She met women living on the street. She gave them a home — and they built their future.
True
Stand Together

Becca Stevens is no stranger to poverty.

All images by Stand Together and Upworthy.

When she was five-years-old, her father was killed by a drunk driver. Impoverished both emotionally and economically, Stevens' family had to work hard to make ends meet. Poverty became a defining aspect of her childhood.


That was a big part of what drove Stevens to help others, especially the women she saw on the streets. So, as she grew into an adult, she started helping women who had been victims of violence, trafficking and prostitution by feeding them and bringing them to shelter.

"I just felt sick for them," Stevens says of the women she worked with on the street.

But there was much more behind why she was so drawn to helping these women: Stevens had been a victim of abuse herself, starting at the age of six.

Many of the women Stevens worked with had never felt safe in their lives. Prostitution, and the experience of being trafficked, was often a progression of the abuse they experienced. For many, it had started in their adolescence — now it was something they didn't feel like they could leave.

As she continued to work and talk with the woman in these shelters and halfway houses she was struck by two huge gaps in trying to help these women: The first glaring note was the lack of safety and security in shelters for women. Many women spoke about additional traumatic and abusive situations they experienced while inside shelters. Women trying to leave haunting and abusive experiences in their past were launched into subsequent unsafe and uncertain spaces. The second issue was the high cost associated with the shelters. If a halfway house charged $125 a week in rent, Stevens remembers asking herself, "what do you expect them to do to get that $125 a week?"

These women saw no way out of the cycle. Stevens wanted to change that.

An image of thistles inspired Stevens to create a social enterprise that has since helped more than 1,100 women break the cycle of poverty.

In Stevens' hometown of Nashville, she noticed that thistles grew everywhere.

“They're considered a noxious weed, but they can grow through concrete; through chain-link fences," says Stevens. "They are determined and dogged to bloom. They're just like the women. They're just like me. They're survivors."

She wanted to support women who, like thistles, aren't deterred by obstacles in their way. She knew the women she saw on the streets could reclaim their lives, but that they needed help beyond a one-night stay at a halfway house.

“I said, 'Look, some of the skills that kept you alive on the streets and kept you going — we can harness those," says Stevens.

So she came up with the idea for a "beautiful home" she would create, called Thistle Farms— a place where women could feel safe, start on a new path, and rediscover themselves.

"I wanted to say: 'you never have to go back to the streets; you never have to go back to prison; you never have to go back to an abuser in your life," she says of the mission of Thistle Farms.

At Thistle Farms, women become part of a community. They help each other thrive and empower others who've walked the same path to lead rich, full lives by giving back to the community — all at no cost to them.

In 1997, Rebecca Stevens welcomed five women into the program. Today, it's helping thousands of women worldwide.

But Thistle Farms doesn't just provide women with a home where their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met — it helps teach them how to become financially independent using skills they already have.

The women at Thistle Farms make products that promote sustainability and healing, which goes hand-in-hand with what the organization offers them.

The first product that the women at Thistle Farms made was a line of therapeutic candles crafted from healing oils. According to Stevens, the women involved in the process felt the healing powers themselves.

"That was the beginning of starting a business that was really not just healing but life-saving," says Stevens.

Today, they make everything from candles to body lotions and bath scrubs to essential oils.

Thistle Farms has also created several additional social enterprises that are thriving, a Global line to support worldwide partners, and a retail space and popular cafe in the heart of Nashville.

Through these ventures, Thistle Farms is able to provide survivors with physical and emotional assistance all while helping them forge a sustainable, financial path forward. The program has created over $1.5 million in income for women survivors in Nashville alone this past year, and Stevens and her crew are only working harder to reach more women survivors each year with services to help them heal.

Thistle Farms is able to persevere by creating opportunities.

And it's through partnerships with nonprofits like Stand Together that the organization is able to uphold and deepen its goal of helping women thrive and succeed in their professional, personal and emotional lives.

Stand Together knows that one of the best ways to end the cycle of poverty — one of America's greatest problems — is by empowering others to believe in themselves. That's why they find, develop and invest in innovative solutions, and social entrepreneurs, like Becca and Thistle Farms, that are removing barriers and successfully empowering people to break the cycle of poverty in their lives and uncover their true potential.

It takes time, but if you ask Stevens, helping people unleash their potential and believe in themselves and rely on their community is the best way to make an impact.

"Create space and time for people to do their own healing work," she says. "If you have time and space, love and trust comes."

To learn more about Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms, check out the video below:

To donate to their cause, click here.

Stand Together invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. By supporting social entrepreneurs like Stevens who're close to social issues like homelessness and have developed innovative solutions, the company is helping combat these issues in ways that are working. You can get involved and find a transformative org near you at Standtogetheragainstpoverty.org.

To find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.

Courtesy of Verizon
True

If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Welp, the two skateboarding events added to the Olympics this year have wrapped up for the women's teams, and the results are historic in more ways than one.

Japan's Kokona Hiraki, age 12, just won the silver medal in women's park skateboarding, making her Japan's youngest Olympic medalist ever. Great Britain's Sky Brown, who was 12 when she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and is now 13, won the bronze, making her Great Britain's youngest medalist ever. And those two medal wins mean that two-thirds of the six medalists in the two women's skateboarding events are age 13 or younger. (The gold and silver medalists in women's street skateboarding, Japan's Momiji Nishiya and Brazil's Rayssa Leal, are also 13.)

That's mind-blowing.

Keep Reading Show less