These stylish individuals are on a mission to raise money for the rescue and restoration of trafficked women everywhere--and this movement is much bigger than a dress.
As December comes to a close, meet several Canadians who decided to share their inspiring stories with us.
Danielle Zipprick - Calgary, AB
Number of Years Participating in Dressember: 4
At the age of fifteen, I first heard about the reality of human trafficking. My immediate response to this was horror and anger. Suddenly I found myself with a drive to fight for these men, women, and children who were being exploited around the world. For the next several years I struggled with feeling like I had all of the passion, but none of the power to be actively involved in the fight against slavery. So I waited (impatiently, I must admit), I prayed for opportunities, and I learned everything I could about the issue.
I went into nursing school and became involved in local efforts to work with women and men who are being sexually exploited in my city. I remember learning about Dressember less than a week before the month began. I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to be involved with. My heart beats for awareness, education, and seeing freedom restored. I am so thankful for organizations like IJM and Dressember who are doing so much to bring light to the issue of human trafficking and to bring healing and wholeness to exploited persons around the world.
My hope for my own story is to continue partnering with global organizations to raise awareness and to see where God continues to lead me in being an active part of this fight in the years to come.
Leonard Klassen - Abbotsford, BC
Number of years participating in Dressember: 1
A few weeks ago, I didn’t even own a bow tie. I was invited to participate in Dressember, so I had to scramble. I am now on a 19-day streak of proudly wearing a bow tie, the more flamboyant the better.
What has gotten into me?
I am a pastor at King Road Church in Abbotsford, BC. Two years ago, Julie, Janessa, and Brianna (pictured below) introduced our congregation to Dressember as they committed to wearing a dress every day of December. These young adults passionately took a stand, and their impact continues to spread.
Last year, the number of King Road participants grew; this year, our congregation has 19 participants,
including men wearing ties. I am excited to participate with our young adults in taking a stand for justice. I am wearing a bow tie every day as a way of starting conversations about injustices such as slavery and human trafficking. The apostle James writes the following: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (1:27, NLT).
My personal story includes adopting two sons, as well as caring for my widowed mom. I can’t read Scripture and claim to follow Jesus if I don’t commit to taking care of "the least of these.”
The second part of the verse issues an even greater challenge. Sex trafficking and slavery are forms of corruption. I want to model to my sons, to our congregation, and to my family and friends that Christ calls us to make a difference.
On December 14th, my wife asked me if I was tired of wearing a bow tie every day. Honestly, I am. But it is a small inconvenience when compared to the struggles of someone who is enslaved, abused, sold, manipulated, hurt, or abandoned. So, with a clear sense of determination, I put on my bow tie again this morning. Not surprisingly, the second conversation of the day led to an opportunity to share about Dressember and justice. I’ve got a short summary of Dressember on the back of my business cards which directs people to IJM’s website.
I am discovering that I really can do anything in a tie (the females on our King Road team claim they can do anything in a dress). I dream of our congregation full of people wearing dresses and ties next December. Any other churches care to join us?
Chelan Lande - Vancouver, BC
Number of Years Participating in Dressember: 1
When I first heard of Dressember I had no idea what it was about or what it was for; I wrote it off and thought 'who really cares about wearing a dress every day in December?'
I heard about Dressember again and finally took the time to listen. I realized how important it was that this year I needed to get involved.
At the end of November, I was in a small group discussing the effects of social media. I had recently been frustrated with platforms such as Instagram and Facebook so my opinion was negative and pessimistic. Upon hearing my grumbling against the internet and all it's challenges, a friend challenged back "Chelan, social media can be used positively and make such an impact... have you heard of Dressember?" I almost responded with a flippant "yeah, yeah, wear a dress... post a picture." But she explained on: "Women all over the globe are wearing dresses every day for the month of December to fight against human trafficking. They're using social media platforms to raise awareness and funds to bring light to this dark, hidden part of our world. The whole foundation is fuelled by-guess what? -social media. I'm doing it, want to join me?"
I then realized this cause was so much more than "wear a dress- take a picture." By choosing to wear a dress in my everyday life I could take a stand against a social justice issue that is so close to my heart. Every day women and children are being forced into human trafficking and it breaks my heart that these people don't have a voice. Amidst my full time weeks driving from work to volunteering to home I could change a simple piece of my life- my wardrobe- and be their voice. Yes. My response was 'yes'.
I can choose to use social media to bring light to injustices around the world. I can talk about the issue of human trafficking during everyday conversation when people me ask "why a dress?" I can inspire those around me look past just wearing a dress and see the need for action to take place.
Julia Hansen and Olivia Stephen (Liv + Jules) - Langley, BC
Number of Years Participating in Dressember: 4 (Julia), 1 (Olivia)
We went to Trinity Western University together and became good friends in our last year of University. We both love music and singing, so after University we decided to do music together for fun. Thus, Liv + Jules was created!
Julia had been doing Dressember for three years prior to this year with her cousin Colleen. They initially heard about it through a friend and decided to take on the challenge. This year, we decided as a duo to do a Dressember fundraiser as a way to raise more awareness.
Participating in Dressember is a way to be vocal about the issue of human trafficking. It's an easy and accessible way for women (and men) to reach a broader audience towards this issue through social media. If something as simple as wearing a dress spurs people to give towards helping end human slavery, then we are glad to be a part of that, and it is truly the least we can do. For only one month we give up our freedom to wear pants, when there are too many women that don’t even have freedom over their bodies. There is no action too small.
I (Julia) initially heard about IJM through my church, and then learned more when I started participating in Dressember. The freedom that IJM brings to those caught in slavery is truly amazing. They communicate with their donors and give them real updates about those being rescued.
I (Olivia) had heard about IJM in my time at university, but I grew to know more about it because of Dressember. I wanted to research more of what was happening within Canada towards the issue of human trafficking and found out that there was an IJM [office] within Canada. I began to look into how Canadians could give on a monthly basis, which led me to read more about IJM itself and how much work it is doing globally. It honestly brought me to tears when I read about the lives that were being drastically changed though the work that IJM is doing.
We are passionate about justice because we were created as humans to walk in freedom. We are called to seek justice, to defend the oppressed, to take up the cause of the fatherless. As Isaiah 1:17 says, "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
Lyndsay Munholland - Toronto, ON
Number of Years Participating in Dressember: 3
When I started Bible College several years ago I thought I was going to end up as a career missionary to Cambodia rescuing girls from sex trafficking. A had a clear vision and felt that this was my destiny but as is so often the case God had other plans.
Fast forward several years; I'm back home in Toronto and quite by chance I heard about a grassroots fundraising effort to support organizations committed to ending human trafficking. My heart was moved as it always had been for those in slavery and I jumped at the chance to not only fundraise but also bring awareness to the issue. The premise was simple enough, wear a dress every day for a month and get people to sponsor you to do it. My birthday also happens to be in December so it was relatively easy to get donations in lieu of gifts.
By the end of the month I had met my goal of raising $1000 and I received a hand written note from the founder of Dressember, Blythe Hill thanking me for my contribution. I couldn't believe that she would take the time to send so many people notes and it gave me even more of a reason to look forward to the next year.
Three Dressembers later and I'm now leading a team of women all committed to raising funds and bringing awareness to the issue of modern day slavery. Together we have a goal to raise enough money to fund one whole rescue operation. We're a small team with an ambitious goal but we're all working hard and encouraging each other to achieve it.
Most of the year I can be found in jeans and a t-shirt but wearing a dress for a month is such a small sacrifice to make a big difference. I love this organization and I'm so thankful to be a part of a movement that's changing lives.
Victoria Vezina - Timmins, Ontario
Number of Years Participating in Dressember: 2
This is my second year participating in Dressember, this is my second time committing to wearing a dress every day for 31 days. This is my second time fighting the cold of Northeastern Ontario and using a dress as my flag to stand up for those who are trapped and being sold into slavery for the purposes of forced labour and sex trafficking.
Four years ago, when I was 16, I learned what human trafficking was, and I remember feeling so broken inside for the millions of people around the world who were enslaved. I also however, remember feeling so passionate and encouraged to do something about this. Through the years as a student I have been able to focus some of my papers and presentations on human trafficking and the organizations that are working to end it –that was when I first learned about IJM Canada. Those assignments were obviously not bringing in any funds, but it was an opportunity I had to be advocating for IJM among my classmates and teachers.
Now as a post-secondary student I’m proud to be participating in Dressember, and I’m honoured that I get to partner with the IJM Canada. It’s a privilege to be fighting for justice and I will continue to bring my voice forward for those who don’t have one.
Do YOU have an inspiring Dressember story? Share it with us in the comments below!