(This is the first of three posts from Twila Wanamaker describing her experience attending a national conference hosted by Thistle Farms*, “Welcome to the Circle,” in Nashville, Tennessee, October 13-15, 2013.)
Sunday, October 13:
It was exciting that the majority of the 240 conferees were, on average, young in age, indicating a compassion and commitment from young women and men for those who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction, and life on the streets. The conference opened with keynote speaker, Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest serving as chaplain at St Augustine’s at Vanderbilt University, and founder of Thistle Farms & Magdalene. She talked about her experience in developing the organization from the ground floor starting with Magdalene House (16-17 years ago), then the Thistle Farms social enterprise to support the women in the program; the Thistle Stop Café; the addition of a sewing room and a paper-making room; and an international partnership with a women’s social enterprise in Rwanda – geranium oil – for use in Thistle Farm products.
One of the participants in Magdalene, as she was introducing Becca, included in her testimony that she was a lost person who was helped. She went on to say that there are other “lost people” and they “are waiting for you.”
One of the components of the conference was a “Shared Trade Marketplace.” The marketplace offered many fair trade items from social enterprises and cottage industries supporting women’s programs around the world including quilts, purses, backpacks, soaps, fashions made from t-shirts, candles, and, of course, Thistle Farm products. By the end of the conference, a group had been formed to partner all these social enterprises and cottage industries—the group is now called the Shared Trade Alliance.
(More in tomorrow’s post…)
This post is contributed by Twila Wanamaker, member of “All Hands In,” a ministry in Boston, Massachusetts, working for the abolition of human trafficking.
*Thistle Farms, located in Nashville, Tennesee, is a residential program and social enterprise of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. The women create by hand natural body-care products; purchasing their products helps them become economically independent and supports the outreach of the organization. Magdalene is the two-year residential community for women offering housing, food, medical and dental needs, therapy, education and job training without charging the residents or receiving government funding. Thistle Farms offers education, training, and conferences for others who wish to learn about how to create social enterprises. For photos from the 2013 conference “Welcome to the Circle,” click here. (Photo of Rev. Becca Stevens and Shared Trade Marketplace from Thistle Farms.)