The HER Campaign.
I don't believe in coincidences. I never have. So when we were in Billings Montana recently and I found myself in the wrong coffee shop, in my pajamas, I should've known something was up.
My kids and I got out of the car in our jammies and flip flops on a very cold morning in February. We had checked out the weather before we left Wyoming the day before and it was supposed to be unseasonably warm in Billings that weekend so we were super unprepared for the cold shift. We literally scooted our feet in the icy parking lot to the front door of this very awesome coffee shop (If you're in Billings you need to check out Moav Coffee). Just one person was there, working behind the counter. I rattled off my coffee order and went right into a ramble on the awesome coffee we had there on our last visit. After hearing my specific order, she politely suggested I was in the wrong coffee shop....she was correct. I needed to be at a coffee shop just down the road to pick up what we needed and get to our first house walk though on time. Instead here I was making an excellent impression on this poor girl. Scraggly kids, pajamas, flip flops in the freezing temperatures, rambling....apparently unable use my map app correctly. I'd love to tell you its not typical of me, but I'd be lying, and lying is wrong.
Since they had just opened and we were the only ones there, there weren't any other customers I could deflect to and so I fumbled about complimenting the place trying to make a polite exit. My son, the scientist, was enamored with this shop, excited that he had spotted a cow that was made by a 3D printer, completely not picking up on mommy's not so subtle hints to move towards the door. I turned to leave (still rambling) and I saw a stack of shirts. I love a unique tee while traveling so I thumbed through them and found one printed with "Be Kind". Perfect! I can buy something (if I buy something I won't feel so ridiculous, I'm sure you get me) and bail out. I handed it to the patient girl behind the counter and after I commented on the unique leaf design on the back she told me that this shirt was part of the HER campaign. HER = supporting women, love it. "What is the HER campaign?", I asked. She told me they help women who have recently left human trafficking.
I will never cease to be amazed how quickly our perspectives can shift.
The kids and I shuffled our way back to the car found the correct coffee place, and made it to our walk through on time. It wasn't until we got back to the hotel that afternoon and I went to work on my blog that my eyes landed on that tee again.
I've known about human trafficking since I was young. I don't remember how or when, but I've always had some grasp of what it was. I'd seen Lifetime movies, heard my mom having hushed conversations with people and seen enough on the news to put things together. I've always felt the brutality of it on a level that's hard to explain since I myself was not a victim of such cruelty. But I've deeply felt the pain through stories I've heard over the years. I'm a tough cookie. I've walked my own pain, but trafficking is a kind of inhumanity that my mind can't grasp and my heart can't tolerate. We were created to be these precious, valued beings. So unique. So individually set aside with purpose... to be completely loved and cherished. To think someone can be put in a place where they are treated as less than human- is breaks me.
•Below I have listed some definitions and facts, if you don't care to read, you can skip past the yellow writing to what the HER Campaign is doing to help.
If you aren't familiar with what human trafficking is, here is some information. The United States Department of Justice defines sex trafficking as follows:
"Human Trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations define human trafficking as:
a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. § 7102(9))"
In the USA sex trafficking victims aren't always taken off the streets by force like we see in movies. More often they are targeted. Statistically, most sex trafficking victims begin being trafficked very young. Middle school aged girls. Often by people they know. It is typically not done by force, but more often by psychological manipulation. Often they feel they don't have a choice. Most are from broken homes, or have already been victims of sexual violence. Children in foster care, and minorities are also at higher risk. In 2016 The United Nations International Labor Organization estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitations. Because of the secrecy of it, it's difficult to know how much of that is here is the US, but experts suggest that number is around 50,000 people are sec trafficked a year, while others fear it is much higher.
When we got back to Wyoming I started looking into the HER campaign.
Founders Sammy and Britney Higgs took a HUGE leap of faith a few of years ago. They felt so strongly called to open a safe house in Montana (despite not really knowing what one was). They quit their jobs, sold their home and most of their belongings in order to have what they needed to get started. WOW. They had no idea where to begin but before they even opened their doors, people they'd never even heard of began sending them financial support. I'm so impressed by people who can step out into the unknown. That takes a leap of faith most of us wont ever have to make.
Over time, God provided for them in such a way that they now have a home for these women, HER Refuge. HER Refuge "....provides a loving, home-like environment for women who are vulnerable or seeking safety after sexual exploitation...". They take these women, and help them find themselves. They give them the opportunity to find their strength again, and rest.
In their Mission video Sammy notes "because they've never had people lifting them up in this way, they've lost the ability to dream." Can you imagine? You can watch their entire mission video HERE. Their program is set up to help them feel safe enough to dream again. Set goals. Feel loved. These women have been stripped of everything. I love that the HER campaign is offering them a safe place to get their power back.
On top of the HER refuge, which you can read more about HERE, the HER campaign also offers the HER Hope Line. A specific line where those who are seeking help can call. You can find that number and more contact information HERE. They also do workshops called the Hope Institute "Equipping a trauma-informed care community through workshops and trainings". You can see what workshops they have coming up HERE. They will also do training at your business, organization, or group. I feel training like this is invaluable given the number of people who are in bondage all around us. You can sign up to have them come to you HERE. In addition, hey partner with churches, Art ministries- that super awesome coffee house- and others to offer outlets and support to these women. You can read more about their partners HERE.
What started as a HUGE leap of faith, has grown arms and legs and since 2016 Britney and Sammy Higgs have reached 24,000 people "Through our community, awareness campaigns, and events spreading the message of HOPE in the fight against sex trafficking." They have 1,080 Days of Love and Care "Meeting each woman where she’s at, providing the tools and resources needed to start the healing journey." , and 880 Nights of safety "For survivors of abuse and sexual exploitation through our HER Refuge program."
There are a few ways to support the HER campaign. If you live nearby, you can volunteer. They have many different ways you can do that! You can:
Become a Mentor
Teach Life Skills
Driver to/from Appointments
Provide a Meal or Experience
Spruce up Facilities
Hold a Household Items Drive
Sponsor a Fundraiser
Sponsor an outing or Experience
Host a clothing and Toiletry Drive
•You can also reach out to their Program Director, directly. Her name is Jamie Coon, and she can be reached my emailing Jamie@hercampaign.org
If you feel like there is something on here that you'd like to offer, or maybe you have an idea how you and your specific gifts could help, you can reach out to the HER campaign HERE.
Something that seems like not a huge deal, but I've done in the past (not with the HER campaign since we don't live in Billings yet) is that I love to go and paint nails. I realize it seems small, but it's something I love to do, and like to share, and don't you feel better after being pampered? It also gives a chance for guards to be let down. It's such a normal girl bonding activity. People feel less like you're "helping them" and more like you really do care, which is the whole goal.
If you don't live close, but you'd like to help, you can shop really cute, merch HERE. Not only does your purchase help, but wearing their logo will help bring about great conversation and shed light on a significant problem. Below is the tee I bought and a hat I just purchased online that should be here soon. You can click those pictures to be linked to those items. The have tons of other cute tees and water bottles etc. Click HERE to shop.
Or maybe you can make a one time, or recurring financial donation? If you feel like that's something you'd like to do, please click HERE to be linked to their donation page.
When I look at a crisis as huge as human trafficking, I being to feel very small. What impact can I really make when the numbers are so staggering? But I shift it to, what if I was one of those women, and someone came and helped me. Would that change things? Without a doubt. While the numbers are significant, there are individual people behind each one. Mother Teresa said "If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one". Britney and Sammy of the HER Campaign are literally feeding the ones they can, and that matters. Each action, to save one life, matters.