Trafficking survivors start over through Brazen Table program
Heights coffee shop and nonprofit A 2nd Cup celebrated its first year of leading human trafficking survivors to a better life through professional development and culinary training at an event Sept. 13.
Through its Brazen Table program, A 2nd Cup has so far helped six survivors gain both life and vocational skills, and it hopes to bring in more participants for 2019. The Local Fare for Local Freedom event held Sept. 13 at the coffee shop worked to raise awareness about trafficking and raised about $3,500 to continue the work.
A 2nd Cup started in September 2011 as a pop-up shop, going around Houston serving up coffee and teaching its customers about trafficking and the importance of getting involved to fight the issue. In October 2015, its brick-and-mortar coffee shop opened at 1111 E. 11th St.
In May 2017, energy company Reliant donated $100,000 to A 2nd Cup so that it could start the Brazen Table program.
“Brazen Table program is a 22-week holistic culinary training program that provides tangible skills and experiences to enable survivors of human trafficking to find worthwhile and sustaining employment as they rebuild their lives,” said A 2nd Cup Operations Director Brooke Evans.
When some people think of trafficking, rescuing victims comes to mind, but Evans said the rescue is just one piece in a larger process of recovery and that helping them survivors find meaningful employment afterward is also critical.
“The rescue is a first step, but we feel as though investing in aftercare is just as important. We recognize that in order for survivors to become fully independent they must be able to have meaningful employment,” Evans said. “Survivor Allison Franklin has said, ‘The inability for a survivor to get a job is one of their largest barriers to recovering.’”
The Brazen Table program has three phases. Evans said the first helps participants with areas like resume writing and stress management. Participants then get culinary training that Evans said includes educational and hands-on experience, followed by an externship in a food establishment in Houston, giving them the opportunity to expand their resume while still under the guidance of A 2nd Cup’s staff.
Evans said the name Brazen Table combined two words with very different meanings that A 2nd Cup used to illustrate a powerful message.
“Brazen is defined as bold and without shame. A woman described as such often implies that she is brash and offensive. We are flipping that paradigm, taking control of the narrative and redefining survivors as brazen women — boldly flourishing, unapologetically thriving and unashamedly living,” she said. “This concept is paired with the word table, which creates a picture of family, rest, connection and the idea that all are welcome to receive. Our hope is that participants would feel welcomed, supported and encouraged to pursue their independence.”
The $100,000 donated for Brazen Table was a part of the Reliant Gives Vote program, which has given $720,000 to 18 nonprofits across Texas since May 2016, according to Leanne Schneider, Reliant community relations director and executive director of the NRG Retail Charitable Foundation.
A Reliant employee who had volunteered as a barista at A 2nd Cup nominated the nonprofit, and it was selected to receive the money in a public voting campaign. Schneider said seeing the funds in action at the event was fulfilling.
“It is so rewarding to see A 2nd Cup’s Brazen Table program come to life, thanks to Reliant’s donation,” Schneider said. “We are proud our support enabled this empowering nonprofit to multiply its impact on the community and the people it serves.”
Schneider said the funds donated through Reliant Gives Vote represent how Reliant and its employees are committed to improving the communities they already live, work and serve in.
“Our support of nonprofits like A 2nd Cup goes hand-in-hand with the work our employees do in our communities every day,” she said.
According to a study by the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, Texas has an estimated 313,000 human trafficking victims. Evans said Houston is a trafficking hub, and that knowledge propels A 2nd Cup to continue its work in the community.
The first Brazen Table participants all started with an interest in the culinary field, but Evans said they had varying levels of experience — some had never prepared a meal from scratch prior to the program. Evans said she has watched them grow and succeed.
“They have been allowed the space to dream big: one of them wants to open their own restaurant someday,” Evans said. “They are proud of what they have accomplished, and we have noticed an air of confidence in each of them that wasn’t there before.”
A 2nd Cup, located at 1111 E. 11th St., is open Monday-Saturday 7 a.m-10 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m.-5 p.m. The coffee shop offers volunteer orientations, happy hours and cooking classes. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.a2ndcup.com.