Creating Change One Day at a Time: Jennifer Christensen
What do SPAM, preschool classes, and advocacy all have in common? Jennifer Christensen, that’s what, (or should we say who)! Jennifer is a creative, caring woman and mother who is originally from Austin, Minnesota, (the birthplace of SPAM), but now calls Granite Falls, Washington, home. She works as an Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) teacher in the Granite Falls School District, where she works alongside families and preschoolers from low-income neighborhoods. Her affection for helping children stems from her deep love of her own children and family. Jennifer acknowledges the fact that her kids are one of the driving forces that propel her forward in her advocacy against human trafficking because “If it were my sons or my daughter [being trafficked] I would want people fighting for them to bring them home.”
She admits that she wasn’t aware of how bad human trafficking was until a few years before she started advocating with Dressember in 2015. However, she didn’t let the seemingly overwhelming odds of stopping human trafficking prevent her from speaking up about this controversial topic. Jennifer decided to put on a dress each day of December because it was the easiest way for her to get involved in the fight, and because she knew that she could no longer stand idly by while such an atrocious injustice was running rampant in the world. She confesses that, "I was shocked at how much I raised that first year and how much people supported me.” By talking about trafficking, Jennifer was able to not only spread awareness but also opened people’s eyes to the fact that trafficking happens at home in their cities. It was this fact that made it so easy for her to continue advocating because it struck so close to home.
However, advocating wasn’t always easy, and there were people that Jennifer would talk to that would shut down and stop listening after she mentioned anything about trafficking. But she didn’t let those difficult moments lead her into a space of defeat. Instead, she used them as motivation to speak up boldly about injustice. Her deep empathy and desire to speak up for those who are being trafficked led her into an awesome encounter with a fellow mom at a swim meet. “On day two of the swim meet a mom from another team said, ‘You have the right idea wearing dresses to these events.’ When I told her why I was wearing dresses, she was so supportive and, later at the end of the meet, gave me $20 to add to my campaign. I didn’t even know her name.” While these types of moments don’t happen every day, they are the much-needed encouragement in the midst of what can feel like an uphill battle against human trafficking.
Jennifer admits that sometimes it’s not always easy to find creative inspiration when you’re in the thick of your Dressember campaign. As a preschool teacher, she says that she would,“end up wearing a lot of dresses that look good with leggings and aren’t restrictive movement-wise or wear the same thing over and over.” However, she does offer some fun ideas to help you get out of your outfit rut and engage with the people you’re trying to reach:
Find a “sponsor” that will provide you with a fun gift for whoever donates the most money to your campaign.
Create a prize draw for everyone who donates a certain amount of money to your campaign.
Bake some cookies, maybe get creative and bake dress cookies, and mail them to the person who donated the most that day.
Ask your friends and family for dress challenges or suggestions. She revealed, “Once I was challenged to wear an ugly 1980’s jean dress all around town and post pictures of me acting normal like it was something I would wear grocery shopping. People felt so bad for me and my ugly dress that donations just rolled in.”
Jennifer is a passionate, caring, insanely creative woman who won’t stop fighting until all are free, and she urges everyone to do the same. She wants everyone to remember that it doesn’t matter if you only raise $20.00 or $1,500.00, you are still raising awareness. The more people that know about trafficking, the more people that are going to join the fight. She encourages everyone to get creative and get talking about injustice, even if it’s hard, because it’s worth it.
This year, do something different. Take on the Dressember style challenge and pledge to wear a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, learn more about the issue of human trafficking and have a viable impact on those trapped in slavery around the world.
Registration opens October 1st, 2018
About the Author
Katherina Toews sees the world mostly from between the ears of a horse, and wouldn’t want it any other way. She believes that there is nothing that can’t be fixed by sharing tea, chocolate chip cookies, and a good black and white movie with friends. Katherina is currently the Head Wrangler at a year-round camp and retreat centre, teaching people about horses and helping them to overcome their fears.