This post starts my new series called “S/heroes Among Us.” Once a month or so I will spotlight a woman who is moving mountains to make a difference to help others.
Transforming thorns of abuse into symbols of courage
My first s/hero is Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms, a nonprofit based in Nashville, Tennessee. After experiencing the death of her father and then sexual abuse by her pastor at the age of five, Stevens made it her mission to help women who are victims of human trafficking. In 1997, she founded the nonprofit Thistle Farms to provide a safe haven for women. Stevens is an ordained minister and a compassionate speaker who delivers the message of hope with a strong, soothing southern drawl.
The name “Thistle Farms” is inspired by the prickly pink thistle flower that, in some cultures, symbolizes both pain and fortitude, protection and pride. (read: Exotic flowers: the meaning of the thistle)
Thistle Farms provides housing, medical and mental health appointments, job skills training and employment and a sisterhood of compassion. The public can dine at Thistle Farms Cafe and visit its adjacent Shop at Thistle Farms which sells artisan products made by the women the program supports. Items include natural home and beauty products, apparel, jewelry and gifts for children and adults. www.thistlefarms.org
A Model of Recovery
Thistle Farms’ impact is impressive: 75 percent of its graduates in the last five years are employed, sober and living on their own. More than 1,400 women artisans are supported through Thistle Farms’ 36 shared trade partners in 20 countries. Today, 59 organizations nationwide, have created programs based on the Thistle Farms model of recovery.
Human Trafficking = Slavery
It’s hard to comprehend that after fighting a war to abolish slavery more than 150 years ago, it still exists in other incarnations. Human trafficking is modern slavery. It is exploitation of an individual through force, coercion or fraud, using that person as a commodity for trade, hire, labor, prostitution or other form of servitude against their will. Most victims are women and young girls, but men and boys are also victimized. Human trafficking can happen anywhere and occurs in all 50 states. The International Labor Organization estimates that traffickers make more than $150 billion in profit annually.
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