The holidays are coming up, and with them comes the tried and true tradition of donating money to your favorite nonprofit organizations. The holidays are typically the most important fundraising periods for said foundations, with Americans in particular spending and sending an average of $14 million dollars (according to sites like Charity Navigator). Perhaps it's the focus on community-centrism that loosens the wallets of the masses; perhaps it's an end-of-the-year cash bonus. Whatever it is, these (often) underfunded and undervalued organizations greatly benefit from that generosity over this time period.
However, it's unlikely that the list of the 4,500 most popular charities includes organizations that directly aid, provide support for, and assist sex workers (organizations that offer community, rehabilitation, legal aid, and valuable resources to the community). These organizations include, but are not limited to, the fine folks at Sex Workers Outreach Project Behind Bars , SWOP, Red Light Legal, or reproductive health clinics, such as St. James Infirmary, which focuses on sex worker support, outreach, and harm reduction for survival and/or street workers.
In the wake of FOSTA/SESTA, an increasingly censored media landscape, and very few politicians willing to advocate for service providers, it's particularly vital that these organizations become a regular part of your giving this holiday season. With resources for funding becoming more and more limited, programs such as SWOPUSA will be relying more heavily on private donations in order to continue offering the life-saving services that they do.
The funding that goes to these organizations provides everything from needle exchanges (St. James Infirmary) to long-term lawyers (Red Light Legal), so even small donations help. In the case of local chapters of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, often volunteers are scrambling to find the funds to deliver small-cost meals like sandwiches to survival workers – $10 allows for small-scale service provision that the most disadvantaged of workers need to get through the day.
Now, here are just a few of these amazing organizations you should lend support to this holiday season:
SWOP Behind Bars has sent out "over 25,000 newsletters to prisoners in 14 states. We have coordinated over 2,000 pen pals. We have coordinated more than 20,000 books through Amazon Wishlists, 3,000 book donations to prison libraries, and approximately 450 GED self-study guides to prisoners and prison libraries. We have funded 12 college level scholarships and presented at human rights conferences and rallies. We have provided reentry support for 120 recently released prisoners and we have published a reentry guide to help incarcerated people transition back to their community. We have fiscally sponsored 4 other like-minded organizations. We have a diverse Board of Directors that includes people who have been incarcerated or are still incarcerated. We support men, women, and trans folks."
From SWOP Behind Bars, Here are 10 Ways YOU can get involved on a local or national level:
SWOP Behind Bars is the largest chapter of SWOPUSA and we create sex work positive programs, products and services to people who find themselves involved with the Criminal Justice system.
- Donate money to fund our programs and projects! Your donation is tax deductible
- Buy a book from one of our custom Amazon Wishlists!
- Become a Pen Pal!
- Sign up for the SOLIDARITY NETWORK mobile phone service and support our work paying your phone bill every month!
- Donate GED Study Guides by the case to SWOP Behind Bars!
- Support our college and paralegal scholarship programs!
- Volunteer your time! We have lots of advocacy projects going throughout the United States so volunteer with us to answer our community support line, create Amazon wishlists, update our ever growing database, or prepare and send requested resources to our members behind bars.
- Notify us when you hear that a sex worker has been arrested! We have a wide national network of advocates ready to assist!
- Invite us to present at your conference or symposium! Our speakers bureau is professional and affordable and can train your group on harm reduction, sex worker led street outreach, sexual harassment in the sex trade and our powerful KNOW YOUR RIGHTS curriculum!
- Support full decriminalization of consensual sex work in your community!
Don't have money to spare? No problem. SWOP Behind Bars offers action and time-based donations, such as the opportunity to volunteer, become a penpal, help canvas, and/or write to your legislators. Every little bit helps, whether it's cash or a call.
St. James Infirmary is "a peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers of all genders." Their mission is "to meet the needs of people engaged in the sex trade through advocacy, direct services, and social justice." They provide support groups, healthcare, and sex worker advocacy to workers, in order "to build upon existing skills and strengths in order to allow individuals to determine their own goals."
Think that sounds small? Think again. Their impact is deeply felt throughout the Bay Area sex worker community, and enforces core values that are admirable af:
- We increase access to primary healthcare and social services for Sex Workers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
- We formalize communication and collaboration among individuals and agencies who serve Sex Workers to better serve our community.
- We promote peer-based public health initiatives on behalf of Sex Workers, which may be used as a model for improving occupational health and safety standards and developing comprehensive medical and social services for Sex Workers around the world.
While St. James is located in San Francisco, it has served as a model for other clinics throughout the world, since it was established in 1999 .
"In addition to primary care services, counseling and treatment for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and substance abuse treatment programs, St. James also offers its clients mental health counseling, self-defense classes, a transgender hormone therapy program, and a needle exchange.
All its services are free of charge, including the food and clothing that are often distributed to participants. (The only caveat is that clients must be 18 or older; those younger than 18 are referred to Larkin Street Youth Services.)
You can help St. James directly via their website for monetary donations (literally everything helps!), or via clothing donations, volunteer opportunities, or by simply linking to their site to help raise awareness. Find out more on the How to Help tab of stjamesinfirmary.org
SWOP USA is the national mothership to regional or local SWOP organizations across the country. They provide organizational support and direct financial assistance for more than 26 chapters, nationally.
You can read more about this incredible organization in this post, and find ways to contribute to SWOP USA directly, or to your local chapter!
It is so important that Sex Workers aren't left out of holiday or end of the year giving plans. Important also to note, that these organizations can always provide receipts or charity status in order to make your contributions tax deductible.
Even the smallest contributions make the biggest differences.
[RELATED: Slixa's Charitable Giving Efforts]