Wednesday, October 28, 2015

#Rolls4Strolls: Let's put an RV back on Victoria's sex-work strolls

Fundraising was never my thing in my journalist years, and I felt very awkward about it back in 2004 when I realized that as the new executive director of Peers Victoria, fundraising was going to be one of the most important parts of my job.

But there quickly came a point in those early fundraising days where I realized that I didn't mind asking people for money, because I knew just how important that money was to achieving whatever it was we were trying to do. It wasn't long before I was making dozens of speeches a year calculated at attracting new supporters for Peers, and got involved in the crazy-making work of organizing a musical talent show for three years running (Victoria Idol) just so we could keep those desperately needed dollars flowing in.

Since starting to work in Central American for Cuso International in 2012, I've gone on to raise money for impoverished children and their families in Honduras, and for Cuso International as well. With 11 years of community fundraising under my belt, I am now just fine with putting my hand out and asking anyone for a donation when it's for a cause I care about.

One of my first fundraising campaigns for Peers in 2005 was to buy a used RV that our late-night outreach team could use on the outdoor sex-work "strolls" in Victoria as a mobile drop-in. I had no idea how we were going to do it (raising money for sex workers, so profoundly stigmatized and misunderstood, is just about as tough a fundraising pitch as you'll ever have to make, trust me), but then a local businessman appeared out of nowhere with $10,000 in his hand and poof, it was done.

Ten years passed, and the outreach team and outdoor sex workers loved that RV right into the ground, and a second one as well. The team has been using a little passenger van for the last two years after the last RV gave up the ghost, but it's just not the same.

There's no kitchen for boiling water for soup, hot chocolate and coffee. No room for loading up donated coats, scarves and such to bring down to the stroll. No warm, welcoming indoor space where people can just take a break from their work and have a few laughs. No private place for a sex worker in crisis to pull an outreach worker aside for a few moments.

So here I am again, back helping Peers find the money for another RV. Not living in Canada right now does make it more challenging to help with fundraising, but I can still help in the background with things like crowdfunding, tweets, and other communication strategies. I can, for instance, write this blog post, and hope that someone reads it and thinks, "Hey, that's a good idea. I want to be part of that."

Maybe that person will be you. And if it is, just glance over there on the right-hand side of my blog and see that GoFundMe link for #Rolls4Strolls. Click on it and give whatever you can.

I know, I know, there are a thousand people like me clamoring for your money, and we've all got causes that in our opinions are the most in need of your support. I won't try to tell you that $5 is barely more than what you pay the barista for a cup of coffee, because that line's probably wearing thin.

But if you've got $5 to give, please do. There are 140 or so outdoor sex workers working off and on along the cold, dark streets around Government and Rock Bay. They've never stopped talking about how much they loved the days when Peers had an RV.

Donate to #Rolls4Strolls and help Peers get another RV out there. Whatever the size of your donation, it matters. And it will go a long way to demonstrating to an extremely marginalized group of workers that they matter, too.

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