After experiencing the death of her father and subsequent child abuse when she was 5, Becca Stevens longed to open a sanctuary for survivors offering a loving community. In 1997, Becca opened our first home as a sanctuary for 5 women survivors. Four years later, the women were making great strides in recovery, but struggling to become financially self-sufficient due to employment barriers. To address this, Becca, volunteers, and residents began making candles in a church basement and, in 2001, Thistle Farms social enterprises were born.
LOVE IS THE STRONGEST FORCE FOR CHANGE IN THE WORLD
At Thistle Farms, we don’t ask, “What did you do?” We ask, What happened to you?” Most of the women we serve first experienced sexual abuse between ages 7-11 and began using alcohol or drugs by age 13, and first hit the streets between the ages of 14 and 16. Traumatic childhood experiences give way to homelessness, addiction, further abuse, and incarceration, often compounded by poverty. We believe that love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the street, and a strong community will help them not only heal, but thrive.
How Love Heals
Together, we heal by ensuring access to safe and supportive housing, financial independence, and a lifelong community of support.
Together, we rise up against systems that commoditize, criminalize, and abuse women.
Living Our Mission
Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. We do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support.
Why The Thistle?
Thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Thistle Farms have walked. Considered weeds by many, thistles have a deep root that can shoot through concrete and survive drought. The resilience, vibrancy, and healing qualities of the thistle parallel the survival and flourishing of women survivors.
Healing And Transformation
We house up to 28 residents at a time in a therapeutic setting that offers healing and transformation through housing, healthcare, counseling, employment, and community building. Housing and clinical services are free of charge and provided without Federal assistance. We also offer a program with Tennessee Prison for Women, that allows up to 6 women to begin their healing journey within prison walls. Participants receive education and group therapy that eases the transition into the residential program.
How Love Heals
We believe that love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the street, and a strong community will help them not only heal, but thrive. Our homes operate on a holistic model. Residences do not have live in staff, and instead are guided by principles grounded in accountability, trust, and growth. We continue to recognize the immense need for our program as our waitlist – capped at 100 women – is consistently full.
The Model Works
Five years after program completion, 75% of our graduates are living healthy, independent lives. Broken relationships have been restored. Hopelessness has been replaced with hope.
HEAL ~ RESTORE ~ EMPLOY
2 Years of Safe Housing
Healthcare and Counseling
Community Education Access
Employment in our Social Enterprises
Soft and Technical Job Training
$1 for $1 Savings Match
Some of our healing work is done in partnership with other direct service providers.
After two years in the residential program, women become candidates for graduation, a celebratory event that takes place each spring. Following graduation, many women move into full-time positions with one of Thistle Farms’ social enterprises. Others take the skills they have acquired and pursue work elsewhere in the community.
A SURVIVOR LED MOVEMENT
Women survivors emerged from Thistle Farms equipped to lead. They are at the helm of this national movement. Advocates, survivors, and artisans know that working together enables all groups to thrive. Each organization is independent, but shares the same core values and is able to sustainably grow and evolve.
- 532 Beds across the country for women survivors.
92 Sister organizations in our network, with 57 open residential programs.
35 Residential organizations still in development.
Strength In Community
- CONNECTIVITY – Access to opportunities for collaboration, support, and community.
- KNOWLEDGE – Innovation and accelerated development through sharing diverse perspectives.
- RESOURCES – Greater impact by improving access to and strategic mobilization of resources.
- UNITY – Expanded reach through a unified mission and voice.
Implement Thistle Farms principles and meet benchmarks set forth in the Survivor-Leader pathway.
Commit to transparency through program assessment and outcome sharing.
Contribute information and experience to sister organizations, acknowledging roles as mentor and mentee.
Collaborate through forums, conference calls, workshops, and conferences.
More Than Fair
Our model for international trade increases the value of artisans in the market chain, through an increased percentage of sales and access to a global community of support, including:
• Product and brand development
An investment in women producers heals families and lifts communities out of extreme poverty.
Connecting Women Producers To Socially Conscious Consumers
38 Artisan partners in 20 countries.
1,400 Survivor artisans employed by partner organizations.
50-62% Average revenue returned to our partners.
Our Partners Share These Values
DIGNIFIED EMPLOYMENT FOR WOMEN
The majority of employees are women – from artisans to leadership – often survivors of sexual exploitation or extreme poverty.
DIRECT SUPPLY CHAIN
Cutting out distributors to provide a greater profit back to the artisan groups for reinvestment.
Invest in programs, such as healthcare, childcare, food security, housing, agriculture, and legal advocacy.
GROWING JUSTICE PARTNERSHIPS
Each year, we identify partners with great potential and help scale their impact. These partners are typically at a vulnerable stage in growth, and are in need of capital, training, and market development. We have launched four programs and helped grow four other enterprises, including:
• A residential program in Belize
• An irrigation system in Rwanda
• A moringa enterprise in Mexico
• A weaving enterprise in a refugee camp in Greece
Here at Heaven’s Dew we are excited to carry some of the products that the Thistle Farms Love Heals program offers and support women in Tennessee and around the world in healing, learning, and growing. The products that we have chosen for our store are listed below.
Liquid Hand Soap