Interview with 2018 Advocate Andrew Chong
Andrew’s courageous approach and heart for others are encouraging to anyone seeking to make a difference. His interview is a powerful example of how people simply caring in their everyday lives can make a difference. Dressing up, beginning conversations, and having a heart for the dignity of others are all a Dressember advocate needs. We are all, with Andrew, “everyday advocates.”
“Before [modern-day slavery] was brought to my attention, I truly believed that slavery, for the most part, ended back when the slave trade in the United States finally came to an end. I did not realize the sheer magnitude of how widespread it is, how many people are enslaved, and, shockingly, how many are children. My wife and I contribute to International Justice Mission's work, but I decided to take a more engaging role in bringing attention to the issue and making a bigger impact. Many of the people I spoke to were like me: they didn't know how big of a problem slavery is in the world today.
When I decided to participate in Dressember, I wanted to make it fun. It's way easier for me to wear a tie every day than it is for someone to wear a dress every single day, so I decided to make it challenging in my own way. I had a novelty suit that I bought a few years ago that was basically the same pattern as an ‘ugly Christmas sweater' to wear as a joke to my company's holiday party. I figured since I had that suit already, I would wear the jacket and tie every day. I've since bought another suit to have some variety and it definitely turns heads and starts conversations! It gave me an advantage because a lot of times it would give me the chance to talk to people about Dressember.
$1000 was my goal, and I was anxious about it being that high. About a week into Dressember I had the idea of having ‘rewards’ at certain dollar intervals. I told everyone at my job that if I would reach my goal, I would live up to the name of Dressember, and wear a dress to work. I think I raised $800 that day! I looked at wearing a dress as a way to market the cause in a unique way, but also as an act of solidarity for all my fellow Dressember advocates that were rocking a dress every single day.”
Chong continued with advice for all of our advocates: “[F]ind a way to make it obvious that you're dressed up for a reason, use Dressember as a way to stand out! My friend has two huge pins that say: ‘Dressember’ and ‘Ask Me About My Dress,’ and they definitely work! Just having a conversation with someone and informing them of how widespread the problem of slavery is makes a difference, and it is totally worth it.
It is really encouraging to look at the Dressember site and see the real-life impact that you are making as you are getting donations. If you are really hesitant to do it, find a friend to join with you! I was a part of an awesome team and they definitely help make the event more fun. And like many things in life, you get what you put into it. You can make it challenging and fun in your own way, the month will fly by!”
Although December is over and many of us are putting aside our dresses (or novelty suits,) fundraising is still marching on through the month of January. It is also Human Trafficking Awareness month, and we can continue to do what we can, where we are, with what we have. Begin courageous conversations, continue educating yourself, and, like Chong suggested, grab a friend to advocate with. Your experience will be beautiful and your fight for freedom will always be worth it.
About the Author
Myra Grady is honored to be using her love of writing as she joins Dressember in their fight against human trafficking. She is pursuing an English degree through Thomas Edison State University and currently enjoys her days as a preschool teacher. Outside of work, Myra can often be found exploring St. Louis with her husband, watching The Office reruns, eating far too much ice cream, and learning how to knit.