FORT WORTH, Texas — A recent study by the University of Texas at Austin estimates there are over 300,000 victims of human trafficking in the state.
Out of those 300,000, about 79,000 are youth and minors who are sex trafficked. Some are fortunate enough to escape and become survivors, but even then the road to rebuilding their life is not easy.
With those survivors and victims in mind, The Worthy Co., of Fort Worth, has built a safe space where love and creativity are helping them get their lives back.
Human trafficking survivors say being a part of The Worthy Co. gives them a sense of purpose and belonging.
“It feels good. It feels real good,” said a survivor while pouring candle wax into jars, which will be sold at the shop set up in front of the nonprofit’s space near Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth.
The pride in candle making and jewelry crafting is evident in the women working at The Worthy Co. They say it also brings them healing.
“Seeing the finished product and the work we’ve done, and the beauty of it,” added a survivor while crafting clay earrings.
Co-founder and Chief Vision Officer Melissa Ice explained how that sense of empowerment is what drives the women-led organization.
"The women that we serve have not felt safe," said Ice. "They have been in lots of situations where they didn’t feel like their dignity was being valued. So we wanted to create a space that honored that, that not only spoke to their worth as a human being, but also just they're worthy of not being bought and sold on the streets."
It's an opportunity to rediscover dignity and rebuild their life through real work experience.
“It means a lot. It means like, my life has changed so much through this job,” assured one of the survivors employed by The Worthy Co.
According to Sarah Bowden, co-founder and chief operations officer, these opportunities are crucial to keep survivors out of the streets because it's not easy for them to restart on their own due to several factors.
"So many of them have really tough backgrounds," said Bowden. "A lot of them have come from childhood sexual abuse. They have been incarcerated. They have addictions in their past, and so there’s a ton of hurdles for them."
The sisterhood, support and training they find at The Worthy Co. makes all the difference.
"It’s an incredible place. It’s incredible to watch the growth of the women,” said an organization volunteer.
Every hand-crafted product sold carries a story of newfound light and someone who is on their way to an even brighter path.
"At the beginning of every work day, the women light a candle in honor of the women who are still on the streets and haven’t made it out yet, just as a way to hold space for them as well,” said Ice.
That’s the mission and magic in believing women are worthy.