Women At Risk International, otherwise known as WAR International, is an organization that recovers victims of human trafficking and employs them. WAR was founded in 2006 by Rebecca McDonald, who has spent three decades both domestically and internationally combating human trafficking with aims of helping women and children lead a prosperous life.
Rescue and empowerment are a couple of the ways WAR serves a purpose to women and children that are at-risk. These two key motives allow for women to not only be taken out of human trafficking but help rehabilitate themselves and earn money in a safe environment. The empowerment side comes in as WAR employs at-risk and rescued women at its Tea Trade Café, at 2790 44th St SW in Wyoming, and War Chest Boutique, at 25 Squires Street Square NE in Rockford, so they do not return to sex work.
The products sold at War Chest Boutique are handmade by at-risk and rescued women. “With human trafficking, a lot of times the lure used is a job lure,” says WAR staff member Tricia Blobaum. “So people are impoverished or looking for a way to support their families and traffickers exploit them by offering them a job, or they end up in the sex industry because they feel like there is no other way to support their family.”
WAR recognizes this as ‘yes, people need to be out of sex trafficking, but they also need an income to survive,’ so employing the women through the boutique and cafe provides important job training and experience. While employed by the boutique, women craft jewelry, scarves and spa products.
Currently, the War Chest Boutique is featuring a spa collection named Encompass Creations, which includes candles, chapsticks, lotions and men’s facial products.
The Tea Trade cafe helps support the women in multiple ways. First, with the money earned going towards WAR and other organizations that WAR partners with, and second, by employing the women as baristas, which gives them a skill they can use elsewhere.
Community help is important and people can get involved by volunteering at WAR headquarters and help with preparing the products for sale, mailing or helping around the office. Businesses can also help by hosting casual Friday donation collections—allowing employees to dress casually in return for a monetary donation that will go to WAR.
Community members can also be an advocate and speak for WAR by telling people about the organization and its products. The most simple way a community member can help is by shopping at the boutique and going to the cafe. These are direct ways to support as every $300 in sales supports a woman in a safe house for a month.
WAR is currently raising funds for an emergency shelter in West Michigan. WAR has partnered with The Gazelle Girl Race to help raise the additional funds. Its goal is to raise $50,000.
*Photos courtesy of War Chest Boutique