The Soteria Initiative
What do you think of when you see a penny?
Do you stop and pick it up if you find one laying on the ground? Or do you shrug because it's not worth that much?
My mom always said to pick up a penny when you see one because it's a reminder that, "In God we trust."
I'm always inspired when I hear stories of people who can take something small and breathe new life and vision into it. Khue Paige, founder of The Soteria Initiative, has done just that. When she looks at a penny, she sees hope. She has found a way to take the simple and humble penny to provide hope for precious women who are valued and have worth, despite what they might believe about themselves.
It's easy to think that sex trafficking only exists in countries around the world. That misconception might even make it easier to turn a blind eye. But trafficking exists on our soil, too. Started in November, 2015, The Soteria Initiative aims to provide employment to exploited women in Phoenix, to give them a hopeful future outside of the cycle of abuse. They turn the simple penny into beautiful jewelry.
I stumbled upon The Soteria Initiative on Instagram one day during Dressember when I was searching for businesses who work to fight trafficking. And when I entered their giveaway to win a necklace to share my one word for 2018, I was beyond pumped to have won! Each day when I wear my necklace I'll be reminded not just of my desire to be completely surrendered to God and know my value in Him, but also of the need to fight for those without a voice, those caught in human trafficking, those who don't know how beloved they are in His sight.
I contaced Khue and she was so gracious to answer some questions for me so I could share this lovely mission with all my readers. I think you'll find inspiration that making a difference starts with ONE.
I read a bit about how you started your business. Do you partner with anyone else or is it just you at the helm?
Right now it's just me running around picking up orders, mailing them off, etc. This new season of life is extremely busy (being a new mom and running Soteria, which I like to refer to as my passion project), but it's also taught me that as much as I'm passionate about sharing our story and mission, I want to invite others into. So many times I meet people at local markets and they tell me they want to help somehow, but don't feel equipped or know where to start. I believe everyone has something to offer to this movement, whether that's your time, talent, or even using your influence. With the help of my amazing friends, we are launching something new- a way to connect and build a community invested in changing culture and lives. So keep your eyes out for that and ways to get involved ! I love the message and meaning behind using a penny for your jewelry? Where did this idea come from? It just made sense (or cents) in my head. It represented how so many of my clients had felt - worthless and honestly, forgotten and how people are being bought and sold for money. And I just thought, what if we could redeem this purpose- use it for good to provide dignified work and raise awareness. Something as simple as a little penny could make a huge difference.
How did you choose the name, Soteria Initiative? I was working for a local clothing store at the time and my boss thought of Soteria. It's Greek, and when I looked up the definition it meant deliverance, preservation, safety. One meaning even stated that it meant deliverance from the molestation of enemies. So powerful. When I think of Soteria, I think of having a space where survivors could feel safe and where people in the community would know it as a place that provides healing and restoration. Tell me a bit about the women you employ. Do you partner with anyone specifically you'd like to share? Do you have specific goals of how many women you want to see employed through your initiative? So right now we have one engraver, but I've been connected with three other women who are currently looking for employment. We partner with an organization called Starfish Mentoring. The director has such a great relationship with all the participants and when she thinks they are ready and able, she'll refer them to me. Before our partnership I was working with women out in the community with no supports at all which made things super difficult and messy. Community and support are so important on the journey of healing and I learned that the hard way. Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged and the task seems so daunting, but my husband always reminds me that even if you're able to help one person, it made a difference to them. I would love to be at point where I offer full-time work to all four of these women! What are some changes you have personally witnessed as the result of women having work through Soteria Initiative? What are some of the hardest parts? Change doesn't happen over night, especially when working with this demographic or anyone's who's experienced extreme trauma in their life. But change is possible, little by little. I love celebrating all those little victories because they are actually HUGE wins. One of the hardest things that I've ever had to witness was having an engraver go back to the life. It was her choice and she still wanted to keep stamping necklaces too. Every time I saw her, I knew I was putting myself in danger, but I wanted to also let her know that when she decided to leave, I would be there to help her. And that's exactly what happened, three months after her pimp moved into her home, she called me at 3 o'clock in the morning and said she wanted out. We were able to organize an undercover sting operation and rescue her and her children out of that situation.
Human trafficking is an issue that many of us hear about and want to do something, but often come up short. I think many people are unaware of the prevalence in our own country. What can you say to that based on the things that you have personally seen? What are some misconceptions that maybe you can speak to? And along with that, what are your suggestions for how we can best get involved?
I think people might have a certain idea or person in their mind that they think trafficking happens to and maybe that's why people can be so disconnected from it. But the reality is that it can happen to anyone. I was working as an advocate at a local shelter and one of the girls there went to the same high school as me. One of my dearest friends that I met in college is a survivor and such a huge leader in the movement and in our community. Get informed and educated to look for signs and red flags.
Like I said before, everyone has time, gifts and talents, and influence. You don't have to be a police officer, lawyer, or social worker to get involved. You can get informed and attend a training to help raise awareness. You can volunteer at a local shelter or get a group of friends to watch the documentary I AM JANE DOE, you can be conscious about where you buy your clothes and who makes them.
If you're an Arizona local, feel free to reach out to me. Tell me what you're passionate and how you want to take initiative in this fight. For example, my friend Martha is a make up artist and is gathering her network of friends and we are hosting a makeover event for a group of survivors. I had another person reach out to me and her thing is yoga, so she's going to come in and teach a class on mindfulness for us. If there's something you want to do or teach, I would love to come alongside you and make it happen.
How can one go about sharing a word that inspires them should they purchase a necklace?
Embrace your word and wear it around your neck as a reminder! We love customizing necklaces for people, down to the very year you'd like your penny to be!
Did you catch her heart here? Making a difference starts with ONE. You can help. I can help.
If you want to start by supporting ONE, please share this post with friends. Purchase a necklace and tag The Soteria Initiative on social media. Let Khue know you found her through my post. Wear your necklace and share with your own circle of influence. Together, we can make a difference for ONE!
**photos property of The Soteria Initiative