MISSING IN KANSAS: Trafficking survivors create beauty business

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It’s a sad reality.

Some of the people who are reported missing in Kansas are lost forever – including the world of human trafficking.

More than 40,000 cases were reported in the United States since 2007.

One in seven endangered runaways will fall into the hands of a sex trafficker.

Yet, what happens when they come home?

The Raise My Head Foundation is hoping to change their outcome for the best.

Inside one Kansas home, survivors of domestic violence, abuse and sex trafficking live together. It’s a program to empower them and break them free from a life of sexual exploitation.

“It's a safe place,” said Carol Wilson, a trafficking survivor. “It's a place where there's a lot of love, or support, lot of encouragement. I've been here, I've stayed clean for 18 months.”

Staying clean has been a struggle for Carol. She says the two-year program, which she will soon graduate from, has given her the much-needed support to change her life. She’s earned a medical billing and coding certification, and has also learned how to run a business.

“I'm very, very grateful for raising my head, gave me an opportunity to come here to get my life back on track,” Wilson said. ‘To sort through some hurts and pain…and deal with some stuff that I didn't do before.“

Inside the home, she and other survivors have created their own natural skincare products, including an exfoliating body scrub, hand sanitizer, body cream and hand soap. They’ve been making the products since the fall, selling the items at craft fairs and online.

“I've had orders all over,” said survivor Jessica Sazama, who is in charge of shipping items out. “Yeah, yeah. Kentucky, Arkansas. Yeah, and then a lot here in Kansas. It's been so positive, and they're really supportive, and it helps us feel more established.”

The business is growing fast. Sazama said she’s excited to see what happens next. She would like to expand the beauty line to more products, which they make in small batches in their dining room. They pick out everything from the scents to the label design.

Through it all, they’ve hit major milestones as a business, all along with achievements of their own. April Owen joined the program recently and will soon graduate from high school. She’s proud of what she’s able to accomplish so far, and is eager to have the support of her roommates as she walks across the stage.

“So it helped me kind of see that the barriers weren't there,” Owen said. “Like I thought they were Yeah. And that it's just anything's possible, and that this place stands behind us. It gives you hope. Yeah. Yeah, the self worth was definitely something I lacked.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.

If you’d like more information on the Raise My Head Foundation and/or wish to purchase the beauty products, click here.

The Raise My Head Foundation is celebrating with the Sunflower Sisterhood Awards on Tuesday, May 14, in Wichita. It’s an evening where people will hear stories of triumph and hope. To purchase tickets to the event, click here.

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