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The Thistle Has Blossomed: Graduation 2017

by Heather Davis

Benton Chapel on Vanderbilt’s campus was a packed with cheering family, friends, and farmers in early June as the community gathered to celebrate 7 remarkable graduates who completed the intensive 2-year program: Phyllis Greer, Tammy Griffith, Amber Perry, Lolita Hoard, Rachel Goldzweig, Sophia Crawford, and Tiffany Thomas. Vanderbilt Divinity School, Hattie B’s, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal, and many volunteers all contributed generously to make the day extra special for the graduates.

Rachel, reflecting on the day commented, “I’ve been trying to do this for about 20 years and I’m finally here. I’ve done it and I’m so proud of myself!”

Phyllis, another graduate, added, “Becca Stevens made this possible when my world was dark several years ago. As you can see now, I am continuing to heal and the Thistle has blossomed!”

Graduation kicked off the Thistle Farms National Conference which welcomed 300 passionate Farmers dedicated to the mission of healing. The conference hosted several informative workshops and speakers, one of which was Polaris CEO, Brad Myles. Polaris works to eradicate human trafficking and support survivors, and Brad’s keynote raised awareness to the national and global crisis of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery – a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and help against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.” (Polaris Project).

As Thistle Farmers, we support the healing and care of survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction through community. We work tirelessly to bring the next woman off the streets and it takes everyone coming together, being informed and prepared to make this happen. Becca Stevens, Thistle Farms Founder and President, says “Community is the outward expression of the inward longing to belong.” Let us all continue to cultivate a place where everybody can find healing, sanctuary, and freedom.

Be informed! Polaris supports victims of human trafficking through the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) and a BeFree Textline  (233733). Visit their website (https://polarisproject.org) for additional ways to stay informed and get involved in the fight against trafficking.

Photo Credit: Peggy Napier

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