Why The Project?
I often get asked the question, “Why did you start The Set Me Free Project and how in the world did you get involved in the counter trafficking movement?”
Let me tell you. I joined the movement kicking and screaming. As much as I believe it is a remarkably important fight, and it is, it was not a fight I wanted to join. I was comfortable with my head firmly planted in the sand. I was a mom of three kiddos and the thought of the risk of sex trafficking happening in the world, let alone my own community was absolutely horrifying.
And here I was, happily running a nonprofit women’s organization, writing curriculum, speaking to women all over the United States, and even going into the schools to speak to youth on the importance of healthy relationships when I realized I could no longer pretend this was not in my own backyard. I knew I had to do something. But what? I knew that I was not the warrior/rescuer type, and I also knew that my ability to provide victim services would only lead to more trauma to the victim (no, seriously).
But then I realized, if my children had never heard that they were at risk for sex trafficking, and as their mom I hadn’t heard they were targets, then we could not be atypical. I teamed up with my co-founder, Cindy Hultine and we went to work. As we spoke to educators in our state we found that there was no education on the dangers of sex trafficking in our school system, and The Set Me Free Project was born.
We began by scouring for a quality curriculum. There was a lot of great curriculum out there but none that addressed the one issue that we believed to be the foundation of the problem. The value of human life. When we, as individuals, recognize our intrinsic value we respect ourselves and require respect from others. When we, as individuals, value each other, we can only treat them with respect. We can’t bully them, and we certainly can’t sell them. And so, our curriculum was written with the foundation of telling our youth YOU ARE VALUABLE. That’s what they need to know.
Today we offer all of our services at no charge, providing resources to youth and parents, and connecting those in need to other organizations within their community. We travel to schools, youth groups, and community groups in order to empower our children and young adults by teaching them to understand their intrinsic dignity and value. At the same time, we give them tools to help protect them from the evils of trafficking, as well as make them aware of the potential dangers of social media.
So, why The Project? Because I am passionate about the health and safety of our youth. Because nobody deserves to be sold. Because we can, and are, making a difference.
By: Stephanie Olson