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Warning: This post includes references to some darker subject matter than usual. Of Love + Light is committed to sharing information about how we can support those most vulnerable in our world, and this brief post and the stories herein are meant to raise awareness, as well as take steps to empower and support our global community.

About two decades ago, I had the pleasure of attending a public forum by a Washington State congresswoman who was introducing legislature intended to reduce human trafficking, particularly across international borders into the United States. I was a student at the University of Washington at the time, and the congresswoman (whose name escapes me by now) spent a good half a Saturday speaking to a lecture hall full of students, professors, local lawmakers, and neighbors about some stark realities.

One of those realities: a fellow student at my university, a woman by the name of Anastasia who was only 20-years-old and had immigrated from Kyrgyzstan as a “mail order bride,” was murdered that year by her husband, when he was jealous that she was integrating too well. I didn’t know her—the campus served 45,000+ students at the time—but the story shook us all.

The congresswoman answered questions, shared Anastasia’s story and the story of many more women and children (and even men) who were victims of trafficking, living mere miles away from campus, and said that the best thing we could do was be aware of the situation. Awareness would lead to action. Only in darkness could those who engaged in trafficking exert their power.

Hearing the stories and learning the statistics was not pleasurable. But I say it was a pleasure to be there because those hours offered a base of a knowledge, leading to empathy and awareness, that may otherwise have taken decades to see.

I don’t remember most of the specifics anymore. But I’ve never forgotten the feeling of that afternoon, and the commitment to open my eyes and ears to the voices of trafficking victims, all around the world.

I am listening, and I am paying attention.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a party for Trades of Hope. It is one of those home party sort of businesses, where a group of (mostly) women get together, learn about a product and the company behind it, and have an opportunity to do some shopping over a glass of wine.

Trades of Hope is a fair trade company giving women in very vulnerable positions—here and overseas—an opportunity to build a creative business and improve their situations. It doesn’t operate on charity. Instead, women hone their business skills to create a quality product for a fair price.

There are women right here in Los Angeles, and in Tennessee, who have escaped trafficking and slavery and are finding their voices as artists and entrepreneurs, healing scars along the way. Women in 16 other countries around the world also create and sell their products to Trades of Hope. Some are escaping trafficking too. Others are limited to the alternative of working in a sweatshop, or leaving children behind to pursue employment in cities or towns far from their own. Some are HIV-positive and face social limitations due to their medical condition.

Their groups’ stories are on the website, found here. The company’s statement on every product they sell is, “Trades of Hope empowers women and men out of poverty through job creation and sustainable business.”

The Compassionate Entrepreneur (the company’s term for their sales agents) who led the gathering shared where the women came from, and their stories. The moment she mentioned human trafficking, I knew I wanted to make a purchase to show my financial support for these women.

I bought a couple of items that night, including the bracelet (made in Thailand) that I posted above. (I won’t say what else I ordered, because the person who I ordered it for might read this post. I don’t want a spoiler out there, but I’ll eventually update this post with a photo of that item as well!)

The products were mailed directly to me, and the entire ordering process was quick and simple. And the bracelet is beautiful, right? If you’re interested and you live in the United States, I imagine there’s someone near you who can share more information about fair trade and what they’re doing at Trades of Hope.

If you have a chance to listen to a victim’s story, or hear from any reputable organization that fights trafficking or advocates for victims, please open your ears and hearts to what they have to say.

These are often women and children who have lived through nightmares, and had no one to turn to. They’ve been discredited and ignored, sometimes even criminalized.

But they need us to acknowledge them, to be aware, and to ask: “How can we help?”

{Disclaimer: I honestly don’t know much about the organization, beyond what was shared that night, and the quality of the products I received. Please don’t consider this post a full endorsement. I’m just sharing something that touched my heart as a way to encourage and support women in vulnerable positions such as those I learned about nearly two decades ago.}

Of Love + Light, Always.

ABOUT A TO Z CHALLENGE

This month, I am writing 26 posts starting with the letters A through Z, along with hundreds of other businesses and bloggers from around the world. I first ran into the A to Z Challenge many, many moons ago (circa 2011), when I was brand new to the online writing world. It was a great way to jumpstart my creative juices, and I had so much fun “meeting” men and women sharing what they love to do.

So when I opened Of Love + Light, I knew the A to Z Challenge would be the perfect complement to Daily Dose: Inspired. Enjoy!

ABOUT OF LOVE + LIGHT

Of Love + Light is a place for uplifting media, creative inspiration, art, nifty creative publications, and storytelling. I also offer editing, creativity coaching, and small business communications planning services. Founded by Alana Garrigues, Of Love + Light is your place to come, relax, feel inspired and loved, and share more of what’s good on this beautiful planet.

Of Love + Light has infinite possibilities, and YOU are a huge part of what this will look like. Want to talk? Send me an email!

“Jewelry (And Accessories) for Good: Trades of Hope” is part of the Daily Dose: Inspired series. Looking for a small something to get you inspired to take on the day? This is the place to come for a photo, a song, a pick-me-up quote, a little slice of happy. At least, these are the things that inspire me!