Thistle Farms: Hope and healing for human trafficking survivors

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 9:58 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Along with Mexico and the Philippines, the United States is considered one of the worst places for human trafficking.

There is not an official total on the number of victims, but the estimates have it in the hundreds of thousands.

Many programs focus on getting survivors out of human trafficking, but what will their lives be afterward?

Dorris Walker-Taylor’s life changed forever the day her father and mother were attacked by a family member.

“Severely injured my mom and shot my father and I was 12-years-old,” Dorris Walker-Taylor, a 2012 Graduate told Ivanhoe.

Her father died and she turned to drugs to cope.

“My life was full of going to jail, getting out of jail, and selling myself as though I was some type of commodity,” shared Walker-Taylor.

After 20 years on the street, Dorris came to Thistle Farms.

In Thistle Farms’ two-year Residential Program, survivors are provided housing, healthcare, counseling sessions, and job training.

“For many, many women, this will be their first legitimate job,” Becca Stevens, founder and President of Thistle Farms, stated.

Thistle Farms was founded by Becca Stevens, who believes her own personal experience of being abused as a child connects her to the people she’s helping.

“They didn’t care about my past,” Kristin Beckum, a 2015 Graduate, expressed. “They just wanted to help me with my now.”

“This place helped save my life,” Sara Hill, a Café Team Member, proclaimed.

“Gave me a really great foundation,” Donna Dozier, a 2012 Graduate, exclaimed.

Through their café, body and home supply factory, and storefront, Thistle Farms has raised $1.6 million in income for survivors allowing them to be financially independent.

Dorris started out packaging home goods, now she is the Senior Ambassador for the organization and a true thistle.

“A thistle is a survival weed,” Walker-Taylor said. “A thistle grows through concrete. It survives drought.”

For Becca, this sends a clear message.

“You can rape women, you can imprison women, you can addict women, you can commodify women, and you can’t kill hope in them,” Stevens expressed.

Five years after graduating from the Residential Program, 75 percent of graduates are living financially independent lives.

Through their global shared trade program, Thistle Farms has employed 1,500.

Seventy percent of the funds to run the organization comes from people buying their products online, in the store, or eating at their café.

The other 30 percent comes from private donations.

Those who are victims of human trafficking can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

Contributor(s) to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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