I stand in a room full of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. These are the faces of girls who have had horrific things happen to them, things I cannot begin to comprehend. We have almost nothing in common, but one thing we share is the love to create beautiful things. Through a translator, we have a conversation about our dreams and how sewing can play into those dreams. I tell them they can do anything they want in life, and Rapha House is going to help them get there. As we go around the room, I discover that we have aspiring designers, sewing teachers, shop owners, and seamstresses. One girl grabs some headbands she designed herself, and I feel like my heart is going to burst out of my chest because she is glowing with pride over her work. This is why I do what I do.
I have known I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was five-years old. That was the plan, at least until I learned about sex trafficking during my senior year of high school. At the time I began researching the issue, I found out over 27-million people were in slavery, half being children. The numbers have increased significantly since then, but 27 million is still staggering to me. I knew I had to do something, so I started volunteering at Rapha House. I thought I would be forced to give up my love of fashion if I really wanted to fight trafficking and sexual exploitation. The truth is, I wanted to do both — so I did!
I moved to Dallas to study fashion design, and while in school, I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia and see with my own eyes the incredible work Rapha House is doing in that country. Rapha House offers a variety of vocational training programs to provide our girls with the skills necessary for sustainable freedom, including sewing. I returned to Cambodia for a fashion design internship with the Rapha House sewing program and got to use the skills I was learning in school to work with the girls and their trainers. This lifelong dream of mine was changing, colliding with a newfound passion for bringing freedom to girls through fashion.
Soon after graduation, Rapha House asked me to join staff as the Director of Merchandise. My job includes overseeing the merchandise program, designing new products, and traveling overseas to work directly with those sewing for us. Five year-old me could have never predicted my life at twenty-three. People are often shocked that I have a degree in fashion design and am working for a non-profit in Joplin, MO, but it goes to show that you can always use your skills, interests, and hobbies to benefit more than just yourself. I will be in Minneapolis in October to sell merchandise at the Players Village at the 2015 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championship. Rapha House is also one of the incredible organizations benefiting from the US OPEN Auction! I am excited to share my love for Rapha with the 800 players and 1200 spectators also in attendance. If you’re there, stop by to find out how to join us in the fight against the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.