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Rebuilding Shattered Lives with ‘Hope’

Values, CompanyGap Inc. blogsComment

Hope Bags put victims of human trafficking on the right path.

Imagine being rescued from a vicious, often violent underground operation. Where and how do you start rebuilding your life?

Today is the United Nations' World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, where the U.N. encourages us to remember that human trafficking — "modern-day slavery" — impacts the whole world.

But for victims of human trafficking, the struggle doesn't end after they have been freed. Many are left with literally just the clothes on their backs, challenged with the task to re-establish their lives from scratch.

Old Navy and Gap, in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), is doing their part to give these victims a fresh start with Hope Bags — filled with clothes, shoes, toiletries and food cards —meant as a starter kit to help them regain their footing. The bags are distributed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ease the difficult transition back into normalcy.

Last year, Old Navy and Gap donated more than 3,000 articles of basic necessities, including shirts, pants, undergarments and flip flops.

Here's how the items make it from Old Navy's California headquarters into the victims' hands.

First, Old Navy and Gap products arrive to Old Navy store #6225 in Falls Church, Va. The clothes arrive just like a store shipment, and bags are assembled under the guidance of Old Navy market leader Jessica Miller and General Manager Alexandria Desio. The NCMEC then gives these Hope Bags to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice to distribute to the recovered victims of child sex trafficking through the Innocence Lost Initiative.

Because of these efforts, NCMEC nominated Old Navy's Loss Prevention team for the National Retail Federation (NRF) LP Volunteers in Action Award. Chris Nelson and Jacob Myers from Old Navy's Loss Prevention team describe it as “a true collaboration from start to finish."

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands in the United States alone. Many of them are young women sold for forced labor or sexual exploitation. 

"Every country must join together to overcome this transnational threat by supporting and protecting victims while pursuing and prosecuting the criminals," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "On the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, let us resolve to act as one in the name of justice and dignity for all."