Introducing our 2018/2019 Grant Partner: olive crest
There are approximately 100,000 children involved in the sex trafficking industry in the U.S.
That number may seem hard to comprehend at first glance: it is mournfully large and difficult to read. But the sad reality is that 60% of those children – 60,000 children – who were recovered in FBI raids can be traced back to the child welfare system. They were the hurt, the lonely, and the seemingly forgotten children and youth of society. According to Olive Crest Executive Director, Jaime Zavala, “children and young adults who have been a part of the system are some of the kids at greatest risk of being engaged in human trafficking.”
Another difficult number to read is that there are over 400,000 children in the welfare system in the United States. 400,000 young lives which are hoping, hurting, and longing for the safety of a home and family. Here at Dressember, dresses are used as “a flag for the inherent dignity of all people,” and this year, Dressember is honored to have the organization Olive Crest as a grant partner as they specifically fight for the inherent dignity of children.
Olive Crest is “dedicated to the prevention of child abuse, the treatment and education of at-risk children, and preserving the family…One Life at a Time.” There is unparalleled strength in family; in knowing that you are safe, loved, wanted, and cared for. Sadly, 400,000 children do not have a clear or complete picture of this love, and Olive Crest has chosen to step into the gap with compassion and vision. Olive Crest’s work in Southern California, Nevada, and Western Washington was founded by Dr. Donald and Lois Verleur, who took in four teenage girls in 1973 in Orange County, CA.
This organization has a vision to end the cycle of abuse through means such as fostering, fostering to adopt, pairing safe families with children in crisis, and providing training and education to those aging out of the foster system. Symbolized by an olive branch and a family crest, Olive Crest wants to create lasting change and lasting peace for children and families.
This year, Dressember’s grant will be supporting the work Olive Crest is doing to educate young people transitioning out of foster care about the dangers of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, (CSEC). Olive Crest is aiming to provide CSEC awareness training classes to 127 youth and Independent Life Skills Training to all participants. Zavala shared that, “by providing Independent Life Skills Training to our kids, we will be providing them with the tools to become aware of the pitfalls and dangers of becoming engaged in human trafficking. Perpetrators look for kids and young adults who have little to no positive adult relationships to prey on and unfortunately, kids in the system fall into this category.”
In addition to this invaluable training, Olive Crest is providing two years of housing to young people who are working towards employment goals in the hope that this will severely diminish their chances of homelessness going forward. In the areas where Olive Crest works, Zavala shared, “the risk of child abuse, abandonment, and neglect [are increased] due to the high numbers of homelessness, higher percentage of people living below the poverty line, higher numbers of people engaged in substance abuse, etc.”
Olive Crest outlines practical ways to help them in their vision of ending child abuse. They ask you to consider opening your home to a child in need, supporting Olive Crest financially, volunteering your time, becoming involved in their Child Abuse Stops Here campaign, and - perhaps most importantly to many of us - speaking up and raising awareness. Zavala’s words were powerful as he said, “It takes a village to help bring hope and healing to a child who has experienced abuse, abandonment, and neglect. So, while not all of us are called to become foster parents, we can all do something. It can be anything from being a support person to a foster family in our circle of relationships, by providing a meal to that foster family, or being willing to provide child care to the foster parents so they can get a break. We can all do something!”
You can choose to raise awareness and support for organizations like Olive Crest by becoming a Dressember advocate this season. Please consider joining us in the mission to restore dignity to all.
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
Myra Grady is honored to be using her love of writing this fall 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.