WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Among the hundreds of booths at the Women’s Fair at Century II in Wichita this weekend, you’ll find Raise My Head beauty products. At a glance, the lip balm, body scrub and soaps may look like any other homemade, natural bath and beauty products. But take a second to talk with the women who are selling them and you’ll understand why these products are so much more.
April Owen makes the lip balm. When she was 18, she got in with the wrong crowd and her life spiraled out of control in a small community in north central Kansas. She was a drug addict, a criminal and was being trafficked for sex on the streets.
“It’s a shameful thing,” said April. “Honestly, I had never heard the term ‘human trafficking’ before I came to treatment.”
She says the drugs helped numb her mind while the awful cycle continued.
April says the mindset of those involved in sex trafficking is that women have a value to be traded for.
“That’s what they were worth,” said April. “That’s all they thought they were worth.”
April knew she was happier when she was sober but didn’t know how to stay that way. After failed attempts with treatment, she moved to Wichita and was ready to make a change.
“I cut all ties with my former life, I got sober and found the right people to help me,” said April.
She got her high school diploma and is currently a Wichita State University student. April lives with other women who survived a life of sex trafficking as part of the Raise My Head Foundation.
The two-year residential treatment program in Wichita helps women recover and gives them skills and opportunities for a new life. The program has room for up to five women who live in a home as they build a new future.
“Honestly, I’d never really had my own bed, like an actual bed before so this was the biggest thing when I first moved in,” said April. “This home has been a second chance for me.”
To help fund the non-profit program, the women make beauty products. On any given day, you’ll see them hard at work around the home’s dining room table, mixing and measuring ingredients for the latest hand soap or body cream.
“There's lotions, sugar scrub and it’s basically to wash away the old and be renewed,” said April. “That’s what the products are based off.”
“It helps teach employment skills and gives the women a paycheck,” said Raise My Head Executive Director Pat Jones. Raise My Head uses a sunflower as a logo on the products. It has great meaning in this home.
“The sunflower raises its head to the sun and you can see it follow the sun as the day goes by,” said Jones. “On a cloudy day, the sunflowers will turn to each other for support, energy and help. That’s what we do. The women raise their head but when they need the help, we’re here to help them as well.”
Raise My Head currently sells the products at community events and in an online store. This year’s goal is to partner with local retailers so the products can be sold in stores.
If you are a retailer and interested in carrying these products, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find the online store here: raisemyhead.org.