Human trafficking is a very real problem, even in 21st century America. Victims from all parts of the world fall victim to what the State Department calls “modern slavery”, and human trafficking impacts nearly 25 million people at any one time. Locally, Briotech, Inc.—a company that makes, sells, and distributes Hypochlorous (HOCl) products for use in sanitation and healthcare—has partnered with Free To Fly in their fight to support survivors of human trafficking.
Free To Fly’s founder, Yolanda Christensen, is herself a survivor of abuse and trauma. She started the organization to provide support, healing, self-esteem, and freedom for those rescued from human trafficking of any sort. Through the generous donations of business partners and individual donors, Free To Fly has impacted many lives in and around our region.
“Combating human trafficking and assisting survivors on their healing journey is a task that requires participation and help from the community, including businesses around us,” says Christensen. “It’s a cause that affects all of us and the most vulnerable, like our children, who I believe we are all responsible for.”
One aspect of this partnership that may surprise most people is that Free To Fly uses Briotech’s proprietary HOCl products regularly. “…this goes more than skin deep or simply a skincare spray,” Christensen explains. “Some of these survivors are marked with abuse and constant reminders of the severe trauma they endured by being branded with tattoos indicating they are for sale or owned by a trafficker or pimp. To a survivor, this is a reminder they are valued not as a human being, but as a product to be sold over and over. We utilize Briotech’s sprays in our branding tattoo removal protocols to help heal skin, but also as important, to help survivors on their road to recovery to live healthier lives, free from bondage.”
“We know our product has the ability to help people and we made an edict within our company to do just that through our BrioEarth foundation,” says Cynthia Varela, executive director of BrioEarth and founder of Briotech. “With a primary focus to assist women and children in need, we will always extend our reach to support anyone at risk as we can. In this last year of the COVID crisis, we have been honored to assist the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni Nations of Arizona, the Seminole Nation, the Coharie, Cherokee, Haliwa Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of Saponi the Nation, Sappony, and Waccamaw Indian Tribes and Indian Associations of North Carolina, Doctors Without Borders, migrant farmworkers, homeless service providers, pet shelters, community health clinics in underserved areas, local food banks, community restaurants and schools for their reopening efforts, and civil agencies including police, fire, and EMS.”
“Together, BrioEarth and Free To Fly exemplify the perfect symbiotic partnership for the fulfillment of missions on both sides,” says Varela. “We help where we can. We listen, we learn, we consult, and we network with the goal of making a positive change in this world.”
Unlike companies that make simple donations of cash or goods, Briotech’s management took direct interest. “When we met Briotech,” says Christensen, “they patiently took time out to ask me what our needs are and how else they can help. As a survivor of childhood exploitation, asking and using my voice has been a challenge and hurdle my whole life. They gave me a seat at the table. They believed in me and the work that needs to be done. They saw me as capable and worthy with an important cause to get behind. They heard me and what Free To Fly is communicating.”
Dan Terry is Briotech’s founder, executive chairman, and chief innovation officer. He admits that these are difficult times, and this is a difficult topic to address. “As small business people, we are aware of the huge effort it takes to succeed, and that all of us require the help of others to just get through life, let alone single-handedly wrest downtrodden women from dangerous people. We saw the passionate sincerity of Yolanda’s cause and the potential she had to change lives.”
“It is important work that Yolanda does helping in an area that people shy away from,” Terry admits. “It is uncomfortable to address something so heinous as sex slavery going on right in your neighborhood, so sometimes people see that it is easier to support something far away and removed—which makes it even more important to support her.”
More than just the donation of products, Briotech has helped with day-to-day necessities that many of us take for granted. The company has assisted with website development and emergency housing and relocation support for survivors, explains Christensen. “Once a victim of trafficking is identified and wanting out and help, finding them placement and a safe place to stay is a difficult and sometimes lengthy process. We have been able to fill those gaps. There isn’t time to wait and Briotech readily participated and supported in this need of safe housing. They also helped us when we wanted to provide schooling needs, clothing and toys for youth in recovery.”
If you’d like to help victims of human trafficking, shop for makeup and skincare products or simply donate to Free To Fly today. As a skilled esthetician, Christensen and her team have assembled an eCommerce store highlighting an array of medical-grade makeup and skincare products. All net proceeds from Free To Fly sales and 100% pass-through of all donations go to support their cause, rather than overhead. For your sanitizer and hygiene needs, head over to the Briotech shop to keep your family safe and protected. You can also follow Free To Fly and Briotech on Instagram and Facebook for news, events, and upcoming activities. Support, share and do your part.