Cafe opened during pandemic offers freedom for trafficking survivors

Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For a program based on surviving the worst in life, opening a new cafe in the middle of chaos seems right on a mission for Freedom a la Cart.

It seems obvious that finding the right ingredients, is the key to making something good. “Is it safe?” NBC4’s Brad Johansen asked CEO Paula Haines as they climbed on the old Otis elevator in their revamped Freedom a la Cart home.

“Very safe,” she smiled.

From the new loft workspace to the kitchen down below which supplies the new café, it’s safe.  Homemade food is made by women who are truly desperate for a new recipe.

“From the very beginning it’s been violence, being mistreated, being disrespected,” said Mandie Knight as she describes the life ingredients she had as she grew up. This led to addiction — opiates and crack cocaine — in turn leading to human trafficking. She went to jail for the last time in 2014.

“Keep working on those negative parts because I want to become better and better and better. I want to be my best version,” Mandie says confidently. She’s now the Resource manager at Freedom a la Cart, overseeing women fighting the battle she lived through.

“Two hundred women in our butterfly program, and last year we helped 420 survivors,” Haines boasts of her working program.

The Cafe opened in April as an extension of the catering program the group has been doing for more than a decade. In partnership with Catch Court, it employs women who’ve been abused and lost.

“Human trafficking was to survive?” Johansen asked Cheyenne Voll. “To survive yeah,” Voll nods.

Voll delivers meals and works in the kitchen for the Cafe on Spring Street.

“When you say you’ve been labeled a lot, who are you now,” Johansen wondered.

“I’m a survivor!” said Voll who is clean and sober for her four-year-old daughter.

“She knows nothing about who I used to be,” Voll says of her daughter. “She knows who I am now.”

“Is it working?” Johansen asked CEO Paula Haines.

“It’s working,” Haines replied.

Haines says that over the last 5 years, 83% of her workers have stayed out of trouble. Catering will have a record year, And the Cafe is serving up a dish called “Recovery.”

“I’m recovering from life, from drugs, from prostitution, from being trafficked, from abuse — I’m just a woman in recovery and I’m killin’ it!”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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