Pua Coffman: Costumes for a Cause

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Pua Coffman is on to something. She has been doing Dressember for the past 4 years, but last year was her first year fundraising. She came up with the idea to get 31 people to pick one of December's 31 days and give $31 for that day. After her success from that idea last year, however, she decided to take things to the next level. This year, she issued that challenge again, but then made an extra incentive that if they gave $50 or more for whichever day they chose, they could choose a character for her to dress up as. Pua got a lot of positive responses from this incentive, and so far she has had requests to dress up as Rey, Wonder Woman, Belle, I Dream of Jeannie, Mrs. Claus, Sporty Spice and Merida--so fun!

In addition to her character incentive, Pua issued a different challenge to her followers on Instagram (most of which are high schoolers and middle schoolers because she is a youth pastor). Instead of donating money, she asked for people to choose a day in December, wear a dress, and then post about it on their social media to raise awareness about human trafficking. For those that were interested, she assigned days so that she could send them a reminder about their day coming up.

“It's been amazing watching middle schoolers and high schoolers become passionate about a topic they didn't know about a few months ago!”

We loved her fundraising ideas and wanted to reach out to her to hear more about why she does what she does.

How did you come to learn about modern-day slavery?

I first heard about modern day slavery in 2009 when my friend did a presentation about International Justice Mission at King College. The next year, she interned with IJM in the Philippines, and I got to hear first hand what was going on on the front lines.

What first got you into doing Dressember?

I first did Dressember in 2014, and to be honest, I don't remember how I heard about it - possibly an email from IJM? I was feeling similar to Blythe. I didn't have counseling/lawyer/law enforcement skills... so how could I really help to end modern-day slavery? Discovering Dressember was amazing! I really like fashion and putting together less mainstream looks, so Dressember was a perfect blend of things I'm passionate about: fashion (especially ethical fashion) and ending human trafficking!

What gave you the idea to start dressing up as different characters?

Last year my family went to Disney World during Dressember, and I figured, 'If I'm going to be wearing dresses anyway, it will be fun for my nephew and nieces to see me dressed as princesses while we're there!’ When I posted the princess costumes on Instagram/Facebook, I got a LOT of positive feedback from people and found that people were taking more interest in Dressember when I dressed up in well-known characters, so I thought I would use that tool to help fundraise this year.

How much money have you raised since you started dressing up as characters?

I told people that if they donated $50 or more, they could choose a character for me to dress up as this year. From this incentive alone, I've raised about $600. To be honest, I've probably also SPENT $60 at local thrift stores looking for pieces to help complete costumes.

What was your favorite character to dress up as?

It's definitely a tie between Wonder Woman and Rey from Star Wars. In both costumes, I felt strong and beautiful!

Why do you think these different characters resonate so much with your youth and surrounding community?

I think people are responding to the characters because it allows people to engage with a hard topic on a lighter, more accessible level. Human trafficking is an incredibly heavy topic, and I think it can leave people feeling paralyzed, not knowing how they can make a difference. By dressing as a character, people are connecting a character that they know and love to something real and necessary and heroic, like ending human trafficking. They are connecting positive feelings like fun and silliness with advocacy and making a difference.

How have your middle schoolers and high schoolers reacted to the challenge of becoming human trafficking advocates in their own rights?

This is one of my favorite things about Dressember this year! I encouraged them to look up statistics and write a caption that shares a statistic. Because of their circles of influence with their own friends and family, awareness of human trafficking is now reaching WAY more people than I could ever reach on my own, and my students are becoming educated about the issue. They are asking questions about ethical fashion and what they can do to end modern-day slavery. The comments on their posts are also incredibly encouraging. It is fun to see other students and adults being proud of them for taking a stand against trafficking.

It is people like Pua who are helping to bring Dressember and the work against modern-day slavery to the masses. The good news? You can too! Join Pua and the thousands of other advocates working to raise awareness and funds to bring freedom and dignity to all.


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About the Author

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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.