A dressember update

Earlier this December, I shared some information about dressember and since then a lot has happened.

Our Nationala Moldovei group grew to 20+ individuals from Moldova and various states throughout the US. Plus there were many others near and far who joined in on the challenge by wearing dresses throughout the month in support of the team and cause.

The $5,000 goal has been surpassed by raising a total of $5,800 (as of 1/8/2015) for International Justice Mission. As a group, together we fully funded a rescue operation ($4,500), access to medical care for FIVE survivors of violence ($222 ea), one freedom training ($111), and about 2-3 aftercare packages ($30).

The whole dressember campaign has raised over $450,000 to go toward International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. The campaign is hoping to reach their goal of $500,000 by the end of January. You can get more information here.

A teaser video was created by a group of ladies here in Moldova to support a group of amazing men who joined us in the challenge and agreed to wear dresses if the goal was reached by the end of December.

Then on December 30th, the $5,000 goal was reached and the video of these brave men wearing dresses in the center of Chisinau on a cold December day was released. I cannot say enough how much respect I have for these gentlemen.

Even a local newspaper picked up the video and translated it into Romanian. Check it out!

But, most of all… people’s lives will be changed. We may never know the positive impact this will have on the lives of people we may never meet. In addition to this, awareness of the issue of human trafficking has been raised, especially in Moldova… and a group of people stood together in dresses, near and far, hoping to make a difference.

Many thanks to so many of you who donated to this cause and for all who also sported dresses throughout the month of dressember. You all are amazing — this is so much bigger than a dress!

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Giving Hope

I had the opportunity to help plan and organize my first event in Moldova which happened on Saturday, October 18. The name of the event was Dăruieşte o Speranţa which translates to something along the lines to “Giving Hope” — which we hope to carry through many other events in the future which will help with fundraising efforts for some of the local social centers here in Bălți.

The sign outside the gate at the University
The sign outside the gate at the University

Fall is a beautiful time of year here and we held the event outside in the courtyard of the Alecu Russo University – although it was a windy and chilly day, we had a great time! October 18th is also the EU Anti-Trafficking Day – so we partnered with ATIP. a Peace Corps volunteer group that raises awareness about Human Trafficking and all forms of Modern Day Slavery here in Moldova. They hosted some fun & educational activities and a youth art competition and the pieces were on display during this event.

These were the art pieces that were submitted by some students in northern Moldova for the art contest on the topic of human trafficking.
These were the art pieces that were submitted by some creative students in northern Moldova for the art contest on the topic of human trafficking.

The social centers came and showcased some handmade items that were made by their beneficiaries to sell for profit for their organizations. Some of these items included beautiful hand knitted pieces, decorative items, bow-ties, vases, & trinkets.

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Me with some of the youth from one of the social centers – they made some of these items on display.
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A social center selling handmade knitted items.
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Some more handmade goods from another social center.
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From the organizing center, SOTIS – some of the items their beneficiaries made.

Also a few other locals who make handicrafts joined us for the day as part of the event as well…

Handmade soaps and some candy for your sweet tooth.
Handmade soaps and some candy for your sweet tooth.
Handmade beaded bracelets and necklaces.
Handmade beaded bracelets and necklaces.

ATIP (Anti-trafficking in persons) had some great fun and educational activities about human trafficking in Moldova – including ladder ball with the facts written on it both in Romanian and English, guess the number candies in the jars – which also happen to be statistics about human trafficking, and a balloon pop game with darts with information inside them when popped. Their activities were very popular for all ages as many people learned a little bit more about human trafficking.

Ladder ball game with facts about human trafficking in Moldova.
Ladder ball game with facts about human trafficking in Moldova.
Guess how many... not only candies in the jar - but a fact and a statistic about human trafficking.
Guess how many… not only candies in the jar – but a fact and a statistic about human trafficking.
Pop a balloon and you'll find a note inside about human trafficking to learn more.
Pop a balloon and you’ll find a note inside about human trafficking to learn more.
The ATIP table received a lot of attention throughout the event.
The ATIP table received a lot of attention throughout the event.

Another popular activity was the “Salut, Balti!” table which is a project that was started by Peace Corps volunteers and has been initiated along with the Balti mayor’s office to develop a city-wide volunteer program to educate and train youth volunteers to connect them to local organizations in the community and to get them to implement projects in their community. They had a wish tree where they had people write down and share their wishes for Moldova on leaves and taped them onto a large tree and then they had some fun props for a photo booth which was popular for all.

Some women adding their 'wishes' to the wish tree.
Some women adding their ‘wishes’ to the wish tree.
Jumping in with some of the youth for a fun photo booth picture with the wish tree.
Jumping in with some of the youth for a fun photo booth picture with the wish tree.
Some volunteers and local youth having some fun with their photo.
Some PC volunteers and local youth having some fun with their photo.

Some of the highlights from the day was when I got to interact a bit with some of the youth who were there with the centers – one girl was there doing some face painting and she painted a flag of Moldova on my hand. And then two other girls came up to me and gave me a “gift” — I wish I could have been able to keep it!

Face(hand) painting fun!
Face(hand) painting fun!
This was the
This was the “gift” that two of the girls gave me – a puppy they found somewhere in the street. I wish I could have been able to keep it! 😦 He was snuggled in my jacket to stay warm for a little bit.

It was a full and fun day – many people learned about human trafficking, purchased some handmade items to support their community, and thought about their wishes for Moldova — and I learned a lot about planning an event here in Moldova! I have a feeling this won’t be my last one either…. To find a listing of all the social centers located here in Balti you can find them HERE and stay tuned for the next Dăruieşte o Speranţa event!