Three freedom businesses – a mini case study

girls walking

Part 3 of a 3-part series on human slavery and freedom business

Last week we stated that the vital re-integration element for addressing the problem of human trafficking, particularly sex slavery, is an important complement to rescue and restoration. While in Cambodia recently we interviewed and observed seven businesses which were working hard to develop solutions with for-profit businesses. Three of them are highlighted here.

Jars of Clay is a restaurant with two locations in Phnom Penh and features Cambodian and western menus. It was started in 1998 by a missionary from the UK who dreamed of providing a safe place for helpless women with no life skills. Current owner and manager, Jen came as a 16-year-old rescued young girl. In 2007, the missionary left the sustainable operation in the hands of 8 original girls including Jen.

Today there are two restaurants, one in the Russian market area. There are 30 staff in this independent and sustainable operation. The missionary chose the name “Jars of Clay” from the biblical passage in II Cor. 4:7. The girls physical bodies are like jars of clay, in all shapes and sizes. They are beautiful, unique, functional and house a godly treasure. The ministry exists to bring girls to understand this.

The leadership takes a team approach to helping girls overcome the dysfunction of their trafficked past, provide training, learn who Jesus is, and develop the skills of the restaurant business. Jen emphasized that once healing begins they help them build confidence, leave the past behind without pity for themselves and realize a home in the Jars of Clay family.

Jen sees Jars of Clay as belonging to God and she is a steward for him. The profits are not theirs; they belong to God and they are plowed back into the business for improvements. The graduates of the program often go on to better jobs. One is the director of an NGO, another manages another restaurant. Almost all reintegrate into society and are able to support themselves. Many come to faith in Jesus as their Savior.

Sak Saum started fifteen years ago with 12 abused kids which were acquired from the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cambodia. The name, Sak Saum is a Khmer term meaning to restore and remake as new with dignity, value and beauty. The original group, mostly girls, were released to a church which built a dorm for the children. A program was developed to restore these children and create a desire to change. For those who want to change, the process of teaching life and employment skills begins.

The goal today is to create a nurturing, empowering, restorative program which facilitates vocational training in sewing products and community development. The large property outside the city of Phnom Penh provides for prevention through playgrounds, community programs and a local “watch program”, education for victims who want to change, restoration through job training, and justice by working with local authorities to bring perpetrators to justice.

The company is known for its creativity, individualized craftsmanship, and excellent products which are shipped to more than 15 countries and 30 US states. Products are not mass produced and so each is the result of creative minds, crafted as a tangible product representing a changed life. Skills are discovered and developed in design, quality control, business savvy, leadership and entrepreneurship.

The current trend is to reduce the number of employees working in the larger factory and to empower individuals to work with freedom and dignity at home; with the trainers and quality control personnel working in the factory, called a design center. Want to learn the many ways to wear a hua? Watch: http://saksaum.com/about/

Founder/operator Ginny Hanson sums it up: “Without choice, it is not love, without love there is no change.”

Outland Denim This company is in Kampong Cham, about a 3-hour drive northeast of Phnom Penh. It was started seven years ago by James Bartle, an Australian entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of trafficked women through employment, while making a profit. He entered the fashion world of denim with a steep learning curve after traveling to Asia to see how the trafficking industry worked and to envision how he could provide a sustainable career path to victimized women.

There is a strong commitment to preparing each of the 40 seamstress employees with all the skills of the factory. Each person learns every aspect – every machine and every detail on a pair of jeans – the denim, the thread, rivets, buttons, belt loops, zippers – all are meticulously and artfully produced and reviewed. The high-end product is no regular jean – with retail prices in North America starting at $195 per jean.

Outland Denim is strongly committed the verifying the ethical sourcing of all items in the supply chain. Each item is checked for its social responsibility and environmental impact. For example, a company representative recently traveled to Turkey to check on the denim which is sourced a one particular location in that country, making sure it is using organic cotton and other approved processes such as natural indigo dyes which are less toxic. Every item from the thread to the denim, to the dyes, zippers, buttons, rivets, leather patches and washing process is guaranteed to not be exploitive and the most socially and environmentally responsible as possible.

The women take pride in their work and we noted on the finished products, the leather patch had a simple statement under the Outland name, “This jean handcrafted by …… (name of person)”

We were impressed how the owner in Australia and the managers in Cambodia, Caleb and Katie, relied on the importance of prayer, with many stories of how God directed them in creative entrepreneurial ways, as they relied on Him. Certainly, God is blessing this establishment to the “greater glory of God.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures
larry.sharp@ibecventures.com

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