223 – Live2Free Models Just Choices with a Fashion Show

Ending Human Trafficking Podcast Logo
Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak are joined again by the Live2Free coach, Ruthi Hanchett, along with Live2Free President, Kaleigh Lawrence. Live2Free is a student-led, campus club that stands against the injustice of human trafficking that started at Vanguard University but has expanded to other high schools and colleges throughout the world. On this podcast, they discuss how they focus on justice through their annual Fashion Show event, and how you can be a part of it!

Key Points

  • Live2Free exists to challenge our generation to make personal choices that recognize the dignity of the individual, the responsibility of consumers to slow the demand that drives modern-day slavery, and to network with others to rescue, rebuild and restore broken lives of victims worldwide.
  • Through this model and toolkit, you can replicate this opportunity to collaborate, to mentor, and to make a difference right where you are.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast. This is episode number 223 – Live2Free Models Just Choices with a Fashion Show.

Production Credits [00:00:10] Produced by Innovate Learning, Maximizing Human Potential.

Dave [00:00:31] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie [00:00:37] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave [00:00:39] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. And today we have a special episode featuring the wonderful work of Live2Free. You’ve heard about Live2Free many times on the podcast, but today we’re just thrilled to have a couple of our close friends and collaborators with us and to teach us more about what Live2Free is up to today. And for those who have not heard about Live2Free before. Two things I wanted to mention here upfront is the who we are a statement from Live2Free and also the mission. So, Live2Free is a student-led campus club that stands against the injustice of human trafficking that takes place here in the United States and around the world. Live2Free started at Vanguard University but has expanded to other high schools and colleges throughout the world, including places like Argentina. We feel the responsibility as college students to not only make sure we ourselves are educated about human trafficking but to take it one step further and educate our peers, youth, and our community. And the mission is Live2Free exists to challenge our generation to make personal choices that recognize the dignity of the individual, the responsibility of consumers to slow the demand that drives modern-day slavery and to network with others to rescue, rebuild, and restore broken lives of victims worldwide. And Sandie, two friends with us today, they’re going to help us to discover even more.

Sandie [00:02:14] I am so excited to welcome to this podcast, Ruthi Hanchett and Kaleigh Lawrence. Ruthi is an adjunct at Vanguard University in the Women and Justice Minor. She is also a former guest on this show, so you can go back and read her very extensive bio. But her focus on empowering children and youth has made her the perfect Live2Free coach. And then our president for this year is Kaleigh Lawrence, who is a senior at Vanguard University. She has completed everything for her Women and Justice minor. She’s been interning on the ground in front line services to at-risk and trafficked youth because she has a solid knowledge base and she has gained so much and done so much, made so much ground in leading Live2Free that I’m really happy to welcome her to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. Ruthi and Kaylie!

Ruthi [00:03:26] Thanks for having us.

Kaleigh [00:03:27] Thanks, Sandie and Dave.

Sandie [00:03:29] So let’s start with you, Ruthi. Tell us what is a Live2Free coach?

Ruthi [00:03:34] Well, my job is really to empower the students that are part of the Live2Free club to make a difference, to study the issues of human trafficking, and to act on those issues in their community right now. A big part of the way that we do that is through peer to peer education. So, the students learn about human trafficking and then go out and teach others and they teach fellow students at Vanguard University through events, through fun activities, through social media, all kinds of creative ways. But we also go out to the local high schools and even junior highs to teach them about human trafficking. So, I love being a coach because I get to pass on what I’m learning and what I’ve learned over the years, the experiences I have, to the next generation of abolitionists. And it’s really an exciting process to watch them grow and mature and see the power they have to make a difference in this fight.

Sandie [00:04:29] I loved that you said what I’m learning because this is an emerging issue. And every month I’m reading a new article, new research. I’m trying to find ways forward that work better. And I have learned a lot from you as well. The idea of coaching our peers, you do that really well to all of us at the center, Ruthi, so thank you so much. Kaleigh, what about being the president of Live2Free? How long have you been a Live2Free member?

Kaleigh [00:05:06] So I became a Live2Free member as soon as I came onto campus. I was at our first meeting and I’ve loved it ever since.

Sandie [00:05:14] So how long have you been president?

Kaleigh [00:05:17] I’ve been president since May 2019

Sandie [00:05:21] Can you tell me one of the most exciting things that you’ve done this year was the Fair-Trade Fair show. And when I think about the mission statement to challenge a generation, there are so many times when someone wants me to do something that is justice-oriented, and they start with guilt. They stand in front of my grocery store with signs and I found that you and your team found a way to model making just choices in a way that was really comfortable and natural for my peers in my generation, for people in our community, as well as for students. So, would you tell me about how you came up with the Fair-Trade Fashion Show? And what are some of the principles? And Ruthi, I’d like you to chime in here, too. Especially because I want people listening to this podcast to understand principles, not just a recipe to replicate it. Although we are going to give you all of the ingredients too.

Kaleigh [00:06:39] The fashion show began actually my freshman year, so I wasn’t in the planning of that fashion show, but I got to participate and be part of the setup. And then every year it just got bigger, more and more people got involved. We started getting out of the little kinks and of course, we’re still learning. But one of the things I love about the fashion show is that, like you said, we’re not guilt-tripping people. But it’s more of like a celebration of liberation and of freedom and of the fact that people can have joy in their lives through fashion, but also the people that are making our fashion, our outfits are also living lives that hopefully are comparable to help joyful and free our lives.

Ruthi [00:07:27] Now, I’ll jump in. One of my favorite things about the fashion show is the fact that it is so positive, and I see it as this key moment where we can really shape the consumption habits of young people for the rest of their lives. We know that fashion really is a way of expressing ourselves. Right? So, we talk about how you express your values, your ethics through your clothing choices. How do you demonstrate who you are and what’s important to you by the things that you buy? And so, when we especially encourage the college students to pick their own clothing from retail vendors that sell ethically sourced products or from thrift stores, they get to go and use their own fashion sense. But they’re also exercising that process of choosing an ethical product that they love and then they get to model it and show it off. And I feel like we’re making a real difference both in those students lives and the choices they have, the exposure they have to the choices, the vendors, the ethically sourced products, but their children, their friends, their peers from ongoing, the choices that they will make will be shaped, I think, by this experience that they have of buying and experiencing ethically sourced products. So, one of the fun things we do too is partner with vendors from the community that is selling these ethically sourced products, so whether they’re fair trade products, or recycled/thrifted products, or products that have a cause and support a nonprofit organization. This helps our students as well as the community see the variety and the options that they have as consumers and support those organizations. And even beyond just the fashion show, become their patrons, go to their shops, buy their things, and make it part of their daily lives.

Kaleigh [00:09:08] Yeah. And to speak to that too. I know Sandie, you’re a huge fan of collaboration and you really impart that on us as students. And through the fashion show our collaboration I think has just skyrocketed beyond the Fashion Show as well as with the vendors helping them participate in other events that Live2Free does or just supporting like Ruthi said, other vendors. And we’ve been able to go to the Fair-Trade Campaigns National Conference. We’ve been able to have film screenings with some of the vendors that are doing work in Haiti. So, it’s just been amazing seeing where the collaboration can go.

Sandie [00:09:44] Well, and I think I’ve also watched how you have led this in a way that includes the voices of survivors of labor trafficking. Too many times people equate human trafficking with sex trafficking. And yet you, in a graceful joyous presentation, included textile workers right here in Southern California. So, you were modeling just choices that were beyond just what I’m purchasing to wear. Can you tell me about how your fashion show has really moved to teach as well as demonstrating?

Kaleigh [00:10:30] Yeah. Beyond just the catwalk portion of our fashion show that people usually think of, we have a section of the fashion show where we’ll either have a speaker or we’ll have a panel of speakers. So, in our 2019 fashion show, we were super blessed to be able to have some of the leaders from the Garment Workers Center in L.A. where they are producing a lot of the clothes that we buy here in America.

Sandie [00:10:54] Wait, wait, wait. I have to ask you something because I thought all the labor trafficking for clothing happened someplace else.

Kaleigh [00:11:01] Sadly, no. A lot of these women and men that are creating our clothes aren’t even making minimum wage, not even half of what minimum wage is in America, or in California. Their conditions are horrific, and they’re just really being exploited for their labor for the clothes that we wear that might say made in America or made in the USA. So, it was super amazing to be able to see what that looks like here in our backyard and interact with these leaders that are so strong coming out of their situation and trying really to make a difference for their peers and bring awareness to the injustice that’s happening in our backyards.

Sandie [00:11:44] So let’s talk about the ingredients for this Fair-Trade Fashion Show. What does it take to do this kind of event that involves so many of our community partners as well as students? And what does that look like when you put it all together?

Kaleigh [00:12:04] First and foremost, writing out some of the guidelines for next year. The first thing I had to say was that you have to have your team and you have to ask for help. And that’s something I’ve been able to have, especially with Ruthi and my teammates. Also starting early, that’s also a great way because vendors appreciate getting a good head up so that they can prepare and plan ahead. But yeah, it takes reaching out to your local agencies. We were so blessed to be able to work with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, the Junior League of Orange County, and Goodwill. So, having people like that to help make the event even grander and more exciting and more fun in human trafficking, oftentimes being so depressing and just tragic, being able to show a light to this side of healing and justice. And then also it takes a lot of communication with your teammates. So, with the folks in Live2Free, being able to ask for help and saying, hey, can you reach out to these people? Can you be in charge of this portion of the volunteers? And it was really cool seeing the day of just how people rose to the occasion because you never know what it’s going to look like. And then it takes working with students on campus at Vanguard, all of the freshmen are required to have a certain amount of volunteer hours. So, we’ve been able to say, hey, we’ll offer you maybe six or eight volunteer hours for being a part of the fashion show. So, that’s also an incentive for the students where maybe they’d be super busy with their homework and they didn’t want to take the time. Now they can because they have to get those volunteer hours. And at the same time, we educate them on what fair trade is and what labor trafficking is.

Ruthi [00:13:57] So I want to add Kaleigh is being a little bit humble here because one of the things that she instituted was training for all of the volunteers so that they could better understand what human trafficking is and labor trafficking and then fair trade and the options we have as consumers. So, I love that not only do we recruit, you know, nearly a hundred volunteers probably all throughout the event, but they’re all trained. So, they don’t just show up and model, but they also learn about these issues so that they can be spokespeople for this topic going forward. It’s not just a fun experience, but they get a lot of information and knowledge because of it.

Sandie [00:14:31] That’s really terrific. And I show up at the event. I don’t do anything else. And I love talking to people afterward. And I especially enjoy the freshmen, brand new on campus, they’ve been there for two months. And they discovered this amazing way of being an advocate right here while they’re students. So, kudos to you as well, Kaleigh. OK, so tell me about the tool kit you put together.

Kaleigh [00:15:03] So the tool kit is basically a month to month breakdown of what the process looks like. So, you know, five months out, begin working on gathering vendors, three months out, begin gathering your models and securing your event space, and then it even breaks it down to the week in advance. And then what it would look like hour by hour doing the event. And then in the tool kit, we also added images and marketing materials that we’ve used in the past to help give people who want to put on their own fashion show an idea. And in that, we also included our video from the 2019 fashion show so people can see what it looks like for the models going down the runway. And it’s amazing to see how much joy they have to as they’re modeling, knowing that they’re doing something amazing. But yeah, that’s kind of the breakdown of the tool kit.

Sandie [00:15:58] So when I looked at the tool kit when she sent it to me, I thought, OK, this is going to be probably a couple of pages and it’ll be really a rough draft. I want you to know that this tool kit will be downloadable from the Web site endinghumantrafficking.org. It is detailed, it has charts with exactly how to set up the seating. It has ideas for doing flyers, all of those things. And the images show a lot of joy. Ruthi, I have a question for you, because as a mom of two little girls and leading this amazing team of students, how do you integrate your kids with your Live2Free coaching?

Ruthi [00:16:51] Well, it was really fun this year. My two girls who were six and eight at the time got to be models in the fashion show. And it was such a fun experience because we make the fashion show very family-friendly. Again, as Kaleigh said, this is a joyful experience of what we can do that’s positive to fight trafficking. It’s not something we need a protect or shelter our children from. So, I brought my girls. They had a blast modeling, they loved it. And it was such a great way to show them a positive experience of the way that they can be involved in fighting against slavery. And we talk in our house all the time about slavery and human trafficking and how everyone deserves to be treated fairly and to be paid for the work they do. So, this for them, it was a great way to exercise what they know and to live it out in a really positive and fun way. And all of their little girlfriends showed up to celebrate and to support them. And we had a great experience together.

Sandie [00:17:48] I was also impressed with the idea that it was very family-friendly. And I talked to a couple of grandmothers that were there. And one of the grandmothers who didn’t have any children there, she just came because she saw it advertised and she said, I wish I brought everyone I knew to this because it shows an entirely different side of human trafficking that gets very little attention. So, Ruthi, when you teach the human trafficking class, you have guest speakers and how do you address the labor trafficking side of human trafficking?

Ruthi [00:18:32] Well, I think it deserves just as much attention as the sex trafficking side, even if it’s not always treated that way. I spent a couple of weeks talking about this with my students. And for me, the most important piece that I want them to understand is one that labor trafficking statistically, number-wise, is bigger in our world where there are more people exploited through labor exploitation than in sex trafficking. But the big thing is we as consumers have a role to play and we can be a part of stopping it. We can use our voice and advocacy. We can speak out against these issues, but we can also make a difference with the ways that we purchase products and the things we choose not to buy and the things we choose to support. So, my hope when I have students in my class, we do research. I encourage them to think about a product they’re interested in buying or buy regularly and then find an ethical alternative or, you know, find out maybe their products not that bad, but maybe there are some better choices. We do research on that. We talk about supply chains and where our things come from and the places, the points where there could be abuse and exploitation, and the opportunities for interceding and acting for justice along the way of that supply chain. So, my hope in my class and with the Live2Free students in the fashion show is that we begin to make those small just choices. Not every choice will be perfect. We won’t always have all the options, but we can make safer choices with the information we have to do better.

Sandie [00:19:57] So for both of you, our critics say that we can’t make a big difference by driving demand for fair trade products. And there are lots of different versions of fair trade. And if you’ve listened to this podcast for very long, you know that we talk a lot about supply chain transparency. So, how do we fold in the advocacy part of what we’re teaching at the fashion show?

Kaleigh [00:20:29] In regard to advocacy, I think that the Global Worker Center, having them be a part, really opened all of our eyes, even those that put on the fashion show, to how important advocacy is. Because the people that are creating these clothes, even though they’re being sold so cheaply, they made the point of like but that’s what they can afford at the store. Also, are these clothes that they’re making because they’re so cheap. So, we don’t want to just completely have these people out of a job. So, we need to advocate on behalf of them and that they are being paid fair wages that right now they have a campaign against Ross because so much of the clothes they make go to Ross, and Ross is not paying the factories enough money for them to get paid the wages they deserve. So, joining in their campaign against certain companies that are not purchasing at a price that’s going to give fair wages to these workers. So, posting on social media on behalf of these organizations, joining in on their protests, there’s really a lot we can do in just raising awareness because people don’t know, like you said, that labor trafficking and labor exploitation happens in the US.

Sandie [00:21:40] And we don’t think about the workers that make the things that we purchase. We think, oh, wow, we had a good sale. But it challenges me to stop and ask some questions. Why is this so cheap? Who got paid? How long did it take to make this product? And if people aren’t getting a fair wage, then how do we begin to speak up for them? Ruthi, you’ve done some advocacy around legislation.

Ruthi [00:22:10] Yeah. And I think that we always want to encourage our students to think about attacking a problem from multiple angles- top down, bottom up. You know, we can talk to our leaders at the political level. We can talk to the leaders of corporations, send them messages. You know, I’m not going to buy your product until you show me your transparency and your supply chain. We can choose to support the organizations that are doing better, that are making those ethical choices, and we can influence our peers. I’m actually really encouraged by the movement I see of young people to thrift, to buy recycled, reused clothing, to buy clothing that lasts and invest in a product rather than a $5 throwaway sort of item. I’m seeing that as a shift in the culture. And I think it reflects biblical values too, this idea that we are not about our consumption patterns. Right? That the things will not satisfy us but living out our values will. And so, I try to get our students to think about how we live out our values of what’s important to us, the people that we value over the products and choose the ways that we spend our money. We can recycle, reuse, just choose to have less because it makes a difference for someone else.

Sandie [00:23:24] So that takes me back to my definition of stewardship. Changed a decade ago when I realized that when I’m a consumer, I’m not looking for the best price. I’m looking for the best outcome, the best deal. And it isn’t a good deal to get cheap chocolate if a child is a slave to make that chocolate. It’s a much better deal if I’m paying enough so that an adult has a fair wage and can send their kids to school. As we start to kind of look at graduation, Kaleigh, I’m always I’m getting better, but I always get a little sad when I have to say goodbye to our seniors. And that usually includes my Live2Free president. And I share with Ruthi, but still, I do have a certain amount of personal just joy and pride in watching who you’ve become. And I’d like to kind of hear from you a little bit about how you believe that your experience in Live2Free, doing the Women and Justice Minor, being the president prepares you for a future that I know you’ll be a leader in addressing issues around human trafficking.

Kaleigh [00:24:47] It’s scary thinking about graduation and having to leave all of you amazing mentors and educators. But honestly, going into senior year, I was quite confident that I was going to come out pretty well. Sandie, you’ve really given me so many opportunities to grow and experience and really build my resumé. And I remember freshman year I asked you, “would you be my mentor?” And this is before I knew, like all the crazy things that you do, like traveling everywhere. Your model of mentorship was really come along with me and see what I do and meet who I meet. And that’s just changed, I think, the trajectory of my life, because now I’m leaving university with my Women and Justice Minor, with experience, with working with people in the field from Social Services Agency, working with people from the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force. I’m excited to see what happens next. During this time of the Coronavirus, it’s hard to say where I’m going to be after graduation just because of everything’s closing down. And so, I’m looking for places, but I feel confident that I’m going to end up somewhere that I’m passionate about. And I thank you so much, Sandie, for that. And Ruthi for just all the knowledge you guys have imparted. I mean, that’s something I really want to encourage those coming behind me that are coming up in and through the university experience of like get integrated, be a part, and don’t shy away, say yes.

Sandie [00:26:26] Oh “say yes”, that’s a good word. Ruthi?

Ruthi [00:26:28] Well, I think Kaleigh is an amazing illustration of what we value in our students, of Live2Free, that are not waiting till they are graduated and not waiting for that degree to start doing something. And Kaleigh is a leader already. She not only leads her peers, but she’s leading the community. I mean, this fashion show was the first of its kind in Orange County and we invited the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force to be our partners this year. And it was amazing, you know, and she was leading that team and demonstrating professionalism and competency that was well beyond many adult years. And so, I’m so proud of her. And what I love about Kaleigh and many others that I’ve seen at Live2Free is the fact that they’re making choices with the way that they live their life to just have integrity in their choices. They’re modeling and demonstrating leadership in the way that they live their lives. So, she is doing great things as a leader in the community and in the work, she’s doing as an intern working with survivors. But she’s also just living a life of integrity where she makes personal choices. I see her bringing her food in reusable packaging because that’s important for her to live out her ethic of environmental stewardship, I see her choosing not to buy certain products because they’re not coming from an ethically sourced place, or choosing not to have the newest spring fashion because she knows where it’s coming from. She’s making personal choices, sometimes sacrifices to live out her values of caring for others. And that’s encouraging to me.

Sandie [00:27:58] Wow. So, this is such a great way to close this show because we’re giving you a tool kit to do your own fashion show. But we also are trying to model for you how this is a mentoring opportunity with your young people in your community and truly making a difference. We want you to join us, come back and look at the tool kit. Follow us on social media. Go on to VUGCWJ Facebook page and you can see pictures from the last few fashion shows. I encourage you to take this and make it your own. You don’t have to call it Live2Free. Just replicate this opportunity to collaborate, to mentor, and to make a difference right where you are.

Dave [00:28:55] Sandie, Kaleigh, and Ruthi, thank you so much. Sandie. I think about this conversation and I think about what we always talk about on the show, the importance of partnership, and what a beautiful partnership amongst the three of you. And of course, the institution Vanguard and Live2Free and all of the community partners that are part of this. And I hope that you have heard something today that will encourage you to take the next step. And we’re inviting you to do that now to take the very next step of going over to the Endinghumantrafficking.org Web site. And if you do that, you can download a copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know A QuickStart Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. It will teach you the five critical things that Sandie and her work at the Global Center for Women of Justice have identified that we should all know before we join the fight against human trafficking. Get access by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. In addition, all of the notes, the tool kit, everything mentioned in today’s conversation is up there as well. And if you do have a specific question, you’re always welcome to reach out to us, our e-mail address is feedback@endinghumantrafficking.org. And we will be back in two weeks for our next conversation. Sandie, look forward to seeing you then.

Sandie [00:30:13] Thanks, Dave.

Dave [00:30:13] Take care, everybody.

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