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Beauty and Belonging for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Austin-based Sanctuary Project is a community of survivors and their advocates creating beautiful products with messages of hope. All Sanctuary Project products are hand-made by survivors of trafficking, violence, and addiction who are in the process of restoring and rebuilding their lives and hearts.

Mindy Morgan of Gather Venues sat down with Holly Christine Hayes Founder and CEO of Sanctuary Project to learn more about what they do and their inaugural event held at Gather Venues last year.

Gather Venues: Can you tell me a little about The Sanctuary Project and why you started it?

Sanctuary Project is a community of survivors. I am a survivor myself and came out of that life 18 years ago. One thing that I realized while in transition was a strong need for employment opportunities. Employment, job training, and care were sometimes lacking for survivors in transition and Sanctuary Project is a solution to that gap.

GV: Why is creating art and jewelry great for survivors?

I had the opportunity to volunteer with another anti-trafficking organization in Thailand that makes jewelry with women coming out of trafficking there. The practice of creating jewelry was meditative and relaxing – but also self-esteem building. There was a powerful message in the ladies making something so beautiful out of almost nothing. The end result is both a beautiful product and the women feeling a sense of accomplishment.  

GV: Tell us a little more about your event at Gather Venues?

In November 2018 we had our inaugural Freedom Gala, it was Sanctuary Project’s first invitation to the community. We’re building our organization and we want to offer more than employment opportunities for survivors and their advocates. We want to connect them to trauma counseling and care and housing opportunities as well.

Our fundraiser at Gather Venues has helped us move towards those goals for our organization, we raised double the projected goal we had for ourselves. Ash and her team were knowledgeable and instrumental in making this a successful event. They connected us to resources for nonprofit fundraisers like caterers and in-kind donation opportunities. It really made all the difference.

GV: Why did you choose Gather Venues Monroe for this event?

We loved its flexibility and uniqueness. The chandeliers were so perfect! We’re aware that local philanthropists are bored with typical galas and we felt like we were right in the center of Austin. Everything about Gather Venues Monroe feels uniquely Austin! And that’s why we loved it.

GV: Why is Sanctuary Project Important to you?

Many people don’t know there are 300,000 young men and women being trafficked in Central Texas alone. Part of what we want to do is shine a light on how big this problem is and teach people what they can do about it. When I learned about it 10 years ago – it broke my heart that what I’d experienced was human trafficking. I knew I had to get involved in ending it.


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