By: Kristina Pham-Loo
Bright red and green flashing lights, the smell of old wet trash was in the air. The dark streets were lit with stoplights. A little girl grabs onto Andrew Van Asselt’s hand and walks with him towards her mother and other missionary people. Van Asselt’s team is crowded around a mother and her daughters, trying to bring them to safety from the streets. The mother pauses from the conversation and looks at Van Asselt, then at her little daughter. “How much?” she asks Van Asselt. “In that instant, I felt overwhelmed with anger, sad and disgusted. I was at a complete lost of words,” says Van Asselt.
He was on a missionary trip on his first operation in Tijuana, Mexico. They started the operation in the Red Light district. At every block of Tijuana there were girls of ages 16-50 standing every 3 ft. “It was a culture shock and opened my eyes,” says Van Asselt.
Human Trafficking and slavery is still around. People may go on with their daily lives not knowing but that is because they are oblivious to what is still going on in the world. There are more slaves today than there are in history. The industry of trafficking made about $3.2 billion just last year. That is more than Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined. Over 17,500 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States every year. It’s time that the world acknowledges that slavery still exists. It never left. This is a big issue in Portland, Ore. and Eugene area as well.
Van Asselt grew up in Cal Young, Eugene; he left home for college in sunny L.A where he attended University of Nations. He worked for a missionary and trained with the Los Angeles Police Department. Besides his passion for bringing awareness to human trafficking, he discovered the love and dedication towards fashion. Van Asselt shows drive in his passions and wants to bring awareness to human trafficking here at home. So he put his two passions together and is building a company that will change lives.
Coalition for Justice is the clothing company that Van Asselt designs for. He started this company a year and a half ago. “Eugene sucks when it comes to fashion. It’s hard to start a company when fashion doesn’t exist here,” says Van Asselt as he smoothens out his new jacket he is trying to put together. The monotone noise of the sewing machine acts like a back beat as Van Asselt continues to talk. “My goal is to make/start a fashion district here, in Eugene, Ore.”
90% of Van Asselt’s customers are from Norway and Sweden. It all started in spring of 2010 for Van Asselt. A friend of his from Norway asked him to come and sell his line of t-shirts there. “I told them I would love to but I couldn’t. I was living on my friend’s sofa at the time. The money that I had went to buying material for my t-shirts,” explains Van Asselt. He pauses from sewing before continuing his story and took a deep breath.
“My friend called a couple weeks later and goes, ‘Hey we got you a ticket to come to Norway and sell your shirts. See you soon!’ So I packed my bags and left for Norway,” says Van Asselt.
Since then, Van Asselt travels to Norway and Sweden to continue selling his line.
“Many people have passions and dreams, but Andrew knows the importance of pursuing his and with that he can and will make a difference in this world,” says Bob De Groot, owner and founder of a company called Dare to Dream. De Groot went to the same missionary school as Van Asslet.
Van Asselt cuts a new piece of fabric for his jacket. As the scissors hit the table the sound of the two blades hitting each other have never sounded so crisp. He continues to feed the sewing machine more thread. “Ouch!” says Van Asselt as he tried to fix the needle. There were about five needles to choose from. He chooses one of the bigger ones and inserted it to its place in the needle compartment of the sewing machine. The vibrating sound of the sewing machine starts up and his hands carefully move to feed the fabric towards the needle.
To the right of the garage, he built a wooden hanging rack with metals. “It was to display my line for a fashion a couple weeks ago,” adds Van Asselt. Throughout his garage, there are paintings and artwork that friends have made for his line. One that is center of the room is the loudest of them all. It has blends of red, yellow, purple and turquoise. Together the colors intertwine and create a giant flower symbolizing unity.
Every place that Van Asselt travels to, the atmosphere and environment inspires the next fashion line. “The goal for this company is; do all injustices in the world,” says Van Asselt. He wants to open up a boutique where customers don’t just shop but get educated while they are. “No matter what, you are going to help someone,” adds Van Asselt.
Everything he sells, the money will go towards helping someone in need. The money goes to a safe house in Springfield, Eugene called Hope Ranch Ministries. Hope Ranch is a place that provides safety and healing for the survivors of human trafficking.
“I invited Andrew to an awareness night and that’s how we finally met in person,” says Janz as she giggles about how her and Van Asselt met because it was a funny story. “I have never seen anybody as passionate as Andrew. He is completely immersed in what he does.”
It is not just human trafficking. Van Asselt’s recent line, “Dare to Dream” goes towards helping families in Kenya, Africa and teaching them how to start and maintain a business. The end result is to have that family raise enough money to adopt a child in their community.
All around his garage, website, twitter, facebook, blog, instagram, etc, is covered with Van Asselt’s passions. Coalition for Justice is a one-man show. One man that is very driven and passionate about his dreams. The sewing and the design, Van Asselt does it. The website, the business end, the photography, Van Asselt does it all. This time next year, Van Asselt is determined to open a boutique in Eugene, Ore. All of the money will go towards a safe house for women. Through fashion Van Asselt is persistent on bringing awareness and keeping women, men, and kids out of human trafficking.
“I want to teach the women who come to the safe house to sew dresses,” says Van Asselt with excitement. “Then I want to use dresses to sell in my stores. Every dress will have a story behind it.” Van Asselt wants people to feel like they are being a part of something when they make a purchase.
Van Asselt had a dream and he is making that dream come true with his determination. As he speaks, he inspires people around him. With so much experience with fighting against human trafficking and the fashion industry, he wants to encourage others to follow their dreams.
The monotone noise of the sewing machine still goes on as Van Asselt talks. By now, the tone is more like a song to him. He hangs up the finished jacket on his homemade metal rack. Van Asselt shuffles around some fabric, “Do you think these colors go good together?” he asks. Without a response he grabs both sheets of fabric and heads back to the sewing machine. With adjustment of thread, colors and needles, he smoothens out the fabric and feeds the needle.
Dare to Dream
Andrew Van Asselt is in the process of designing his new line that ties in with a company called Dare to Dream (Dare). Bob De Groot, Christian mission leader, founded the company. When someone buys Dare apparel, the money goes towards a family’s “starter kit” in Kenya.
Since the age of ten De Groot has had a passion to work with orphans. The vision of Dare is to provide care for orphans. The company is focused in Kenya right now and will eventually expand. “Orphanages are not the long solution. There needs to be more to care for the orphans,” says De Groot.
De Groot believes that unstable families cannot provide a caring lifestyle for orphans. That’s why he founded Dare. The purpose is to transform families so they can care for their own children and when those families need to, they can start taking care of other children as well. They will do it through business training. De Groot looks for families in small communities in Kenya that want an opportunity to have a business. In return, once the family has a steady income and are self sustained, they promise to adopt a child/orphan within that community to take care of. Dare will connect with the community and build a relationship.
“Through this we want families to look beyond themselves and start looking out for others as well,” says De Groot.
To get started De Groot explains that it is a 3 step program. The first step is to connect, go to the community, discover a story, and what a family’s needs are. The second step is invest and educate them in business management, how to be self-sustain, offer a micro loan to boost their business, grow production and get higher income. The family gets a package, which focuses on their needs to get started, a starter kit. The last step is release. It includes being able to leave this family and see that they are still able to continue what they are doing without supervision.
“We want so see them being a stable family with a stable income and fully self-sustainable,” says De Groot.
Today, De Groot and his team have educated 20 families. “The families are in the testing stage and are being evaluated to see what they are doing with the education,” says De Groot. In January De Groot will be returning to Kenya to visit each business and each family. Then he will see what families are serious and continue to work with them.