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Feb 2, 2018

Cartography 101: Caterer plots next moves in efforts to combat human trafficking

Before becoming a volunteer with social enterprise Freedom a la Cart, Paula Haines had heard about CATCH Court and Freedom from some friends. She attended a course presented by Freedom called Abolition U, which helped educate local citizens on the state of human trafficking in central Ohio. She was stunned to learn the extent to which trafficking was taking place throughout Central Ohio (and the world), and in particular on the West Side. With family roots there, it hit home. Haines quickly became a champion for these women and Freedom’s mission—to bring hope to survivors of human trafficking so they can build new lives of freedom and self-sufficiency.

Haines joined Freedom’s board in May 2014. Then, in June 2016, she stepped in to serve as Interim Executive Director. She quickly discovered this was where she was meant to be and has led the organization since.

How the social-enterprise model works for Freedom a la Cart

Founded in 2009, Freedom provides former victims of human trafficking practical job skills and helps them to develop a strong work ethic in a safe, restorative place, where survivors can heal, learn and grow as they prepare for sustainable employment within the community. Since 2009, the organization has employed more than 100 survivors of human trafficking. In 2017 alone, 33 received training and support.

“I think social enterprise is the structure moving forward for nonprofits to become less reliant on contributions and grants,” said Haines.

In June 2017, Freedom opened its first public location in Columbus Metropolitan Library’s new Northside Branch. In addition to selling 14,000+ boxed lunches in 2017, Freedom also sells wholesale pastries, sandwiches, desserts and freshly made salads to local coffee shops and restaurants throughout the city.

The next big moves

Freedom is currently looking for a new headquarters near downtown Columbus to expand its catering operations—and its social impact. The organization also will test pop-up shops and expand its Butterflies Program, a peer-led group designed to provide ongoing support.

“After completing CATCH Court and recovery programs provided by organizations, survivors continue to face many challenges in their daily lives and need support and encouragement from others who understand,” Haines said. “Butterflies offers this support, which in turn helps to prevent individuals from relapsing.”

As awareness about human trafficking continues to grow, more and more women are identifying themselves as victims and seeking help. The numbers in CATCH Court also continue to grow, and as a result, the need for more and more trauma counseling, and organizations such as Freedom to help advance their recovery.

What you can do to help this social enterprise fight on behalf of victims and survivors of human trafficking:

  • Visit. Freedom a la Cart’s mini café is located in the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Northside Branch, located at 1423 N. High St. between the Short North and the University District. Here you can purchase coffee and treats.
  • Order. Place your catering orders and more from Freedom. Each boxed lunch comes with a message about human trafficking to help educate individuals.
  • VolunteerSign up for training and mentoring opportunities.
  • Support. Make a donation online.
  • Be vigilant. In Central Ohio, human trafficking activity increases dramatically during large sporting events and expos that take place here annually.

Learn how you can do business with local social enterprises, including Freedom a la Cart, at