Hopkins, Minnesota, United States
Charity: Freedom Firm
Medical Condition: Type 1 Diabetes
Medical Therapy: Insulin Pump
Gretchen Merritt has lived with type 1 diabetes most of her life. For her, diabetes did not hold her back from accomplishing her goals, but it made her carefully think about her health, and how she directs her passion. At 22 she began using an insulin pump, which she says made a difference in her quality of life. She pours her passion into fighting to free sex slaves in India through Freedom Firm.
"I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 13. My diabetes has not held me back from my goals, it has simply made me carefully think through whatever I am going to pursue. I played sports throughout high school and college, and participated in mission trips and other opportunities that allowed me to travel abroad. Because of my diabetes, I am very conscious of eating healthy, exercising and continually being aware of how stress, sleep and work all play vital roles in my health.
"When I was 22, I started wearing an insulin pump. It helped me on hiking and camping trips, climbing mountains in Colorado, and white water rafting as a member of a youth ministry organization. I coached lacrosse for 7 years. I have traveled around the world.
"In 2007, I started volunteering with Freedom Firm, after learning about the issue of sex trafficking. I first volunteered in India to directly serve girls who were trafficked and then continued to volunteer back in the U.S. by help raising funds, recruiting volunteers and educating others about modern day slavery. I joined Freedom Firm full-time in 2009, becoming their first employee based in the United States. For nearly six years, I worked to raise awareness, raise funds, work with volunteers, and educate the community about trafficking.
"I am now transitioning back to a volunteer role as my family grows and enters a new life season. I’ll continue to focus on raising awareness about trafficking and the work of Freedom Firm and supporting the jewelry micro-enterprise that is a part of their restoration program."
"What makes you angry? Work to change that."
"Sometimes being overwhelmed at the enormity and gravity of an issue discourages people from getting involved. If there is an issue that makes you angry, breaks your heart, disturbs you or catches your attention, make small steps in the direction of change instead of getting overwhelmed and giving up altogether. Getting educated is being an activist. Spreading the word is being an advocate for the oppressed. Start small and see where opportunities lead you. I want to continue to pour out my life on behalf of others and take part in working towards justice for the oppressed."
Freedom Firm is an organization that focuses on rescue, restoration and justice for victims of sex trafficking in India.