I want to introduce you to one of my closest friends.
She doesn’t have a voice, but I spend a lot of time with her.
She is older than me, but she is rather dependent; she cannot walk or talk.
Most people don’t notice her; she doesn’t try to be noticed, but when you take the time to understand her story you can’t help but to love her.
Her name is PENNY, and she is not an actual human being.
She is the one cent coin that lies on the ground, countertops, seat cushions, park benches, and most any place that is out of sight yet in plain sight.
The first time I heard her story I was sitting in one of my college classes at Southeastern University. The professor elaborated on how the worthless coin was comparable to victims of human trafficking – how we treat the penny is how we treat victims of trafficking. Pennies are invisible in our society, and human trafficking has become invisible in our society.
After hearing the penny’s story, I knew I would never see a penny the same again.
After graduating from SEU, I took an internship with the A21 Campaign in Thessaloniki, Greece. I wanted to work with girls who had come out of trafficking situations, and I was honored to intern with this organization. A21 was, and still is, one of the top global organizations working in trafficking prevention and restoration.
Prior, I had no idea that getting an internship with this organization was a competitive process, and I pursued the opportunity with confidence that I would get it. Three months into the application process, I was denied. Rejection became very real and painful. I woke up to an email that pretty much said, “Thanks but no thanks; try again if you want.”
I lay in bed, put my phone on my stomach, had a pity party for a minute, then went running so I could think. Though I was heartbroken, I had enough faith to help me believe that the Lord had other plans.
Long story short, in a matter of 3 weeks from the morning I was denied, I got an email from A21 saying that I was accepted and coming to Greece in August! I was SHOCKED. I tell you this to tell you that God can and will open any door that man shuts. It is not beyond His ability to orchestrate His perfectly planned plan.
I graduated from college in May 2013 and moved to Greece three months later. The three short months I got to spend in Greece forever impacted my life. I lived and worked with girls rescued out of trafficking in Eastern Europe, and my everyday life was a rollercoaster ride of adventure. Every emotion you can think of, I felt, and felt it strongly. In the same five minutes, I would feel complete purposelessness and helplessness, then hope and determination.
In the meantime, while trying to practically survive in Greece, I was falling in love with the girls in the shelter. Copper coins that I used to find on the ground became real, live human beings with a real story and a need for real love.
Each night, I would climb into bed and send a very long text message to my family and close friends sharing my experience of being in the shelter that day. The people at home started to fall in love with the girls, and we knew we had to do something about it. I couldn’t just move back to America and go on as if I had never met these girls.
Sara Beth, one of my dearest friends, thought to stamp “WORTHY” into a penny and make it into a bracelet. This was the most brilliant idea, and people liked the bracelets so much that we started to sell them in our small hometown. I was living in Greece while people at home were making penny bracelets by hand and selling them to whoever wanted one.
I always knew the penny could make a difference in the world of trafficking. I knew it the minute I heard her story.