Human Dignity: Dust, Trafficking, and One Entrepreneur’s Passion

by Mollie Edwards, Freedom Cleaning, LLC, www.freedomcleaningky.com

Surrounded by understandable but constant media and nonprofit outcry, it is easy to grow desensitized to the facts about human trafficking. Take a moment, though, to consider the following:

+ Close to Home… According to KY Rescue & Restore: “160 victims of human trafficking have been identified in Kentucky. Of these 160 victims, 94 were trafficked as children. The youngest victim was 2 months old.”

+ A Cruel Cover… Human trafficking scams often use cleaning companies as a cover to lure women into slavery. Wages are promised but never received. Sometimes victims are forced into slave labor such as cleaning; other times, cleaning is a cover for forced sexual exploitation.

+ Invisible Chains… Traffickers often “employ” women on the basis of threats or force, making them feel that they have no choice but to remain in what could be described as a living hell.

GLOW member Rosalynn Robb was unable to ignore this sober reality. In 2013, after graduating college, she decided that she could engage her love of serving busy families with quality cleaning to support her larger mission – aiding victims of human trafficking – and Freedom Cleaning, LLC was born.

Though home cleaning is a task as old as time and a job nearly as ancient, home cleaners are often looked upon disrespectfully. Freedom dignifies domestic work in several ways. Beyond donating 10% of Freedom’s profits to local human trafficking victims’ organizations, Rosalynn’s management style creates an environment that purposefully contrasts with that of trafficking. Significantly, Rosalynn pays her workers well above minimum wage.

After experiencing what it was like to have raw hands and a constant cough from habitual use of harsh cleaning chemicals, Rosalynn decided that Freedom team members would use products that are – imagine! – people-friendly. Next, as an oft-raved-about finishing touch in each home, cleaners mist Thistle Farms Room Spray, a product hand-made by victims of trafficking.

Relationships matter at Freedom. Team members are carefully selected with integrity at the heart of the job description. On the flip-side, they understand: “I am trusted. I am cared for.” As a safety precaution, team members always clean in pairs. They get to know one another while carpooling and over lunch. On any given Friday afternoon, the team might be found eating burritos at Qdoba with Rosalynn – her treat. “Shop talk” isn’t forbidden on lunch breaks, but you can bet the team finds plenty of other things to talk about!

In the future, Rosalynn plans to hire survivors of human trafficking, a move that would provide work for women and open doors for a new dimension of advocacy. Clearly, this is no ordinary cleaning company.

One young college grad’s decision is changing the lives of women. Some are in desperate need of rescue; others want to be a part of a business they can be proud of. Think creatively, and think beyond the bottom line. What might be possible with 1, 5, or even 10% of your business’s income? Is anyone in your industry finding innovative ways to take a stand? You could be the first.