Intern & Advocate, Beth Woods
It started just outside of Dakar, Senegal this past summer, in a room with only a fan and small window for air conditioning and wifi that worked really well for about 10 minutes out of every day. During one of those daily “10 minutes,” I got an email from Dressember that invited me to apply for either an editorial internship or a community engagement one. In Senegal, I had these amazing opportunities to study development, French, Wolof, and teach English, yet living in the midst of that kind of poverty I found myself desperate for the very the thing Dressember strives to provide: hope.
There was an all-too-familiar feeling of helplessness that surrounded me throughout Senegal--me being an unskilled white, American female seeking only to understand the plight of a people whom my ancestors had exploited and used over and over again. I had no right to change anything there; only listen, ask questions, and learn.
But boy, did I want to.
I saw injustice every day, and it fueled the fire inside of me to help, to do, to act...except I didn’t know how. Until Dressember stepped in and said, “like this.”
I have ended up working as both an editorial and community engagement intern, selfishly fulfilling my dreams of using my love of writing and sharing my passion with the people who surround me. More importantly, I have been able to help focus other’s attention on those that need it most: the enslaved.
The most beautiful part of my story isn’t what I am doing but why I am doing it. It’s for the people who are going to wake up tomorrow to realize the nightmares they had last night were real. Or those that didn’t sleep at all because the pain of being taken advantage of over and over again was too much to shut out of their head. It’s these people that my heart and work now belong to. It is for them that I advocate with Dressember, so maybe they will see or hear or know somehow that they aren’t forgotten. I advocate not to share my own voice, but in the hopes that I could be raising up a platform for them to one day use their voice to speak freely into this world.
What have I been up to?
The past few months I have gathered a Dressember team of 25 fearless, inspiring girls and guys called the Aggies for Freedom who have collectively raised $7400, enough to fund one rescue mission. I have been allowed to speak at over 20 organizations on my college campus about our cause and our mission. I have watched people go from heartbroken to inspired as they hear about what Dressember is doing and why and watched the members of my own team grow into advocates in their own right--fighting with their words and with their actions to try and make freedom a reality for more people across this globe.
I have also gotten to train (less consistently than I should have) for a half marathon that took place on December 10th. True to the cause, I wore a snowman patterned dress while I ran to raise even more awareness and funds for my team. 12 miles were dedicated to 12 different survivors of modern slavery, and the last mile was dedicated to all of those we have yet to rescue...but will. This was a large feat for me as I stand at almost 5 feet and have never before been an endurance runner. But part of our motto at Dressember is that you can do anything in a dress, and I guess I am here to prove that is true.
My team and I also had the honor to organize and host a Night of the Dress Fashion Show where we modeled the Dressember line of dresses with Noonday jewelry accessories, along with having speakers from two local anti-slavery nonprofits: Elijah Rising and Rescue Houston. This event allowed for the community around us to truly engage in what we are doing as we shared not only stories of slavery but our own stories as well.
The best part about my advocacy with Dressember--not just in the past few months, but ever since I started participating 3 years ago--is everything I have learned. I began as a girl who simply wasn’t okay with the idea of slavery existing in her hometown and I am now growing into a woman who sees these statistics as individuals who deserve love, safety, joy, laughter, and a future and who deserve to have someone fighting on their side. I am still learning how to be that person and it is as challenging as it is rewarding.
If you were ever unsure that Dressember is actually doing good, look at our partner organizations. Look at what they are doing. Look at all the needs they have, the resources they need. That is why Dressember exists. Because someone saw a need and used what they had to fill it. And that is what our advocate stories exist to proclaim. Mine especially, I hope.
About the Author
Beth Woods is a lover of all things outdoors, animals, and random dance parties in the car. She lives in College Station, Texas where she is studying international relations and French at Texas A&M University and hopes to continue advocating against slavery for her career someday.