Sojourn Studio's Journey - Part One
By Ashlee Heiligman, GCA Director
This month, Sojourn Studio celebrated it’s 2nd year together, as a fully self-sustaining social enterprise.
However, God set the dream into motion long before.
I’ll never forget October 15th, 2015. I was hosting a table at the Texas Conference for Women in Austin, TX. As I finished setting everything up, my dad called to say my grandfather had just passed away. It was my birthday and I was pregnant. Needless to say, I knew this day would be a challenge.
By the end of the day, I had shared stories and met a lot of wonderfully, ambitious women but I wasn’t fully convinced that hosting a table at this event, was the best choice. As I began to shut things down, this bright-eyed, beautiful young lady walked straight up to my booth. She introduced herself as Jessica Price and our short conversation completely convinced me that God had me right where He wanted.
Jessica worked for Austin Women’s Magazine, was very well connected, and her heart was so moved by our work in trafficking prevention and intervention. After 15 minutes she said, “I have this friend, Quinn Smith. She’s a designer who creates and sells gorgeous ceramic jewelry. Her business is called Remnant Studios and she gives all of her profits to fight human trafficking. You have to meet her.”
Soon after, Quinn and I met for the first time in Austin. It was a dream come true for me personally.
What Jessica Price didn’t know, is that in addition to the anti-trafficking connection, for years I’ve wished for some way to empower the women GCA engages, using business. Several times over the last ten years, I’ve sought out established fair trade businesses in Thailand and abroad asking them to bring opportunities to Mae Sot. The response from most was that social enterprise work with an impoverished migrant population.
As a social worker, I didn’t know how to make a social enterprise work, I just knew that the young women and moms we are working with need dignified work. Reliable income would allow them to make safe choices about their future and empower struggling moms to raise their own children.
Jessica Price also didn’t know about Sara Harvel, her pottery skills, or her family’s longtime desire to join GCA staff.
But God knew.
A hope was stirring in our hearts that maybe we could create opportunities for women. None of us knew it then, but a journey had begun.