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Posted: July 29, 2014

Think tank experts

Kimba Langas and Dave Terpstra

Esty Atlas

“What if we gave the average woman the opportunity to partner with women who have been rescued from human trafficking?” ~ Free the Girls Co-Founder Dave Terpstra

So began the journey where an Emmy-award winning television producer (Kimba Langas) and a social entrepreneur (Dave Terpstra) walked away from their successful careers to try and change the world.  Four years and 300,000 bras later, I’d say they’re doing an incredible job! 

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

Currently 27 million men, women and children are being held as slaves around the world—more today than in any other time in history. About 80 percent of those slaves are women and girls–many of them victims of sex trafficking.  There are a number of amazing organizations that are helping to rescue these women out of a life of prostitution, but what happens after they are rescued?  Many safe houses and aftercare facilities are doing great work in providing comprehensive rehabilitation and educational opportunities to survivors, but often their resources are limited.

“I AM ONE, I CAN DO SOMETHING.”  A perfect motto for two “Think Tank Experts” who never expected this kind of career change.  I used to work with Kimba at Channel 9 (KUSA-TV) and we remain very close friends.  A busy mom of a young son, learning about her and Dave create and grow this concept into a life-changing model for dozens of young women and girls has opened my eyes to what can be done when good old-fashioned resourcefulness uses today’s very effective crowd sourcing techniques.  

Meet our next set of Think Tank Experts:

Kimba Langas

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Kimba likes to refer to herself as an “accidental abolitionist.”  An Emmy-award winning producer and 20-year veteran of the television and video production industry, Kimba has always had a passion for storytelling.  Just two short years ago, though, the story of modern day slavery and sex trafficking wasn’t even on her radar.  When her friend David approached her as a partner for a new organization he wanted to form to empower survivors of sex trafficking, she was intrigued.  Little did she know how the issue would grab her heart and never let go.

Kimba heads the Free The Girls U.S. office from her home base in Highlands Ranch and is responsible for day-to- day domestic operations of the organization, which includes speaking to women’s groups on the subject of human trafficking, igniting fires in new abolitionists, raising funds for the cause, and packing and shipping thousands of bras.  Kimba hopes she serves as an example that global change requires people from all types of backgrounds to step up and offer what they can where they are.

Dave Terpstra

Co-Founder & Global Director

Dave creates businesses that help to sustain NGOs and other projects around the world. He is passionate about using enterprise as a solution to poverty and as a vehicle for a better future for women who have been rescued from the sex-trade. After over a decade of work at various NGOs and not-for-profit organizations in the United States, Dave and his family moved to Mozambique to the front-lines of poverty driven sex-trafficking in Africa. Before leaving for Africa, Dave and Kimba started Free The Girls to help connect the average woman in America to survivors of sex-trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa. As International Director for Free The Girls, he works day-to-day with survivors and is responsible for our partnerships with safe-houses and rehabilitation centers around the world.

In addition to its Board of Directors, Free The Girls has a strong base of volunteers across the United States and around the world.

THEIR SOLUTION

By partnering with safe houses and after-care facilities, Free the Girls provides an opportunity for women rescued from sex trafficking to earn a living selling second-hand clothing while going to school, getting healthy and caring for their families.  Selling clothes allows them to work as much or as little as their school schedule permits.  The women in their program receive their starting inventory as a donation, and are then able to buy additional inventory from Free The Girls for below wholesale value to help maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace.  Revenue from inventory sales helps subsidize overseas program costs.

WHY BRAS?

Let’s face it, ladies: the back of your underwear drawer is most likely a graveyard of bras you don’t wear anymore or that never fit right in the first place. By contrast, second-hand clothing is a profitable market in many countries around the world. Bras are sought after items. Some of the girls in this program are making five times the minimum wage in their community by selling bras! And even better, bras provide an opportunity for these women to work with other women, since they have a history of being abused and used by men.

THEIR JOURNEY

Free The Girls launched in August 2010, and to date has collected over 300,000 new and gently used bras from women all over the world.  In Spring 2011, working alongside their first safe house partner, Project Purpose, they launched a pilot program in Mozambique, Africa.  The results of the pilot program were very promising—the women made three to five times minimum wage selling bras.

MARKETING & OUTREACH

In February 2012, Free the Girls was featured in a three-part series of stories by CNN’s Freedom Project.  The response was amazing, with an outpouring of support from all over the world!  As a result, the small non-profit shipped 32,000 bras to Mozambique in July 2012.  Since the bras arrived, they’ve been able to replicate the results of their successful pilot program and add more women to the program there, for a current total of 24. In fact, another shipping container with 130,000 more bras was recently delivered!  The women sell between 100-500 bras each per month.

CNN aired a 30-minute follow-up documentary on Free The Girls on February 15, 2013 (watch online: www.freethegirls.org   The media exposure has introduced FTG to new partners, and they recently launched 3 new programs with after-care providers in Uganda and El Salvador–increasing the total number of women we serve to 58. Free the Girls is currently exploring launching additional pilot programs in Lesotho and Mexico.

What can you do? On Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, attend the 2nd BRAlapalooza Annual Fundraising Gala at the Cherry Hills Country Club.  You can also make a difference by becoming a sponsor or providing auction items. Tickets go on sale in August at: www.freethegirls.org

Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: estycreative@yahoo.com or www.estycreative.com

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