Drive for Dragonfly Raising Thousands of Dollars for OKC’s The Dragonfly Home
One wonders what putting a temporary tattoo on the hand in the shape of a QR code could help victims of human trafficking.
Others may know it’s the annual Drive for Dragonfly – which supports The Dragonfly Home of Oklahoma City, the state’s first and only non-residential human trafficking crisis center – which features participants organizing personalized fundraising campaigns. Over $ 12,000 has been raised this month as of Tuesday.
The first annual campaign in 2017 raised $ 7,500, while 2020 participants raised $ 18,000, said Melissa Eick, co-founder and director of communications and development for Dragonfly. Funds raised each year can be used for any service at Dragonfly, Eick said, including helping victims who have just escaped trafficking, case management and therapy.
The nonprofit is also delighted to be opening a halfway house for human trafficking soon, Eick said.
The Dragonfly House was founded in March 2016 and received certification from the Attorney General in November 2016. Since certification, more than 600 people have been served by the Dragonfly Human Trafficking Crisis Center and Line of 24 hour volunteer human trafficking helpline received over 6,000 calls.
“The funds raised by Drive for Dragonfly are intended to enable us to meet victims and survivors of trafficking where they are,” said Eick.
“Putting a price on someone’s life”
Victims of human trafficking are often given some sort of “mark” by their traffickers, Eick said.
Forced tattoos – or even engravings – of the trafficker’s name, a gang symbol, or a barcode are examples.
Throughout the month of December, Drive for Dragonfly attendees wear temporary tattoos on their hands that resemble a QR code and say “A Future of Freedom.”
“(The traffickers) treat people like commodities… like their ‘property’,” Eick said. “It’s also a way of putting a price on someone’s life. So we’re using this, our tagline on temporary tattoos, as a way to reclaim that symbolism of freedom.”
Photos of participants sporting the hand tattoos can be seen on social media under #DriveForDragonfly. Not only do participants ask their friends and family to donate to their fundraising campaign, but they also share information about human trafficking and how The Dragonfly Home supports victims.
Jenna Dickenson, who raised more than $ 6,400 this month, said she discovered that social media plays a big role in her fundraising every year. On her Instagram, she shared a post almost every day in December with a new statistic, a survivor story, or an example of what a donation could pay.
However, most of her donations come from LinkedIn and often come from people she has only met once or twice, she said.
“These are professionals with money to spend and potentially looking for tax deductions and organizations they want to partner with,” Dickenson said.
With over 10,000 connections to the networking site, Dickenson said she is able to reach out to many people who might not otherwise be aware of human trafficking.
“My heart is education and advocacy,” she said. “And so if I get 1,300 people in 20 minutes so I can learn real facts about what trafficking looks like in our state and who it impacts, that’s it.”
“It’s a community problem, a family problem”
Dickenson said she first heard about The Dragonfly Home in 2016 while participating in a silent march to raise awareness about human trafficking. She has since become a full-time Dragonfly volunteer and has participated in the campaign every year since its inception in 2017.
Her involvement with the Dragonfly made Dickenson realize how unaware she was about the issue of human trafficking. Most people still are, she said, and her passion is to educate as many people as possible.
According to Dickenson, some common human trafficking misconceptions are that victims are most often stolen from parking lots, or that the majority of trafficking in Oklahoma is due to the Oklahoma City freeway intersection.
The truth is that a large majority of victims are trafficked by someone they know, and almost all victims report sexual abuse as a child, she said.
“When you start explaining things to people, they’re like ‘What?’,” Dickenson said. “It’s a community issue, it’s a family issue… I think awareness is the most important thing… that’s what’s going to help prevent it.”
‘God tells us to speak’
For Marla O’Fallon, getting involved in The Dragonfly Home was obvious.
In the summer of 2017, O’Fallon had just returned from a missionary trip to Haiti, where she said she had been introduced to human trafficking. She got involved with Dragonfly through her friend and University of Oklahoma counterpart Maddie Smith at the time Maddie McNeal, who came up with the idea for Drive for Dragonfly.
From the start, O’Fallon said she felt her discovery of Dragonfly was not a coincidence but rather a deliberate call from God.
The Bible and the Christian faith are very clear, said O’Fallon, about how Jesus’ followers are supposed to care for others.
“God tells us to speak for the oppressed, to speak for the marginalized,” she said. “When (Jesus) was on this earth, he stepped out of the normal spotlight and looked at people who didn’t have the same privilege in life or were born into really unhappy situations. And he saw them and chased them and helped them. ”
As a Christian, O’Fallon has stated that her life is meant to be like that of Jesus.
She said she couldn’t think of a better way to embody this than by doing what she could to help organizations like The Dragonfly Home. This month, she raised $ 250.
How to help or get involved
Whether it’s donating, fundraising, signing up to answer hotline calls, or volunteering in some other way, Dickenson said there are many options to get involved.
One of the most helpful things for her, she said, was taking dragonfly lawyer training. Participants learn about both sex and labor trafficking, including replacing stereotypes with factual knowledge.
“After taking the training, I realized that I knew people who had been trafficked,” Dickenson said. “I have had friends, and even family members, who have experienced this type of victimization and abuse. It is really revealing.
To donate to this month’s fundraiser, sign up to raise funds next December or to learn more about The Dragonfly Home’s mission and services, visit thedragonflyhome.org.