One of the values of our community is generosity. We partner with God’s work in our world by selflessly serving with our time and energy, and extravagantly giving of our resources in response to God’s grace (Matthew 6: 19-33). Forefront NYC partners with at least ten non-profits and community organizations where we serve and give throughout the year, and there are many more leaders and volunteers in our community who serve, give and work for causes they believe in deeply.
This is the first post of what I hope will be a blog series that will unfold over the coming year. Each post, starting today with Nomi Network, will feature an interview with an organization and/or a volunteer who serves or gives generously within our community, helping us all learn just exactly...why we serve.
For this post, I spoke with Alissa Moore, Co-Founder and Vice-President of Nomi Network. Below is a glimpse at our conversation:
Jen: So what is Nomi Network and how did you get started?
Alissa: Nomi Network is a nonprofit 501(c)3 based in New York City that is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty that perpetuates human trafficking globally. We provide basic training and create economic opportunities for women who are survivors and at risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Nomi Network also leverages the fashion industry to raise awareness about this global humanitarian issue through developing, marketing, and manufacturing slave-free products with our signature label, "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body.®" We were incorporated in 2009 and began our first programs in Cambodia. In 2011 we received a state department grant to expand to India. Proceeds from the sales of these bags and goods provide wages, healthcare, childcare, and training for the women we serve in both countries.
Jen: Tell us about the Nomi Network booth at the Union Square Christmas Market.
Alissa: This is our fourth year doing the Union Square Holiday Market. Our booth each year has gotten more professional and become a tighter operation. It's been wonderful to see this because it's kind of metaphor for our organization as we've grown and enhanced our programs and operations. Typically we sell our products by going to events and churches, but this is a chance for people to come to us. It's a chance to plant our feet for a season in a place where people can come and learn about us and our product if they so choose. Because we work overseas and don't have a storefront, this is our to build a presence in the city. It's also cool because of the timing, the holiday season. It's a great time for us to share the meaning of what we do behind our sales. A chance for us to demonstrate that this is really about "the least of these" being raised up, being empowered, and given a second chance. It fits so well into the Christmas story.
Jen: For those of us that know the "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body ®" products well, are there any new items at the booth we should stop by and see?
Alissa: Yes! In addition to our line of bags, wallets, laptop cases and more - all made by our women from recycled and sustainable materials - we also have new limited edition journals, a new assortment of holiday ornaments, new bags from Cambodia, a new line of t-shirts, and new pillows too. You can shop online through our site buyherbagnotherbody.com.
Jen: You and I have known each other for several years now. I remember meeting you in my small group in 2008 when a friend invited you to share with the group about your passion and vision for starting Nomi. Forefront has partnered with you in various ways ever since. I think the partnership is so strong, because we share a similar heart for service. Can you tell me a little bit about what you've learned about serving through leading Nomi Network?
Alissa: Starting an organization is definitely a journey. From the overseas trips to the day-to-day tasks, we have had to move forward with the beautiful and the mundane. I think what I've learned is that often times service isn't convenient, and our hunger for (or even worship of) convenience can be very challenging to overcome when pitted against service. But as Christians we can have victory over convenience and enter into service fully through embracing 1) divine encounters and 2) costly obedience. Through leading Nomi I've learned to recognize that the things that are less glamorous are sometimes the things that demonstrate Christ in the loudest way. When we approach service with the understanding that it goes hand-in-hand with having personal and intimate encounters with Christ that allow us to operate out of the abundance of his grace, as well as give of ourselves in a way that demands that we confront our pride, then that's when we will see our passivity evaporate, our excuses whither, and our service will transform us while transforming the world.
Jen: How can individuals get involved with Nomi beyond the Holiday booth?
Alissa: We would love your help in raising awareness of human trafficking. We've found that usually when people learn to connect with this issue on a deeper level then they start to understand why this cause is so needed and effective. We could use your help galvanizing your community and our city to take action. You can serve through donating, purchasing a product, or volunteering in person. Do you have time to organize spreadsheets? Can you take great photographs? We can use you! We would love it if you hosted an event - a dinner, movie screening, book club - use your networks and creativity to help us promote our cause. We would love to have you host a home party where we can sell our products. There are so many Forefronters who've lent their support over the years, from joining the Young Executives Board to donating monthly, we are grateful for every person who helps us work toward ending human trafficking. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention our year-end giving campaign. Every dollar you donate (up to $15,000) will be matched by a grant until December 31, 2014!
Jen: One of those Forefront volunteers is Brooklynite, Ashley Hofkens. She's in the process of starting a vintage shop on Etsy and donating a portion of her proceeds to Nomi Network. I spoke with her about what inspired her shop and why she chooses to serve with Nomi.
Ashley: It's always been a hobby of mine to find vintage items and clothes. It's a rewarding thing for me find an older item, give it new iife, and see a friend light up when wearing it. It had been on my mind for a while to find a way to use this passion to create some income for myself while also serving a higher purpose. In February 2013, after getting to know the women of Nomi Netowrk, I decided to go on a work trip with them to Cambodia. While there I visited the organizations they partner with in Cambodia. I got to see firsthand the impact they're making on women and children's lives by providing jobs and partnering with organizations, then getting their goods out to our New York market. It made me realize this is a creative outlet for me too, and I want to partner with them. Their business model, home parties and pop-up shops inspire me to model my business the same way.
When my Etsy shop, One Thrifty Fox, launches in early 2015 I will give 10%-20% of my proceeds to Nomi Network. I want to provide my customers with the opportunity to purchase items that are green and economical while also making them aware of human trafficking. My friends and I value the opportunity to make wise choices with our purchases and choose products that support our values. The women's ministry at Forefront Brooklyn and my small group have been a huge source of support for me as I'm getting started on this shop, and I'm grateful to the women of Nomi for serving as such great role models and inspiration. This shop is my chance to spread Nomi's mission to my friends back home in Wisconsin and beyond. I want to promote the good work they are doing and bring more awareness to their cause.
You can follow Ashley and the opening of her shop at Instagram.com/onethriftyfox.
You can also learn more about serving and other organization Forefront partners with through our serve page.