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Jewelry business at Howell safe house helps former victims fight abuse, human trafficking

Mend on the Move helps abuse victims recover from the past

HOWELL, Mich. – A Metro Detroit mother is coming to the rescue of women who have been sexually abused or involved in human trafficking.

"I was an abused child and I thought to myself, 'This is speaking to me. I need to do something,'" Joanne Ewald said.

Women are making jewelry, mending souls and moving on from past horrors.

"There are people on every corner waiting," Paige Akers said. "They look for women that are vulnerable or using or like to take advantage of the situation."

At a safe house in Howell called Aliyah's House, women are tucked away from their abusers and traffickers, but at the same time, they're trying to rebuild their lives.

Ewald arrived at the safe house and unpacked boxes of material to be used in a jewelry-making session.

"All of our jewelry is made from small automotive parts and reclaimed leather, scrap leather that we get from local Detroit resources," Ewald said.

But the gathering isn't just about making jewelry. It's also about mending souls.

"It was about three years ago," Ewald said. "I started learning about human trafficking and it just really broke my heart."

Ewald thought about what she could do as a jewelry artist.

"I thought, 'Well, let's start with jewelry,'" Ewald said.

The two women sitting at the table together have very different stories.

"I've been abused in my life, and then with self-confidence, I wasn't taught the right coping skills," Akers said. "I ended up getting into addiction really bad. That started about 19 and went for the next five years."

Things have gotten better for Akers since the 26-year-old mother found the safe house in Howell.

"We see these girls that have had no value, never stability in their life, and now they have stability," Linda Story said.

But Ewald's Mend on the Move jewelry-making business brought employment right to the women's safe home.

"It's more than just a job, because when Joanne comes in and brings that, it's really almost like being in a therapy session," Story said.

"I think it's really important for them to realize that the abuse that has happened to them is not a definition of who they are," Ewald said. "I think it's really good for them to see that me, as a survivor, look what I was able to overcome and do myself."

The hours at the table bring conversation, hope, inspiration and money for a brighter future.

The hand-crafted jewelry is created by survivors who found the courage to begin again.

"It was just really inspirational to me," Akers said. "It was like making a change, like something that I would want to do."

Ewald hopes the artwork can start a conversation and break the silence of abuse and trafficking.

"I would say Mend on the Move is what the desires of my heart really look like," Ewald said.

You can visit the Mend on the Move website by clicking here.

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