Many reading this will be intimately familiar with the depravity that survivors of human trafficking have endured. Whether an individual has had just one brush with evil, a lifetime of countless abuses, or even somewhere in between, any story with this subject is nothing less than tragic and devastating. It is said that 85% of prostitutes report a history of sexual abuse in childhood and 70% report incest; This staggering statistic accurately depicts that sex trafficking victims suffer from this very plight at the same alarming rate. And that is where my story begins…
Long before I was ever sold for money…
I WAS HOPELESS AND HELPLESS
Long before I was ever pimped out…
I WAS A VICTIM AND A SEX SLAVE
At the age of 3 a series of experiences began that would forever stamp my past, present and future. More damaging for me than the sexual trauma of 8yrs of incest, was the oppressive shame and silence. It was through shame that I was conditioned to believe that I existed without a voice or a choice. The insurmountable shame and humiliation; the oppressive guilt had made me afraid of my own voice. My trafficker, later would use that same shame that paralyzed me, to manipulate and control me. My trafficker was an expert at identifying those deficiencies and inadequacies and he used those same vulnerabilities from my childhood to bait and entrap me.
Upon exiting the sex industry and nearly a decade with my trafficker, I was completely emotionally, spiritually, and physically destitute. I was a walking hovel barely fit to house the human spirit much less the holy spirit. In therapy, I found myself in a suffocating prison of silence. Words could not express the magnitude of my pain. I began to use art as way to process over 30 years of continuous abuse.
The first piece I did was a self-portrait, a representation of my childhood sexual abuse.
The second piece I created for my therapist was symbolic of myself with my trafficker as well as the experience of therapy.
That is but one of the many faces of human trafficking. There is another…And that is the face of hope. People can and do recover from human trafficking. But there is so much more to recovering from human trafficking than just getting out, and they can’t do it alone. To promote change in but one person is a feat few can claim victory. Redeemed Ministries has touched many, many lives and I want to take the time out to thank them and acknowledge their incredible work. I also want to thank everyone taking action. Whether that action is fighting human trafficking or providing hope and restoration for the survivors of human trafficking; Action requires sacrifice. It is through the sacrifices and generosity of individuals like you that have helped provide me and countless others the ability to reclaim our lives. It was when people appreciated my humanity and were present in my own darkness that I began to grasp glimpses of hope.
The sparrow that I chose to represent these beautiful creatures that Redeemed serves has a deep underlying meaning. This sparrow is standing upright and proud. These women have been exploited, objectified, their hopes and dream stolen. I wanted to represent them in a way that allows them to live beyond their stories, empowered and embolden. The cherry blossom symbolizes a time of renewal. This is exactly what Redeemed Ministries provides… a safe place for these women to heal, rekindle their love for life… a place where they can find themselves valuable, worthy of respect, and deserving of support and love.
Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb. He said “TAKE OFF THE GRAVE CLOTHES. LET HIM GO”. As a “child of GOD” my past no longer has authority over me and I am free to be the woman GOD intended me to be. This sparrow reflects the hope that we all have for these women. That in this safe place, this place of renewal that they will find themselves worthy of change and that they will no longer allow their or other people to define them.
Most people would never say that their work therapeutic; in fact a lot of people would say quite the opposite! However there's something calming, relaxing almost, about working in our botanicals enterprise. It could be all the great smelling natural chamomile and lavender in the air! Or it could be the measuring, stirring, and pouring that settles one into a rhythm that brings down the stress level. But it also be the satisfaction of creativity and the healing process that is taking place.
It's no secret that art and psychology have been working together for quite some time now, and that creative expression is encouraged by therapists and counselors. The survivors in our safe house do expressive art therapy every week and have access to arts and craft supplies to use during their free time. I've seen the quietest, most shut down survivor paint gorgeous neon flowers when no one was looking, and the sweetest, most cheerful survivor cover a canvas in layer after layer of black paint. Whether it's painting, writing, singing, or making crafts, creating gets to our emotions.
I love this about our enterprise. Making these products allows our survivors to be creative, to experiment with scents and recipes and packaging and to come out at the end with products that they're excited about! Coming to work doesn't have to be a chore but can be an integral part to the restoration process for our survivors.
So if you don't know endyō yet, you need to; endyō is a Christian company that sells clothing inspired by scripture. They believe a t-shirt can change lives, and donate 100% of their profit to faith-based organizations. They recently released their Summer 2017 collection, with all the proceeds benefiting Redeemed Ministries, our parent organization. We sat down and asked co-founder Travis Scott some questions about the company and his experiences with starting a social enterprise.
What was the impetus behind starting this enterprise?
Over many years, God kept placing Colossians 3:12 in my life at very important moments.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
After praying through the significance, God led me to the idea to start a clothing company with my wife. We created endyō in 2016 out of this idea to bring the virtues of Colossians 3:12 into a world that so desperately needs them. Partnering with organizations like Redeemed Ministries made sense because we are all focused on the same goal.
What does endyō mean and how do you pronounce it?
endyō is the Greek transliteration for "clothe yourself" found in Colossians 3:12. It's a funny name, but we fell in love with the meaning behind it. We pronounce it "en-dee-o."
How has this journey been for you and your family?
For us, endyō has become an act of obedience to what we feel is a God-given calling. It hasn't been easy, but over the past year we have met some extraordinary people and organizations. Our hope is to inspire others to receive their calling and be part of God's plan for their lives.
What are some of the struggles you’ve had?
endyō is not our full-time job, so between raising a young family and our careers, it can be hard to find time to grow the vision. Selling t-shirts to strangers over the internet might be even harder. It's easy to get fixated on the numbers and start to believe you aren't making much of an impact. God has used all our struggles to stretch us in new ways.
What are your goals for endyo?
Selling t-shirts and donating money have never been the primary goals of endyō. Our main focus is to spark faith-based conversations and see lives transformed. When you put on endyō, you are giving God permission to work through you. I have found wearing endyō makes me more confident to share my faith, which is great, because people will always ask about my t-shirt. It can be a powerful conversation starter, and there is no better opportunity to share your story and be a disciple for the Kingdom.
We're so grateful for partners like Travis! Thank you for being willing to share your experiences with us as begin our journey with our own social enterprise.
Click here learn more about endyō and the collection benefiting Redeemed Ministries!
If you've poked around our website or social media, or if you read our first blog post, you know that Sparrow House Botanicals exists primarily to give women who are survivors of sex trafficking an opportunity to begin their lives again. No one taking their money. Being treated with the respect they deserve. Making products they can be proud of. I think most people can understand that.
What I'm not sure a lot of people understand is why there is such a need for an enterprise like this one. Once a woman is rescued from her trafficker, she should be able to go home, resume her life, be the person she once was, right?
Unfortunately, no. There is an enormous amount of recovery involved in healing a victim of trauma like this. And even after a year or more of time in a healing program, there is still a long way to go in the process of getting to a "normal" life.
Many survivors of trafficking may never have had a legitimate job, and establishing a work history for their resume is extremely important. Others may have an arrest record related to their trafficking that keeps them from many jobs, housing, and government aid programs, and providing employment at a good wage is vital to their independence.
As we begin this blitz of marketing and promotion for yet another brand selling soaps, lotions, and balms, you may be asking yourself why? Why is Redeemed Ministries starting a business? Why this emphasis on "survivor made" products? And along with why, what exactly is it? How does it work?
I'm happy to answer these questions, and hope that once you know the why, what, and how, you'll be as excited about Sparrow House Botanicals as I am!
For those of you who may not know, Redeemed Ministries is a 501(c)3 in Texas that provides long-term restorative care to adult survivors or sex trafficking. They have both a residential program and an independent living program that focuses on holistic healing using trauma-informed, brain based healing methods. Women coming out of sexual exploitation have a great many needs, and one of the most basic is the need for employment. At some point in her healing, she will need to start thinking about a job, and it's very possible that she has never had what would be considered "legitimate" employment. This is where the business comes in; once a woman has been in the Redeemed program for at least 6 months and is considered eligible to work, we want to offer her a job.
At Sparrow House Botanicals a survivor can come and apply, interview, and fill out all of the necessary paperwork that goes into getting a job. Whether she decides to work for us for 6 months or for many years, learning skills like interviewing and filing taxes will benefit her in the future. Having the opportunity to work, particularly while she is in the residential program, will allow a woman to save money, build an employment history, and gain skills that she can take to her next job. Our goal is to empower the women who work at Sparrow House Botanicals to grow in confidence and plan for their futures!
I chose bath and body products for this enterprise for a couple of reasons. Survivors of trafficking are seldom able to indulge in the luxurious products we are making. Soaking in a bathtub with the scent of lavender and chamomile in the air, exfoliating with raw sugar and orange peel, moisturizing with natural shea butter; these are not the comforts of a life of exploitation. I wanted the women to be involved in creating beautiful things. I wanted them to feel beautiful using them and be proud making them.
There was another, slightly more selfish reason too. I really love organic, Fair Trade products but they're really hard to find! And at a reasonable price? Not going to happen. There are products on the market that use some Fair Trade ingredients, or are most organic, but when you look at the ingredient list there's still a bunch of stuff in there that I can't identify. I wanted to make bath and body items that actually were natural! I also wanted the products, and the survivors making them, to be a part of the Fair Trade movement. As we work to restore women who have survived exploitation, we want to be sure that the suppliers we are buying from are not exploiting their laborers.
I love what we're doing here at Sparrow House Botanicals and I love the opportunity I have to work with the strongest, most courageous women you could ever meet. God has blessed us and I'm so excited to share with you all that we have in store.