Story by Hannah Rabalais. Photos by Katie Kelton.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month. On any given night there are around 400 trafficked girls on the streets in Dallas. (Urban Institute). It is also estimated that $99 million is spent each year on the sex trade alone in North Texas (Urban Institute). Even though there are several incredible organizations in Dallas that are aiding these women (and men), there is still a gap in services. Last summer Abi Ferrin, Elle Lewis, and Rania Batrice saw that need and decided to make sure women who have faced exploitation do not fall through the cracks.
Abi Ferrin, a local creative and founder of Abi Ferrin LLC, first learned about the issue of trafficking when her sister went on a trip to Nepal. When she returned home, she shared with Abi the horrific reality of this crime and the effect it had on so many women’s lives. At the time, Abi was in an abusive relationship herself, and upon hearing those stories, she knew she had to give back to these women somehow. She started by purchasing and sewing buttons on her garments that were made in Nepal and Cambodia to support women across the world. Ever since that moment, Abi has been committed to doing business with ethical manufacturing companies that employ trafficking survivors through her fashion line called Freedom Project. “When a woman finds her way out, her first response is to help other women,” says Abi. “That’s not just true for me but across the board.”
Fast forward to 2019, Abi hosted a scarf-making workshop for young women who have been trafficked in Dallas. During the workshop she watched the young girls light up and enjoy the creative process. This was a magical and life-changing moment for Abi. That day she knew she had to help more women in Dallas, and step into her true purpose. It was something that she aspired to do, but she finally took that leap of faith to make a greater impact in her own backyard.
Abi reached out to several of her closest supporters including her two future Love and Freedom co-founders, Rania Batrice and Elle Lewis. Abi shared with them her vision for a nonprofit organization that would offer economic and empowerment opportunities to women from all over Dallas. After rallying her team and the women of Dallas, Abi was able to secure a fiscal sponsorship from the Texas Women’s Foundation to help them officially launch Love and Freedom.
Rania lent her skills as a consultant to provide workshops and classes to help the women of the program find personal and professional development advice. Elle is an artist who also works at Abi Ferrin who helps with holistic healing classes for the women and has used her talents to help raise money for Love and Freedom. What began as one project is growing into a model for other businesses who want to help empower women. Love and Freedom plans to multiply the concept with other businesses, starting with Batrice & Associates.
Abi, Rania, and Elle’s main objective is to provide a calm experience for the women in a safe and loving environment, as well as equip them with tools to stabilize their world and help show they can and should dream. Love and Freedom is working diligently to provide employment opportunities for the six women in their program. “We are meeting the women where they are, and they are consulting with us to help create a program that truly works for them and many women to follow,”says Abi. The first employment opportunity offered to the women was through a partnership with Abi Ferrin and New Friends New Life to create 100 scarfs to share as gifts at the 2019 New Friends New Life Luncheon. Now three women from the New Friends New Life program are working at the Abi Ferrin studio.
Because of three women coming together to use their gifts and talents, other women have a hopeful and bright future. Abi, Rania and Elle are incredible examples of everyday citizens coming together to combat an issue as challenging as sex trafficking in Dallas. To learn more, please visit loveandfreedomproject.org.
If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.