MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Sex trafficking is a form of 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 for sexual 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 pouring hot wax into candles, she can’t help but think about how this business has poured hope into her.
“Seeing my hands do something pure and clean and just looking down knowing that what I’m doing is making a difference – not only in my own life – and keeping me safe, sane and sober,” said sex-trafficking survivor Leah Gunn.
In this studio, you’ll find candles by Leah, Iris, Kelsea, and Casandra – women scarred but finding healing.
“Every time a person looks at our candle, our hope is that they would be aware of what sex trafficking really is,” said RE+NEW+ALL Founder Lee Howard. “That there are really people there who are struggling, who are hurting who are broken.”
Howard says the business is her calling.
“I have it written on paper, I said, ‘Lord I’m going to submit my marriage. I’m going to submit my finances. I’m going to submit my dreams of finishing school, if you’re really calling me into taking ownership over RE+NEW+ALL’,” recalled Howard.
Howard has a background in trauma therapy. She says her business has already had its first set-back in early January, when severe thunderstorms hit the Memphis and North Mississippi area. Despite a metal garage door being ripped off and floodwater damaging their studio in the Board Ave. Arts District on North Hollywood, Howard says all their inventory was spared.
She previously worked at “A Way Out,” which helps women leave sex trafficking permanently.
Howard’s business was birthed to give those survivors a creative outlet, also providing for them to enter back into work life – with support.
“I was exposed to this industry very young,” said Gunn. “Once that happened, enter drugs and a lot of family trauma, I found myself in an abyss.”
Gunn pours hot wax twice a week and feels her story can help others.
“I want to help bring that understanding – if I have to sacrifice my image or my pride, even my families’ ears from hearing some truth that’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 previously lifestyle.
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.