Monday, January 26, 2015

Where the Path is Leading Shana & Shelia Today: A Path Appears Update

A Path Appears: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a 3-part documentary from journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn that explores gender-based oppression, as well as effective solutions, across the U.S. and abroad. The first segment of the film explores sex trafficking, prostitution and the connections with early abuse, and features the stories of Shana Goodwin and Shelia McClain, both graduates and employees of Thistle Farms & Magdalene. As the documentary was filmed in 2013, we thought viewers would like to know a little about their lives today.

This past weekend, Shana Goodwin moved into a cozy new 2-bedroom home with plenty of space for her kids and the goal of homeownership on the horizon! Reflecting on where she is today Shana says, “I’m just grateful. Every night when I lie down in my bed, I think of those nights of sleeping under a bridge. I never want to forget. My next thought is that there's still a girl under there now. I feel it in my gut – the desire to help the woman who is still out there.”

Shana is a Thistle Farms sales representative and a vital member of our retail team. One of the best ways to help her in her mission to bring more women off the streets, is to recruit new retail stores to carry our line around the country. Have a favorite local bath & body care shop? Tell them about Thistle Farms and encourage them to carry our product. You can reach out to the Thistle Farms sales team and give us your suggestions by CLICKING HERE.

In August, Shelia Simpkins McClain earned her B.S. in Psychology. With the goal of earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling, Shelia is already using her education in her work at Magdalene and as an Intervention Specialist at End Slavery Tennessee. When asked what getting this degree means to her, Shelia said, “I was raised to believe I was dumb and that I wouldn’t achieve anything. This degree means that wasn’t true. I'm already using my degree with our program for inmates, Magdalene on the Inside. My degree helped me redefine my place in the circle as a professional and a graduate. It has shown me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.”

As Magdalene’s Assistant Resident Manager and Coordinator of our prison program, Shelia is a key member of the team. Additionally, she works with juvenile and adult victims of trafficking at End Slavery Tennessee. You can watch a short clip of Shelia speaking to inmates here and learn more about End Slavery Tennessee here. Like Shana, Shelia’s passion is about bringing women off the streets, and giving them a chance at a new life. Shelia and the program team can always use donations of welcome baskets for new residents and gift cards to purchase supplies for residents and inmates. Contact for details or CLICK HERE to learn more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More Happiness In Giving

Written by Thistle Farmer (and Country Music Artist) Sara Evans
originally published on the blog A Real Fine Place

‘Tis the season to be thinking of gifts! So in the truest sense of giving, I decided to collaborate with Thistle Farms this holiday season to provide gifts that keep on giving!
Thistle Farms is a beautiful place (social enterprise) that is run by the women of Magdalene. Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases of Thistle Farms products directly benefit the women by whom they were made. It was founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens. On a personal note, I have witnessed throughout the years all of the dedication that Becca has given this cause. I met her when I first started writing songs with her husband Marcus Hummon, who is an amazing songwriter! We wrote so many songs together, including Born to Fly, however I think Rocking Horse fits this occasion perfectly.
And it was something magic out of something frightening
That’s how I live my life,
I take it as it comes
And I find the hidden love
They are salt of the earth people and I am happy to share their gifts with you all. Go and give and be Merry!

Holiday Candle
Holiday Bath Salts
Individual Healing Oil
Lip Balm
packaged together in beautiful eco-friendly Love Heals brown bag and ribbon
*note: scents will vary

Thermos & Tea Survival Kit
Thistle Farmer Mug
Becca Stevens’ The Way of Tea & Justice Book
Thistle Star Book Ornament
Gift Certificate to Thistle Stop Cafe *note: must be used at the Thistle Stop Cafe in Nashville, TN
package together in beautifully wrapped basket and ribbon
SPECIAL BONUS: Some of the baskets may even contain a random, hand written, holiday wish from Sara herself!

Merry (early) Christmas, and shop ’til you drop!
A Thistle Farmer

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Way of Tea and Justice

Rev. Becca Stevens, Founder of Magdalene, Thistle Farms and the Thistle Stop Cafe, is proud to announce her latest book: The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from Its Violent History.

Becca started the Thistle Stop Café to empower women survivors. But when she discovered a connection between café workers and tea laborers overseas, she embarked on a global mission called "Shared Trade" to increase the value of women survivors and producers across the globe. 

As she recounts the victories and unexpected challenges of building the café, Becca also sweeps the reader into the world of tea, where timeless rituals transport to an era of beauty and the challenging truths about tea's darker, more violent history. She offers moving reflections of the meaning of tea in our lives, plus recipes for tea blends that readers can make themselves.

Not only is tea the most widely consumed beverage after water in the world, it is the oldest cultivated plant, comes from a single species, and is connected to justice, revolution and religion like no other plant. While tea has helped usher in great economic and spiritual growth in its 3,500 year history, it has been part of the oppression of women. It is tied to the work and mission of Thistle Farms through the stories of sexual violence in the fields of India and the trading of opiates in China. But tea has a noble story too, as its rituals and traditions are great companions for cultivating a contemplative heart. Through our attention to how it is grown and by whom, a tea rooted in justice is a great companion for our spiritual journeys.

In this journey of triumph for impoverished tea laborers, hope for café workers, and insight into the history of tea, Becca sets out to defy the odds and prove that love is the most powerful force for transformation on earth.

You’re invited to a book signing Wednesday, November 5th at 6 p.m. at Thistle Stop Café. Becca will be there to sign copies of her book and, of course, share tea.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Justice Tea Just Tastes Better

Thistle Farmers, ready for something new? We've just launched a new collaborative project, extending economic freedom to women in 5 social enterprises in 4 different countries.

The Tea Survival Kit provides everything you need to fill your cup: four blends of tea, honey sticks, spoon, tea filters and even a thermos! Wrapped in a tote sewn in Kenya, you’ll also be styling your favorite print. Through a new initiative at Thistle Farms called Shared Trade, we’re creating collaborative products like this to spread the message that love heals around the world.

Bringing five social enterprise partners together for one beautiful product is no easy feat. First, we had to source our four blends of tea.  Ajiri Tea is grown and harvested in Western Kenya at the Nyansiongo Tea Factory, a cooperative owned by small-scale farmers. As independent growers, our friends at Ajiri handpick the leaves and ensure the highest quality for our kits. The Moringa Black Health Blend is a blend of moringa, black tea, and lemon grass. The blend features the tea leaves of two Shared Trade partners: Moringa Madres in Mexico and Hope Tea in Uganda.

The third tea in the kit is the Thistle Stop Café Herbal Blend. Made of Milk Thistle, dandelion root and cardamom, this tasty blend of flavors is a natural tonic for liver health. And finally, the Gunpowder Green Tea Blend is made of green tea, orange peel and ginger root, and aids digestion. The gunpowder leaves are closed until they open in the water.

We think you’ll enjoy sweetening up these teas with ten organic honey sticks that have been regionally sourced. The spoon and filters are the last tools you need to enjoy a cup of tea! If you don’t have a cup, the new Love Heals thermos will keep your drink warm and delicious.

Each tea kit ingredient has a special pocket in the satchel that folds up and is easy to carry. In consultation with the Thistle Studios, women at New Visions Sewing Group created each satchel. New Visions is an enterprise of Lwala Community Alliance, a nonprofit initiative to empower women in Kenya through education, healthcare and employment. New Visions also sews the Evening Survival Kit and will be a Shared Trade partner.

Well, each of these pieces arrives separately at Thistle Farms here in Nashville. Thistle Farms then put the pieces together in the satchel. We even blend the Moringa tea in manufacturing! The finishing touch to each Tea Survival Kit is the leather tie sewn on by the team at Thistle Studios.

The Tea Survival Kit is a great companion for your next adventure. The sale of each kit supports women artisans from around the globe. The Tea Survival Kit is now available online. Order and we’ll ship it out to you, or drop by the café to buy your favorite satchel print in person! 

Look for more SharedTrade products coming to you in October!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Home Grown: Best of Nashville

It's that time again! The Nashville Scene has opened its electronic doors to Nashvillians to choose the best of the best things in town. Won't you take a moment to vote for your favorite social enterprises, Thistle Farms and the Thistle Stop Cafe?

Here are our suggested choices -- be sure to CAST YOUR VOTE by September 5th:

Section 1 of 7: Food and Drink
Best Coffeehouse: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Menu: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Patio: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Place For A Business Lunch: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Restaurant: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Restaurant Ambiance: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Service in a Restaurant: Thistle Stop Cafe

Section 2 of 7: Home, Goods and Services
Best Nonprofit: Thistle Farms
Best Place To Buy A Gift: Thistle Farms
Best Place For A Wedding Reception: Thistle Stop Cafe

Section 3 of 7: Music, Arts and Entertainment
Best Charity Event: Thistle Thursdays (at the Thistle Stop Cafe)
Best Concert Series: Thistle Thursdays (at the Thistle Stop Cafe)
Best Local You Would Like To See Make a Cameo On Nashville: The Thistle Stop Cafe!
Best Place To Hear Live Music: Thistle Thursdays (at the Thistle Stop Cafe)

Section 4 of 7: Media and Politics
Best Facebook Page: Thistle Farms
Best Local Twitter Account: Rev. Becca Stevens

Section 5 of 7: Kids
Best Family-Friendly Restaurant: Thistle Stop Cafe

Section 6 of 7: People and Places
Best Community Role Model: Rev. Becca Stevens
Best Place To Take Out-of-Towners: Thistle Stop Cafe
Best Religious Leader: Rev. Becca Stevens

Once you vote, spread the word by sharing this blog post (and this I VOTED sticker!) on your social media outlets. Thanks for your help in naming Thistle Farms and the Thistle Stop Cafe the best of in Nashvile! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Loving our Community Partners: Interfaith Dental Clinic

Since the earliest days of Magdalene, we have relied on the generosity and love of our Nashville neighbors to help spread our message. Coming off the streets, escaping prostitution and homelessness, our women have many needs. From medical and psychiatric to legal and financial, these needs are met by an integral support system of community partners committed to the wellness of our residents and graduates. Ever thankful for the aid they give us, we want to highlight the role of our amazing community partners in proving that love heals.

Interfaith Dental Clinic, one of our most valued partners, helps us to fulfill the women’s need for oral healthcare. You might not think of dental hygiene when envisioning the recovery process, but Executive Director, Dr. Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi and her staff, believe it is an essential part of the journey. With the motto: “A smile changes everything,” Interfaith Dental hopes to bring superior oral healthcare to the working poor and income-insecure seniors of Middle Tennessee.

We recently popped in to visit our friends at Interfaith Dental and they were very kind to give us a full tour. Pictured from left to right - Deb Markland, Thistle Farms, Education & Outreach; Dr. Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi, Exec. Director of Interfaith Dental Clinic; Ashlyn King & Laura Herrod, Thistle Farms interns; Keri Seay, Magdalene's Assistant Program Director and pictured on the far right, one of Interfaith's beloved volunteer dentists.

In 1994, Dr. Tom Underwood, with the help of the Nashville Dental Society and the Outreach Commission of West End United Methodist Church, set out to bring their ministry to the people of Middle Tennessee. They began in a church basement and worked their way to a beautiful clinic on Patterson Street with state-of-the-art equipment.

Dr. Switzer-Nadasdi was called to work for this mission by Dr. Underwood’s own example. “His passion for the cause, and the obstacles he faced starting it but succeeded anyway, made me believe I could make an impact.” She states that her favorite part of the job is witnessing the private moment of a patient smiling at themselves in the mirror on their way out when they think no one is watching.

Speaking of their partnership with Magdalene, Dr. Switzer-Nadasdi claims, “physical healing is a big part of the women’s journey. Sound oral health can be a major step towards overall improved health. In their psychological journey, their mouths often reveal a past of struggle they are trying to put behind them. Through our partnership we can give a new healthy smile that shines with promise and wholeness.”

Magdalene and Interfaith Dental Clinic are working together to spread a message of love, healing and peace. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Peace begins with a smile.”

Story by Ashlyn King
Thistle Farms Intern

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remember This Day

The Magdalene Graduation is joy-filled event where we celebrate women who have achieved incredible milestones and completed the two-year program. This year as hosts for the event, the women of St. Bartholomew's once again showed us what hospitality looks like. They let us use their lovely sanctuary, gave gifts to honor the graduates and fed us until we were physically, and spiritually, full.

Our honored speaker this year was Carole Hagan. Carole has served the women of Thistle Farms & Magdalene for many years as a full-time volunteer events coordinator, a chair for the fundraiser, a gifted photographer and editor, former recipient of the Thistle Farmer Award, and a mentor and role model to many women. We asked her to share a message of encouragement and inspiration at the ceremony this year.

May is a month full of joy - a time of celebrations. Catalpas and peonies harmoniously trumpet commencement tidings. Graduations abound. Candidates are being awarded degrees: doctors of medicine, law, phd’s in theology. Dissertations following years of research are complete and ready for publication. Processions of academia robed in black gowns trimmed with velvet and shiny colored satin are parading on campus lawns with tasseled mortar boards in step to the strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.

None, not one, can compare with this graduation. None of those accomplishments can compare with what you have achieved. Those of you graduating today, our past graduates and our residents. Remember this day. Remember how you feel and who is sitting beside you. Who you are holding up and who is holding you to do what none of us can do alone, but we can do together.

Having taught school for about 25 years, I have heard many graduation speeches. I do know that everyone who has ever given a graduation speech, wanted it to be inspiring. I am no exception. So I thought I might share with you some of what has inspired me.

On my desks at school and at Thistle Farms, I taped quotes to guide my day, to keep my priorities in check. At school one of the quotes was one from Anne Frank, who with her family went into hiding when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. They were betrayed and sent to the death camps where Anne died in 1945 at the age of 16. As oft-quoted part of her diary reads:

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.  I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.”  

Anne Frank had risen above, had  transcended the atrocities of the Holocaust. You, my friends, are forging ahead, remembering the past, but not letting the past define who you are today. You are building up your hopes on a foundation of healing love.

Another quote on my school desk was from an educator, Charles Fowler, who said:

“If we fail to touch the humanity of students, we have not really touched them at all.” 

Inspired by his quote, my goal for each of my students was to find her voice and cherish it - then use it to go out into the world and touch humanity.

My granddaughter, Maddie, at the tender age of either four or five taught me about finding your voice. I was driving her on a ghastly hot summer day to meet the bus for Camp Whippoorwill. She asked for my help on a personal problem. “Gitty," - the name she gave to me -  "I have been trying to decide whether to try to fit into the group or just be myself.” Weeks later I asked her if the problem had been resolved.  With bewilderment that it had ever been a problem, she cheerfully replied,

“Yes, Gitty, I found that when I am myself, I fit in just fine.” 

You, my friends, have found your voice and speak your truth. You and your courage have touched so many lives, brought so many people to their knees.  We cannot begin to comprehend the enormity of your sacred work.

One more quote that was on my school desk is from Albert Camus, a French philosopher and Nobel Prize winner.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

You, my friends, have discovered your invincible summer, realizing that you can push back against the world with the stronger force of love.

On my desk at Thistle Farms I taped a quote from Micah, one of the lesser prophets of the Hebrew Bible.

“What does the LORD require of you? To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Every time we light the candle in our mediation circle for the women who are still out on the streets and every time you tell your stories, we are fighting injustice.  In Nashville, in Africa, in South America. Even in Asia, that group of sweet ladies from Korea who loved our Holli. We are part of a global movement committed to women’s freedom.

God knows our world is in dire need with hundreds of terrified young girls captured in Nigeria, sexual assault rampant and our waiting list of one hundred women on our very streets praying for the sanctuary of Magdalene.

The last quote I ever taped to my Thistle Farms’ desk was:

“Dear God, Please help me live my every day through the lens of abundance rather than that of scarcity and that I end the day with more things done than left undone. Amen”  

That was written by Lisa Froeb in March 2013 three months before her death. We all loved Lisa and miss her deeply.  Lisa was a lover of mercy, a fighter of injustice, and she walked humbly with her God. She was a dedicated warrior for Magdalene and Thistle Farms.

We are charged with what Becca wrote about Lisa -
She walked with grace upon this earth.
We grieve her beautiful bounded body’s passing.
Seen in signs and memories she helps us walk through our mourning.
She calls like a saint for us to keep walking, keep loving, keep close, till we reach the other side of time on love’s eternal shore.

By Carole Hagan
Magdalene Board Member and Longtime Thistle Farms Volunteer