hometown of Birmingham, AL, The Wellhouse does more than rescue girls who’ve been forced into prostitution. They nurture these girls and women physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They give them a safe place to live when they haven’t known safety in years, or maybe ever. And their founder, Tajuan McCarty? She knows how all of it feels firsthand because she was trafficked, too.
For more information on The Wellhouse, visit their website here: The Wellhouse
But that’s not where the redemption ends…
My dear friend Barry is a banker with a heart for the hopeless. In 2012, Barry and his friend–a commercial real estate developer–traveled to southern India to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop their business plans.
The trip changed their lives, and their hearts, forever.
Since then, Barry and his friend have been working to develop Work of Worth International: an organization that utilizes the power of commerce to free the oppressed in the developing parts of the world.
In short, they work for justice, fair wages, and dignity in business.
Women who have escaped sex trafficking are given the skills and opportunities to form their own companies. Men who want to do right by their families are taught to develop a business plan and then put it into action.
It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s redemption unfolding before our eyes.
Last night, I attended Work of Worth’s official launch event. Handmade goods were sold–things made by women in India and Bangladesh who had been freed from sexual slavery. This, now, would be their method of income. As one volunteer told me–and I’ll never forget this phrase as long as I live–
These women now have the opportunity to make a product instead of be the product.
Just typing those words gives me chills all over again.
My husband and I dropped more cash than we planned to, but that was okay, because–as Rob said to me– “If we’re going to blow money, I’d like to blow it on these things.”
I bought this beautiful beaded necklace (modeling assistance provided by Baby J):
And this gorgeous scarf with the beaded part that hangs down like a necklace (except mine is coral and white):
And if you go on Work of Worth’s website, you can shop for other things, like:
You get the idea. Beautiful goods made by beautiful women for a beautiful cause. And, BONUS: My husband, the one and only Rob Riley, will be joining the annual trip to India this January! After the event last night, he’s pretty geeked up about it.
And then thirdly, but hardly last in my heart…
Meet Hayley and Jonathan.
Hayley is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. One time, she was on Deal or No Deal. Another time, in a tiny office in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, she actually died–and came back.
(Hayley once told me that she tries not to talk too much about her life when she first meets someone, because she’s afraid they’ll think she’s a compulsive liar.)
For the past two years, Hayley has been horrifically sick with a disease no one seems able to treat, much less cure. One of the most frustrating parts is that she looks perfectly healthy on the outside, but her insides are waging war on her. Jonathan, her husband, has become the most amazing servant to his wife. Their experience will bring you to tears of hope and a desire to help.
After two years, Hayley finally wrote about her condition beautifully and honestly here.
Please read it.
We’re collecting money for their medical expenses here. More than $4,000 has been raised in the first 24 hours.
If you feel so led, please consider contributing to help them pay for Hayley’s frequent hospital stays and treatments. This is a tangible way to love them, and a very real way to lessen their burden.
Thanks for reading. Please share this blog post anywhere and everywhere.
Now: let’s go change the world.