Happy Galentine's Day! If you are not really familiar with this "holiday", it is a day before Valentine's Day where women celebrate their friendship with their gals. Amy Poehler's Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope created it, and I think it's an awesome idea! Instead of watching The Notebook and eating a box of chocolate, I seriously think getting together with your girlfriends and celebrating each other is much more refreshing and empowering. Ps : I do not think The Notebook is that great of a movie. Sorry, it's just way too petty and cheesy for me. Lol.
Anyways, in the spirit of celebrating our ladyfriends, I thought it'd be appropriate for me to introduce you to this month's heroine. She is a mother of three (teenagers!), a wife, a speaker, and a freedom fighter who is on a mission to abolish modern slavery a.k.a human trafficking. Here is Josie Carignan.
1. What was it about the issue of human trafficking that really caught your attention the first time you heard about it?
While living overseas in 2003 I encountered a girl who had been trafficked. She had literally been sold by her family and smuggled in to another country by being tied up underneath a car. I was absolutely stunned. I had never heard of anything like that and it was hard to take in. To be honest I felt paralyzed and completely unequipped to help. But the seed was planted and a few years later I started Rescue Her.
2. How did you end up starting Rescue Her? And how did your family respond to your starting RH?
I started Rescue Her with $200 startup funds and a desire in my heart to do something to fight trafficking. I formed a board, incorporated, and went to work. I enlisted the help of my brother and together we designed a website, some awareness material, and I launched the ZOE Coffee label as our first fundraiser. Every cent I raised I donated to a safe home that cared for little girls that had been rescued from trafficking. And that was the beginning of Rescue Her. My family was super supportive.
Brad, my husband, became the president of my board. My kids have helped with pretty much every aspect of the organization over the years. And my youngest daughter Jordana who was in kindergarten when I first started Rescue Her was my first supporter. I told her what we were doing (in little kid terms I told her that there were slaves that needed our help to get free) and she literally went and emptied her piggy bank to make the first purchase in Rescue Her history. So precious! She told her teachers and all her friends about it and got people on board to help.
3. What has been the biggest challenge in running RH and in fighting trafficking so far?
Funding is what first comes to mind. When running a charity that is a constant concern. Since the people we aim to serve don’t pay, and the stories of what we do can’t often be told due to privacy and security concerns, it is not the easiest thing to fundraise for. About 3 years ago we faced some serious funding shortage and had to scale back our work. It was really discouraging and would have been a perfect opportunity to pack it in and shut down. But we didn’t and I’m so glad we stuck it out.
Today we are stronger than ever and have learned many valuable lessons on budgeting and business plans for a donation based organization. I think the biggest lesson I have learned is to not fear failure. Just learn from it and keep moving forward.
4. Any unforgettable story from an outreach or rescue mission that you've ever been a part of?
Seeing this one rescued girl reunited with her mom…. It was a beautiful moment and I will never forget it. Having a rescued girl read me a thank you note she wrote to our team… it brought me to tears and I still have the note. Seeing girls go from terrified to laughing and relaxed once they realize they are safe. That makes all the hard work worth it.
5. Any advice for women who might have the passion and desire to start an NGO and make a difference?
Start by volunteering or working for someone that is doing what you want to be doing. Serving others is a great way to learn and to sow seed for what you one day will have yourself. Then, know what your vision is and daily take baby-steps to get closer to that goal. Realize that it is often going to be long and boring hours of hard work, with spurts of adventure, fun and excitement every now and again. Then, be prepared for detours and the vision changing a bit as you go.
6. What's next for Rescue Her?
Wow – loaded question! There is so much we want to do. At the moment we are really working on expanding our local outreach teams (Freedom Team & Justice Team). If you are in the DFW area and want to fight trafficking you can join a team (sign up here)! We are also right gearing up for our annual 5K Race2Rescue. It’s our biggest fundraiser every year and finds a lot of what we do. Kids run for FREE and there is lots of fun for the whole family. Activities for the kids, DJ and after party, fun run and chip timed race depending on how seriously you take your running ;-) This year’s theme is Be A Hero and we are asking people to dress up like their favorite super hero. The run will be held on April 22 at Gateway Church in Southlake, TX (click here to sign up).
Read more about the lessons that Josie has learned along the way on her blog here. To know more about Rescue Her you can follow them on instagram by clicking here. To check out Josie's personal instagram page, click here.