I was standing inside the newly renovated and upscale Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Canada, across from a bank and a few feet away from where I was scheduled to meet Alicia Vianga. I was shocked and surprised that the mall was not packed like it typically is at this time of year with excited Christmas shoppers looking to snag a good deal or buy that perfect Christmas gift for their kids, loved ones, family members or dear friends.
As I waited, I found myself â€›people-watching.’ I looked right into the bank where some customers were waiting patiently and some eagerly in the long line when my eyes were suddenly fixed on a young lady strolling in the mall with what’s called a Dogger Stroller. If you asked me, the contraption made for toting little dogs around looked very much like an actual stroller that one would put a baby or a toddler in and it made me wonder, what is this world coming to? My thought was interrupted by a text from Alicia which read, “I don’t see you, darling.” Little did we know that we were only a few feet away from each other.
We had dinner inside Earls Kitchen and bar, a restaurant that had a cool and laid-back dining atmosphere with friendly waitresses keen to serve. We ordered something to drink to start and our waitress, a bubbly long-haired brunette who was dressed in Earls' sharp black uniform, was more than pleased to take our order. As I quaffed my iced tea, Alicia gracefully sipped her wine as if she was focusing on the matter of its texture, weight and structure or savouring its aftertaste like a true wine connoisseur.
Alicia spoke about her very busy work schedule all due to operating her business, Premier Jour Fine Lingerie and Swimwear, in Toronto, Canada that specializes in bra fitting. Premier Jour carries mastectomy bras, breast forms, nursing bras, swimwear, wedding bras, honeymoon lingerie, shape wear, hosiery, strapless bras, bustiers, sports bras and more with a goal to “have something for everyone.”
Alicia is also the founder and CEO of After Breast Cancer, a charitable organization providing resources that contribute to women’s quality of life after breast cancer. These women receive a properly fitted prosthesis and bra that enable them to regain confidence and restore their feeling of being whole again. At the same time, Alicia offers her support to sexually abused and raped women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by collecting donated gently-used bras and shipping them to DR Congo every year.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is known as the rape capital of the world due to the civil war and militia conflicts that have plagued the Republic for decades and sadly women bear the brunt of rape and gender violence.
According to the American Public Health Association, in 2011 more than 400,000 women aged 15 to 49 experienced rape between 2006 and 2007 in DR Congo. That is equivalent to approximately 1,152 women raped every day, or 48 women raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes.
Rape in war is a common practice for rebel groups and government militias; as a result, women often are brutally beaten, abused and violently raped for months. The violence causes women to lose homes, families and their livelihoods. Second-hand bras are a profitable market in many countries including DR Congo where thousands of women earn an income by selling these bras. Donating gently used bras helps to rebuild their daily lives giving them hope and aspirations toward a better future.
Alicia may not have any plans to turn this into another charitable organization, but her main focus is to spread the word of Bras for the Congo in high hopes of reaching their 2013/2014 goal of donating 2,500 bras to the many victims of rape. Now, that’s a great Christmas present!
To donate today please call 416-654-1868.
By: Simone Da Costa
Simone is a freelance Magazine writer. She has written many articles for North American Magazines, including Africulture, Planet Africa, Mudd Magazine and an online site called The Christian Jones. She is currently a contributor on Yahoo! Voices. Simone has published three books, Remember to Pray, 2013 Day Planner and her debut children’s book titled A Silly Rhyming Alphabet Book about Animals from A to Z. Contact Simone: email@example.com