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A Dress Can Change a Life: Interview with Sheena Heinrichs

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A Dress Can Change a Life: Interview with Sheena Heinrichs

This article is part of a series featuring the amazing individuals who offer their time and talents to fundraise for us.

Inspired? Click below to get started.

Fundraise to End Slavery

At IJM Canada, few things delight us more than our faithful supporters. Read our interview with Sheena Heinrichs, a British Columbia mom who has committed to raising awareness about IJM’s work to end human trafficking through the Dressember campaign--for six years in a row!

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1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Mission, BC with my husband and four teenagers. I am currently a homeschool mom who also works as a tutor. I am an avid reader, hiker, and thrift store shopper. I love to laugh and to have deep discussions about almost anything. This is my sixth year participating in Dressember with the purpose of raising funds for International Justice Mission and bringing awareness to the terrifying reality of modern day slavery in all its forms.

2) How did you hear about IJM?

In 2003, I saw the Dateline coverage of IJM’s rescue of 37 girls from a child brothel in Cambodia. It is hard to describe how I felt. I had three small children at the time and they were showing undercover footage of little girls not much older than my own. At that time I had no idea such horror existed. I was so stunned by the broadcast that I missed the name of the organization responsible for the heroic and brilliant act of using the local laws and undercover intelligence to rescue these girls.

Not long after, while driving, I happened to hear a radio interview with Gary Haugen and finally heard the name International Justice Mission. I remember pulling over to the side of the road because I was in tears. Not only did I have a name for the organization but I found out they were predominantly Christian.

3) Why are you passionate about issues of injustice?

When I was 11 years old I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and ever since, like many others, I asked myself what I would do if I had been able to save the life of a Jewish person from the Nazis. Or would I have supported William Wilberforce? Would I have been a stop along the Underground Railroad? When I first watched that Cambodian rescue the reality flooded over me that the time to answer, “Yes!”, is at hand.

Furthermore, as a Christian, I am keenly aware that God’s heart is for the poor and oppressed. The thread of compassion that runs through the bible is overwhelming and He calls us to be His hands and feet. I believe strongly that as followers of Christ we should be the most passionate about rescuing people from dark, terrifying places: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” Psalm 10:17-18

Finally, as a human being made in the image of God, whether we are a Christian or not, once we know the truth, we are obligated to act. “This is the kind of brutal ugliness that is hard to open your eyes to but once you do I think that, as a human being, you’ve got to take responsibility for it.” - Gary Haugen

“This is the kind of brutal ugliness that is hard to open your eyes to but once you do I think that, as a human being, you’ve got to take responsibility for it.” - Gary Haugen, CEO & Founder of IJM

4) How did you get involved in the Dressember campaign?

In November 2013 I came across Blythe Hill’s TED talk explaining Dressember. I remember being giddy with excitement. While my husband and I had been been financially supporting IJM when we were able to, I was frustrated that I couldn’t do more.

As a busy mom who was also not a lawyer nor an undercover detective, I felt ill-equipped to support IJM in a greater capacity. But dresses and social media? I could do that. Not only would I be able to raise more money than I could personally donate on my own but I would also be raising awareness.

I confess, after 6 years, I don’t feel as giddy about it every year. Dresses are fine, but posting every day on social media kind of stinks. But when I remind myself of the why, then I shut up and keep going.

5) What has kept you motivated year after year?

The first two years of Dressember were a breeze. It was new and novel. But in September 2015 my dad suddenly passed away and the closer it got to Christmas, I so badly wanted to hide under a rock. That year I needed to read the stories of the victims and the pleas of the survivors of human trafficking. I needed to dig deep and remember who I was really doing this for. I am motivated by the thought of “the one.” If what I am doing could save even one person, it is all worth it.

Another big motivator year after year are my friends and family. To quote the singer/songwriter, Passenger, “if we all light up we can scare away the dark.” By the end of December, I have so much more hope than I had before. I feel like darkness has been exposed and that I am not alone.

Several of the Dressembers, my daughters and friends have joined me, my husband has worn some wild accessories in order to be in my photos, and I have a strong group of supporters who have donated every single year! Every December there is always a moment where I just break down in tears because I am so overwhelmed by peoples’ generosity.

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6) What is the #1 tip or piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to fundraise?

I’m not entirely sure what makes for a successful fundraising campaign but I feel strongly that it is important to be real. My photos have been, well, shall we say candid?

I have taken photos hiking, biking, snowshoeing, in bed, with my hair in a towel, the list goes on. When I felt silly, I was silly. When I felt heartbroken, I shared that. It seems that we all need transparency.

I know some people might not agree with funny photos for something so horrific but I also know that sometimes our psyches can get overwhelmed.

I believe it is crucial to also convey gratefulness. Whether someone donates $15 or $1500, or if all they do is share an IJM post, I try to let them know that I am so thankful!

Inspired? Get started with your fundraiser today.

7) What is your greater vision for the world?

I want to see that number of people in global poverty get down to zero! I know it seems impossible but I think we have to hope that if enough people know and act then it must be possible.

Ten years from now, I hope to have time to support IJM and other anti-trafficking outreaches in a more hands-on capacity. In 25 years I would love to know that my own four children will be impacting the world in compassionate and God-honouring way.

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8) Tell us an item from your bucket list.

I would love to have a proper blog. I love to, both, encourage other moms as well as provoke interesting discussions. In other words, I love to talk a lot and I need a bigger outlet to do that.

9) Who would be the best person to be stuck in an elevator with and why?

My first thought was my husband! With four teenagers, we never get enough time to talk! Seriously though, I think it would be CS Lewis. Several of his books have had a profound impact on my life. Considering the horrors that go on our world, it would be awesome to have an in-depth chat with Clive about The Problem of Pain. And Narnia. I think one could have a sweet conversation with someone who wrote something so beautifully hopeful.


This article is part of a series featuring the amazing individuals who offer their time and talents to fundraise for us.

Inspired? Get started at IJM.ca/fundraise.

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