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The Refuge Ranch Welcomes First Survivors

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Kendra Scott and Four Hands partner with The Refuge to furnish cottages for sex-trafficking survivors.

By Emily Benson, Photo courtesy of The Refuge 

Brooke Crowder walks into one of the many cozy cottages lining her 50-acre property. In the kitchen, she finds three girls cracking jokes while preparing dinner. Suddenly, the youngest girl turns to Crowder and says, “I can’t believe everything y’all are providing for us.”

She is a sex-trafficking survivor, and like many here, is between the ages of 11 and 19, and is currently living at The Refuge Ranch, a sanctuary Crowder founded for trafficking survivors. After years of preparation, the ranch opened this fall and has officially welcomed its first residents. The Austin community has supported the comprehensive rehabilitation center from the beginning, with many big-name companies donating resources, including Kendra Scott and Four Hands, which recently created partnerships with the organization.

After touring the ranch, Scott knew she had to be involved. Since then, her company has donated more than $15,000 to build the community’s living space, a designated area for the girls to congregate for social activities.

“The work The Refuge is doing [to]help rehabilitate these girls that have been through hardships back into normalcy is a project that aligns with our values,” says Sheena Wilde, director of philanthropy for the Kendra Scott company.

To bring the cottages to life, Scott partnered with local home-furnishing store Four Hands. Its interior design team toured to the site to ensure it would not only be a functional space, but a home for these girls.

“We chose deep finishes, character woods, rich leathers, soft upholstery, patterned rugs, lighting and a range of colorful art that would add a welcoming warmth to the concrete floors and white walls while delivering modern-minded character that felt like it had been curated together over time,” says Charla Adams, brand marketing manager for Four Hands. “Above all, we wanted them to feel taken care of and safe as soon as they walked in.”

The collaboration between Kendra Scott, Four Hands and The Refuge epitomizes the purpose of the center: women coming together to create a safe environment for women. Each of the women representing these companies emphasizes solidarity between women and the need to support survivors recovering from their trauma.

“Caring for these children long term is costly,” Crowder says. “The vast majority [of states]have the resources to help children recover. We need to come together as a community and share the responsibility by doing what we can in partnership with other organizations. ”

Crowder has been immersed in providing aid to underage victims since 2004. While she was abroad as a language student in Costa Rica, Crowder witnessed the horrors of child trafficking firsthand.

“A young girl that I was working with needed medical care,” Crowder says. “She was being trafficked. I felt horrible that I couldn’t do more, and I thought, ‘If I was in the United States, I could help her.’ That’s when I started dreaming about a place like The Refuge.”

Since opening the ranch, Crowder routinely gets requests to open communities for trafficking victims throughout the United States. With the support of the Austin community behind her, Crowder has created a successful model for future communal sanctuaries.

“From a societal standpoint, as an adult, leader and citizen,” Crowder says, “I can’t stand the idea that our children are being subjected to such horrific evil on my watch.”

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