Faithful Observations: Clothing sales fight human trafficking

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  • Nadia Luhring and Kamryn Jones are seen here modeling clothes. (Eden Greenman Photography)

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    One of the first girls to receive a uniform.

  • Nadia Luhring and Kamryn Jones are seen here modeling clothes. (Eden Greenman Photography)

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    One of the first girls to receive a uniform.

There has been no lack of stories about the next generation and how they are walking away from faith and church. There is some truth to that scenario, but other studies show young people hunger to understand the meaning of life and a Christian worldview. Here is a story of some local young women who not only understand faith but also what it means to be a part of the Great Commission to spread the Gospel to all the world. We interviewed a lovely young woman, Gracey Laursen, about a clothing company called Freedombound.

Gracey, I am going to ask you a couple of questions. First, how old are you? And how did you get involved in this company?

I turned 21 this February and came on board with Freedombound about three years ago. I ran into my now-business partner, Ashley Crone, who told me that she had an idea to start a clothing company that would help fight human trafficking. Our third team member and founder, Jaymee Paul, came on board this January.

Explain what Freedombound is and what it is accomplishing.

Freedombound is a clothing company that sells ethical clothing made by survivors of human trafficking to fund projects fighting trafficking in East and West Africa. We exist to offer an opportunity to help in the fight to end modern-day slavery, by selling simple on-trend clothing the public is already purchasing — with the knowledge that it’s ethical and is helping people. More than 40 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery today; 10 million are children, and 15.4 million are girls and women trapped in forced marriage. Our mission is to fund and create projects that help prevent and stop trafficking by stabilizing communities and establishing the value of women and children. We source our tees from an incredible nonprofit called Freeset, whose focus is on disrupting generational poverty and sexual exploitation in India by providing survivors of human trafficking with jobs and security. I love that just by us purchasing more inventory we get to help support survivors, and break the cycle.

Tell us about Freedombound current projects.

Our first project has been providing school uniforms to children in need. One of the most effective ways to prevent children from being trafficked is simply keeping them in school. You buy a shirt, we buy uniforms. Our heart is to make sure we’re supporting practical projects that apply specifically to their communities. It’s important to us that we don’t come in uninformed and assuming we have the best solution. We stay in open communication with the community members and school staff helping on the ground to ensure we’re helping and not hurting.

Why school uniforms?

School uniforms cost about $20 in these nations, which is half of an average family’s monthly income, and that’s just for one child. On top of that, school uniforms are required at most every school, even those that are tuition-free. If a child shows up without a uniform, they will likely be sent away. When girls are not in school, they’re often sent into the workforce or left alone, leaving them vulnerable to traffickers. There are 130 million girls who are not in school. A child is sold into slavery every 30 seconds. We believe these problems are not unrelated. The central market in the capital of Ethiopia is home to the largest collection of brothels in Africa, where girls as young as 8 years old are forced into prostitution, while often boys are subjected to forced labor in various industries. There’s a similar pattern throughout Ghana, Kenya, and other countries throughout East and West Africa. We felt drawn to focus our current efforts on working to keep children in school in these countries. Trafficking is a global problem that affects the United States as well. We hope to continue to grow and expand to more countries with more projects.

You said you started this business less than a year ago and already have had success. Aside from your website, how do you sell the clothing?

We have had great support from our community and social media following. We recently purchased 50 uniforms and will soon be purchasing 50 more. We’re so grateful to the incredible educators and community members of the Ngardiam & Poultock villages school for allowing us to partner with them to distribute uniforms to children in need in their community. Aside from our online sales platform, we do a variety of sales campaigns including pop-up shops at local businesses. Most recently, Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters allowed us to set up shop for a day to sell our merchandise as well as donating 15% of their profits for the day. We’ve also held pop-ups at Strada Coffee Roasters, and Heart of the City Church, and are so grateful for their generosity and support of our locals.

How can people hear about future events?

We announce pop-ups and upcoming events through our social media, @wearefreedombound, our website, and through posting flyers and posters around town. We’re just getting this business off the ground and are excited to see what the future holds.

If people want more information, would host a “pop up shop,” or would like to purchase or donate clothing, how do they do that?

For business and partnership inquiries they can contact us at info@wearefreedombound.com. To shop and learn more about us and practical information about human trafficking they can visit our website wearefreedombound.com and our Instagram @wearefreedombound. We’re so grateful for any and all support and are thrilled to continue to engage with our community in the fight against human trafficking.

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Bob Shillingstad’s religion columns appear Saturdays in The Press. Email Bob: bjshill@mac.com

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