A cause worth honoring

Freedom 4/24 to host third annual Freedom Gala Nov. 19

In Gula, Uganda, a teenage girl named Whinny was sexually abused and exploited through human trafficking. Upon being rescued, Whinny went through a recovery program in her city called Christine’s House, which is funded by local Lynchburg organization Freedom 4/24.

President of Freedom 4/24 Tim Spaulding described Whinny as once being quiet and withdrawn, but now being transformed.

“She is just this strong, confident young woman who is very different from who I had last seen her as,” Spaulding said. “Christine’s House really does make an impact.”

On Nov. 19, Freedom 4/24 will hold its third annual Freedom Gala at the Lynchburg City Armory from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. The funds raised from the Gala will go toward its 12 domestic partners and their three international partners in Uganda, India and Thailand.

“‘A night under the Ugandan sky’ is the theme,” Director of Communications and Marketing Johanna Calfee said. “We are striving to create an environment that looks and feels like Uganda.”

The night will be centered around Christine’s House, the Ugandan safe house.

Since its opening in 2014, Christine’s House has been a place of rehabilitation and transition back into society for women who were victims of trafficking and their children. Thirty women live in the home full-time for a period of eight months. They gain vocational training skills and receive counseling.

The third group is currently going through the program and will graduate in the coming months, making the number of women impacted more than 70.

“The goal was a place — in the words of staff at Christine’s House  — where they can learn to breathe again,” Spaulding said. “A place of restoration and opportunity for girls to have some time away to really begin to heal the emotional, spiritual and psychological trauma that has happened to them.”

Calfee said the attendants of the Gala will be a mix of people who are long-time supporters and people that are brand new to the organization. For the second year in a row, the title sponsor of the event is Ford Mays Wealth Management. Freedom 4/24 has the goal of raising $100,000 from the Gala for the overall mission.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for everyone to get involved,” Calfee said. “We have a really big goal, and it can seem to a student that maybe they don’t have a role in that, but every dollar makes a difference. If you have $5, $10 or $24, you are part of making possible what we do for the freedom and justice of girls around the world.”

Calfee also made it clear that students are not limited to making a difference only through financial matters.

“For the Gala specifically, we will need a small army of volunteers the night of,” Calfee said. “Everything from setting up and tearing down to actually serving tables and setting up the Awareness Exhibit. There are plenty of places for students to plug in.”

Anyone interested in giving or volunteering at the Gala can visit www.Freedom424.org for more information.

Through involvement in the Gala, Liberty University students will be able to further the mission of Liberty alumnus Christine Gelatt. Gelatt founded Freedom 4/24 during her junior year of college with the purpose of bringing freedom and justice to survivors of human trafficking. Christine’s House is named after her.

One of the focuses the organization places on their Uganda location is the importance of changing the society as a whole.

“Christine’s House was built as a response to the need in the region and the community,” Spaulding said. “There is a lot of sexual exploitation of girls in Uganda. Fifty to sixty percent of girls have been sexually abused. A lot of that gets into the backdrop of the history of the country.”

Calfee explained that their goal is to not only work with the women who come into the program, but to alter the mindset of the entire area to change the societal norm.

“We work with the community they come from to start influencing how they treat women, how women are viewed, and give them the next steps to get education and continue their trade in order to provide for their families,” Calfee said.

She encourages everyone to get involved in some way.

“I have met these girls, and I know many of their stories, and I see that their lives are radically changed because of what we do,” Calfee said. “It not only gives them freedom in this lifetime, but they are given opportunity for freedom eternally as well.”

Null is a feature reporter.

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