Manitoba

Want to get your workout clothes moving? Donations sought to help women who were exploited get fit

If your gym clothes haven’t got any workouts in lately, a group of university students would jump at the chance to take them off your hands.

Health and fitness protection program aims to empower women escaping sex trafficking through fitness

A group of university students is looking for donations of new and gently used workout clothing to help women who have escaped human trafficking participate in fitness classes. (Submitted by Kaileigh Tod)

If your gym clothes haven't had a workout lately, a group of university students would jump at the chance to take them off your hands.

Students in the University of Manitoba's kinesiology and recreation management program are looking for donations of new or gently used fitness clothing and shoes to help local women who are escaping sex trafficking.

The health and fitness protection program tries to help women who have been exploited empower themselves through fitness and health education.

"Fitness is a really good way for these women to reconnect with their bodies or reclaim ownership of their body," said Kaileigh Tod, a fourth year kinesiology student and volunteer with the program.

"So giving them appropriate clothes to work out in is really important."

Kaileigh Tod says giving women the time and means to focus on themselves empowers them. (Submitted by Kaileigh Tod)

Tod hopes to collect enough donations to assemble 45 gift baskets of sports bras, tank tops, shorts or tights, zip-up athletic sweaters and running shoes. The group is also collecting cash donations to buy new items, like socks.

"These women have been through, obviously, these traumatic experiences and this whole program tries to get them to realize that they are more than what has happened to them," she said.

Empowering

The program, and the group that runs it, does not promote itself publicly in order to protect the privacy and safety of the women it serves.

Participants are connected with the class by word of mouth or by other social organizations.

There are currently 45 women registered for the 10-week program. They meet twice a week to learn things like boxing and Zumba, as well as nutrition and other aspects of healthy living.

Child care is also provided by volunteers, Tod said, so the women can focus on themselves.

The program not only helps their physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well, she said.

"It improves their confidence and the ways that they hold themselves," she said.

"It's very empowering for these women."

Tod hopes to have the donations ready by Monday so the women can begin wearing them at next week's classes.

Donations can be dropped off at the Active Living Centre at the U of M or the student council office at Room 194 in the Extended Education Complex.

For more information on how to donate, people can email Tod at kaileighbtod@gmail.com.

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