MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Sex trafficking is a formof modern slavery and can leave people feeling broken with no hope in sight. However,a Memphis-based company is working to change the lives of Mid-South survivors.
This candle-making business will only employ women once used forsexual exploitation, and it’s igniting a spark that helps them help others.
One of the women who works at RE+NEW+ALL, says while she’s pouringhot wax into candles, she can’t help but think about how this business haspoured hope into her.
“Seeing my hands do something pure and clean and just lookingdown knowing that what I’m doing is making a difference – not only in my ownlife – and keeping me safe, sane and sober,” said sex-traffickingsurvivor Leah Gunn.
In this studio, you’ll find candles by Leah, Iris, Kelsea, andCasandra – women scarred but finding healing.
“Every time a person looks at our candle, our hope is thatthey would be aware of what sex trafficking really is,” said RE+NEW+ALL Founder Lee Howard. “Thatthere are really people there who are struggling, who are hurting who arebroken.”
Howard says the business is her calling.
“I have it written on paper, I said, ‘Lord I’m going tosubmit my marriage. I’m going to submit my finances. I’m going to submit mydreams of finishing school, if you’re really calling me into taking ownershipover RE+NEW+ALL’,” recalled Howard.
Howard has a background in trauma therapy. She says her businesshas already had its first set-back in early January, when severe thunderstormshit the Memphis and North Mississippi area. Despite a metal garage doorbeing ripped off and floodwater damaging their studio in the Board Ave. ArtsDistrict on North Hollywood, Howard says all their inventory was spared.
She previously worked at “A Way Out,” which helps womenleave sex trafficking permanently.
Howard’s business was birthed to give those survivors a creativeoutlet, also providing for them to enter back into work life – withsupport.
“I was exposed to this industry very young,” said Gunn.“Once that happened, enter drugs and a lot of family trauma, I foundmyself in an abyss.”
Gunn pours hot wax twice a week and feels her story can helpothers.
“I want to help bring that understanding – if I have tosacrifice my image or my pride, even my families’ ears from hearing some truththat’s really hard, I will,” shared Gunn.
Here, each prayed-over wick stands for a life and soul.
“We’re just lighting up one life at a time,” said Gunn.“A wick and a prayer, a wick and a prayer.”
Gunn also shared she’s grateful she didn’t die in her previouslylifestyle.
If you are a victim of sex trafficking or know someone who is, contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-855-55-TNHTH (86484). CLICK HERE to learn more about the National Human Trafficking Hotline.