Amelia Raudales is a rising senior studying International Relations with certificates in Public Policy and Human Rights & Political Transitions. She loves to dedicate her time on philanthropic initiatives addressing social justice issues such as human trafficking, poverty alleviation, and gender discrimination.
Kristi’s House was founded to eradicate child sex trafficking decades after their founder, Kristi, had been impregnated by her stepfather at the age of 10. They provide holistic services like therapy, transportation, and education and have helped over 112,000 participants since its founding. Formed in 2004, Lotus House serves women and young children facing homelessness by providing support, education, and sanctuary. In 2009 they founded their boutique store where the women and alumni run it. Lotus House currently serves 480+ women and children nightly.
Advocating and volunteering for women’s rights has always been at the forefront for me. Through my undergraduate career, I have completed research on gender-based violence (GBV) in Argentina, human trafficking in Honduras, and women’s reproductive justice in the U.S. Globally, the United Nations reports that there are 46 million slaves. Vulnerable communities fueled by poverty, gender discrimination, and a high demand for cheap labor contribute to these exploitative situations. Worldwide, 70% of detected trafficking victims are females and 50% are children. 19% of trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, yet they make up 66% of the global $150 billion a year profits made from trafficking. Learning about these issues fueled my passion for advocacy even more when I began volunteering and fundraising for two local South Floridian non-profits; Lotus House and Kristi House.
Due to my status as an undergrad, I had to be creative in the ways I would help both these organizations further their mission statement until I became an attorney. On October 24th, 2020, I worked alongside two other FIU students and a Kristi House representative to educate 40 FIU students on human trafficking. During this virtual event, we were able to write 36 letters to our representatives, create 56 coloring pages, and engage community members to donate over $103 in 24 hours.
During FIU’s MLK Day of Service on January 16, I led the Panther Community Action Board in hosting our first in person service event since COVID-19. With over 30 students in the GC ballrooms, we spent the day learning about Lotus House and domestic violence, made over +100 no sew masks from old FIU shirts, and collected +10 bags of food.
Where and What
This service day reminded me of the “three t’s of philanthropy”, which breakdown the endless possibilities we have when it comes to being philanthropic. There’s time, volunteering like we did in the MLK Day of Service; treasure which has to do with donating financially; and using your talents to advocate for change. Since I had already committed my time to Lotus House and Kristi’s House with the aforementioned university wide events, I decided to connect my talent and treasure.
One of the few things I learned from my grandmother was learning how to sew; shirts, scrunchies, etc. I wanted to see if I could expand this in a way that could impact the community. I started an Instagram account, @ames_crafts, where I sold scrunchies and masks made from upcycled clothes. It took off faster than I could have expected because I ended up raising $1,007 in three months. All the proceeds were donated between Kristi House, Lotus House, Invisible Girl Project, and UNICEF. This again inspired me to broaden my impact.
Throughout these monetary donations, I began to realize how a lot of the items I bought, were items we have at home. Items that we would be happy to depart with like clothes, electronics, food, and hygiene products, yet these in-kind donations weren’t being made. Since February of this year, I have been working with three developer to address our broken donation system we have through Charitable. Think Eventbrite for donation giving and non-profits.
My favorite part of this specific experience was listening to the reason why these volunteers picked Lotus House as their nonprofit for the day. There was one man who went to honor his sister’s legacy—she had passed away from COVID-19 earlier that year and was known for constantly volunteering at women’s shelters. There was also a Truman Scholar institutional nominee, who started her own organization to push for reproductive rights. It was also rewarding hearing from the plethora of participants who had never heard of Lotus House and were now motivated to give back to them.
Reflecting back on this year, it astounds me how life works. How one day you can be researching a social issue and, in a few months, you have been inspired to start a social enterprise that has been recognized by 3 global fellowships. Through this experience, I enhanced my philanthropy, advocacy, creativity, and design thinking skills. I know that I am a piece of the puzzle trying to make this world more equitable, and I am honored Kristi’s House and Lotus House gave me this opportunity. This hands-on work makes me look forward to when I can also make a legislative difference in the community.