“Jewelry is a very personal thing; it should tell a story about the person who’s wearing it," insists Garance Daré, French fashion blogger, photographer, author and illustrator. If that's true for all, then the heartfelt jewelry created by one group of women tells volumes of stories about persevering over calamities and about unwavering support from those purchasing the resulting adornments.
Sanctuary Project is a nonprofit and social enterprise hybrid, which means the group sells jewelry to drive social goodness by training and employing survivors of trafficking, violence, addiction or incarceration.
"Anyone, from any walk of life, can feel beautiful simply by wearing jewelry. It's the finishing piece, and I've always thought jewelry is a wonderful transformation tool," observes Holly Christine Hayes, founder and CEO of Sanctuary Project, and a survivor of life-threatening circumstances herself.
She launched the nonprofit during February 2018 with only one other survivor and the mission to provide a safe community for women to increase practical skills while restoring their lives and souls. The jewelry is designed and packaged by the women employed, with 100% of sales dedicated to providing more job opportunity and training to survivors. Now, she's working with about 35 ladies.
The idea to create jewelry as a life pathway came from Holly visiting Thailand in 2012, where she witnessed women exiting sex trafficking from Bangkok brothels. She says she watched survivors make jewelry, which they sold to help support their rescue goals. "They stopped and celebrated each time a woman finished a piece. There was such pride and self-esteem building, and that's when I realized there was something incredibly special about the act of making jewelry together," she adds.
After recently relocating from Austin, Texas, to the Nashville region, Holly says she's in discussions with possible Nashville office locations as well as local nonprofits who want to partner.
"With every purchase going directly to help someone in need, every time shoppers support the Sanctuary Project, they have a real and meaningful impact on a woman’s life. In fact, a $40 purchase funds one survivor's participation in our job training program for a whole day," Holly explains.
Each of the group's handmade pieces is made to inspire others. Shoppers can look forward to new jewelry collections during 2022 for spring, summer and the holiday periods.
There are several ways to support this initiative:
- Purchase the group's jewelry.
- Donate funding.
- Sponsor a survivor's training/employment for a day, a week or a full month. The job training program involves 8 hours a week of community time, job training activities, jewelry making and order fulfillment.
- Support a survivor-leader staffer.
- Encourage candidates to apply for a position with the program -- women of all skill levels are welcome.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Holly reminds that trafficking is happening in every community of every country, including Tennessee. She says the average victim of trafficking is believed to enter commercial exploitation at 13 years young. In support of preventing trafficking, Sanctuary Project will offer special sales via the website and social media each Saturday during January.
"Exploitation is ripe everywhere. We need to always remember there are vulnerable people in all local communities, and to come alongside them to help," says Holly.