Her Campus recently had the opportunity to interview Rachel Greenspan. A freshman here at the University of Michigan hoping to major in Public Policy, Rachel started a Dressember chapter on campus to dress for a cause and raise both awareness about modern day slavery and funds to combat Human Trafficking.
Her Campus: What is Dressember?
Rachel Greenspan: Dressember is a nonprofit organization that asks people to pledge to wear a dress or tie for every day of December to raise awareness for human trafficking. Dressember also involves fundraising to prevent human trafficking, rescues victims, and provides aftercare to survivors. I view it as a way to stand in solidarity with the millions of people trapped in slavery around the world, with the dress or tie representing the overall symbol of the movement.
HC: What made you decide to start a Dressember chapter here at Michigan?
RG: I did a Dressember chapter last year in high school, and I knew I wanted to do it again. I initially heard about Dressember from my cousin Sarah who did it. At the time I didn’t think too much about it, my family donated for the cause and that was it. But then my junior year of high school I went to the Women’s convention in Detroit. There, I found my passion for social justice and I started to learn more about social justice issues and human rights issues, which human trafficking definitely falls under. I got connected back to Dressember and thought that it was a good way to act on something I was passionate about. When I realised what I wanted to do with my life was to help people, Dressember felt like it connected with that philosophy and seemed like a tangible thing I could accomplish.
HC: How was it different from planning and conducting Dressember last year compared to at UMich?
RG: Last year because it was my first year doing it, I didn’t have many expectations. We ended up with 30 people doing Dressember for the month and that just blew me away because people kept approaching me asking how they could get involved and I didn’t think so many would be interested. As a bunch of 17-year-olds we raised over $9000, which is a ton of money. Our original goal was to fund an entire rescue operation which takes $6,719.
This year, I definitely have high expectations because I know what can be accomplished. It’s difficult because there’s a larger pool of people to ask at UMich. Everybody has a lot of different things going on, so I have to remind myself that this is the most important thing that is happening to me, but it’s hard to ask someone to make it theirs or ask for their commitment for a whole month. Also last year we raised a $1,000 before December started, which we haven’t done, so the entire timing of things is a little different.
HC: What did the entire experience mean to you in high school and what do you hope to get out of it in college?
RG: On a personal level, I surprised myself, because I didn’t believe I could accomplish that much in just a month. It was also cool because when I shared about Dressember others latched on and they cared about it too. I learnt that when you are passionate, and you express that to others a lot of the time they end up caring about it too and you can be really impactful. This year I hope to continue to surprise myself. My personal goal is $10,000 but we’re still getting going. The money is obviously important and I’m definitely trying to raise it but educating people and committing to the cause in the first place as a team of advocates is equally important.
HC: You’re obviously taking on a leadership role, but apart from these skills (communicative etc.) that you’re developing what would you say has been the most rewarding part of the whole experience?
RG: The community. There’s a whole network of advocates around the world on social media and it’s just a well-connected group of like-minded people that constantly support each other. I love being a small part of this group that I think reflects the overall human rights community. They just want to help others and do good in the world and Ilike that mentality.
HC: There may be people wondering how to make it through 31 days in just dresses and ties especially in Michigan. What would you say are your tips and tricks?
RG: Going into it, I didn’t think that was a concern, but I know people who don’t think they can do it. I don’t know, the first day you just wear a dress and then the next day you wear another one. After that it just comes to you naturally, like brushing your teeth. People definitely do Dressember in much warmer climates but being in Michigan I wear tights, jeans or sweatpants under my dresses. I’d say you just want to accessories differently. Of course, it’s a challenge but it’s for a good cause and is just such a small inconvenience.
HC: What is your advice to anyone looking to start a chapter in their community or campaign for a cause they believe in?
RG: I’d say go for it! You’ll surprise yourself and you can accomplish a lot more than you think. I would say to talk to people who’ve done similar things, use the internet as a resource, and meet advocates for your cause. A big thing is just talking about your campaign. You’ll have people who just ask you how you are and it can be your thing to simply reply along the lines of ‘I’m good and I’m doing this…’ so it’s a lot easier to integrate things into your conversation and bring about awareness than people think.
If you’re interested in becoming an advocate or would like to donate contact Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org!