NPHS raises awareness for human trafficking


Haley McKain

(L-R) Emma Downey, Mara Strecker, Rebekah Littrell, Megan Wullschleger, Keleeann Littrell and Syble Heffernan posing in their dresses on the 21st day of Dressember.

During one of the coldest months of the year, girls at North Platte High and all over the world are wearing dresses in support of human trafficking. This is all part of a fundraiser called Dressember where women wear dresses and men wear a bow-tie every day of December to bring awareness to the world wide issue. Dressember’s founder, Blythe Hill, wanted a way to help support women, children and men who are entrapped in modern day slavery but she never thought she would be able to help. “When I started hearing about trafficking, I felt an urgency to do something to stop it. The problem was my interests and talents didn’t seem to line up with making a difference,” said Hill during a TED Talk in 2015. “My interests felt shallow in the grand scheme of things. I remember feeling powerless.”

“In 2009, everything began to change, and I didn’t even know it at the time,” Hill said. It started as a “personal style challenge” for herself, wearing a dress every day for a month, but then people around her began to participate too. Hill then had the idea of using this fun tradition to do bigger things, like raise money to help. In 2013, she aligned Dressember with a program known as International Justice Mission (IJM) and set her first donation goal at $25,000. “When we hit my huge, scary goal, on the third day of our campaign, I realized what had started as a few girls in southern California wearing dresses for fun had become a community of over 1,200 women in 32 countries who collectively raised over $165,000,” Hill said.

In 2015, there was 4,603 registered participants and by 2016, that number grew to 5,673 and the donation goal was $1,500,000. The foundation also teamed up with a second grant partner, Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century (A21). “We hope for growth every year,” said Jillian Saldana, of the Dressember help team.

Awareness for human trafficking is even growing at NPHS. In the 2015/16 school year, there was one student partaking in the fundraiser, senior Megan Wullschleger. “Once I started to understand what it was about, then that’s when I started to become more passionate about it,” Wullschleger said. However, this past December, there were around 15 girls participating.

Junior Mara Strecker began to get involved when Wullschleger introduced the fundraiser to her. “When Megan was explaining it [Dressember], the way that she explained it and what it’s for, it kind of made me think about it,” Strecker said. “I want to go into missions and I really want to go to India, and I was reading books up on it and [I learned that] there’s a lot of sex trafficking in India that goes on but like no one knows and even if people know, they don’t really care. A lot of what I want to raise awareness for is because of that, but it happens everywhere.”

Dressember accepts donations until Jan. 31 which means they won’t know exactly how much money was raised until mid February. On Jan. 11, Dressember had raised $1,420,586 that will go directly to IJM and A21 for rescue and recovery projects. These donations will fund around 222 rescue missions. Saldana said, “Blythe Hill really connected with both of these organizations, and how they combat human-trafficking.”

Still, people all over the world continue to be supportive. “We will get our occasional email, complaining about our focus on human trafficking or that we aren’t donating to more partnerships. But we remain focused on the ultimate goal of combating human trafficking. We are encouraged by our advocates and donors. We have hope that we can change the world around us. One negative email will not shake us,” Saldana said.