“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.  And sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

A friend once shared with me her story. She was born in another country and left in an orphanage. She was adopted, brought to America, loved, educated, and grew into a successful, accomplished woman. However, the idea that her life could have just as easily taken a different turn always weighed heavy on her mind. Most girls where she was born died before their 16th birthday, if they were not adopted at a young age. They could live at the orphanage until they were around 13, then they were kicked out, forced to make it on their own.  If they didn’t die at the hands of the Johns who paid their bills, diseases or overdose would be their ultimate undertaker.

Where she was born, there was little hope for the future.

Her story changed my outlook on life. Had I not been born to my parents, what would my life look like?  Would I still be alive? Would I have gone to college? Would I have been an addict? We have no control over the circumstances or conditions we are born into.

Some of us are lucky to end up with a family who love and sacrifice so we will have access to better opportunities they they did. Most of us grow up with the luxury of the ability to hope. Others are born to parents who do their best, but are fighting their own demons. For many, hope is an extravagance for others, but not for them.

My friend’s outlook has left an imprint on me as well. The lessons I learned from her is what makes the battle to end human trafficking a fight close to my heart. Had I not been born to my parents, who knows what my narrative would be.

The good news is I am not alone in my fight. There are people like Michelle and Fay of The Tote Project who believe in the idea that all people deserve to feel empowered, restored, and free. They believe in these fundamental human rights so much, they created The Tote Project to help survivors of the sex trade rebuild their lives.

These two friends came together over a shared idea – that even in what seems to be the darkest hour – everyone should be given hope. Fay and Michelle created The Tote Project to be that hope for these survivors. Each tote and pouch are sewn by women who have made the choice to journey out of the sex trade. By providing jobs to survivors, Fay and Michelle are giving these women the ability to hope, many for the first time. Building a life and having hope for a future is no longer a dream for these survivors; they are earning it with every tote bag and pouch they sew.

Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from every tote bag and/or pouch sold is donated to Two Wings, a non-profit organization empowering survivors of sex trafficking to identify and pursue their dream vocation through mentoring programs, life skills classes, and career training workshops, creating the path for a life of financial and physical independence. An organization devoted to restoring hope, one survivor at a time.

Hope is something delicate; something fragile. It is something we take for granted, until one day we find it has gone. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, people like Michelle and Fay come along. They sing the song of freedom; a song of dreaming; a song bringing hope to those who have spent far too long in a cage.

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