I was a hospice nurse by profession for six years. I had multiple opportunities to participate in medical mission trips that led me to Honduras, Haiti, Kenya and Ethiopia. It was after I visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the first time that my life would forever be changed.
As I walked out of the airport, I was immediately greeted by women and children begging, “hey you, hey you,” followed by “money, money” and “help me!” Sadly, I know the harsh reality of what their begging means. Someone who releases them to find money from foreigners like me likely owns them.
While there, I continued to be surrounded by deplorable poverty—a poverty that’s hard to understand. War zones, famine, no water, disease and absolute filth. Many people had already pulled out of this area because it was far too dangerous. But somehow, someway, here I was, amid a dark, harsh reality. It was then that I met an orphaned street girl named Mulu. The moment she walked up to me and slipped her little hand in mine and I looked into her big brown eyes, I knew that in some way she belonged to me and I belonged to her.
Mulu’s reality became my own. I was surrounded by pregnant women and starving children. The sheer volume of desperation took me aback. These women were literally using their bodies to feed their children. Sex for a loaf of bread. They weren’t seeking sexual encounters for pleasure, it was the only way to save their children.
After visiting hut after hut, each telling the same story, I stumbled out of the village, sat down and wept. That moment was the beginning of Legacy. I could not go home to Columbus, Ohio, without inciting change. I realized that the woman who was selling her body for a loaf of bread in Ethiopia, was the same woman in Columbus, who was selling her body to feed her children. Two women—a world apart. Same problem, same heart.
I founded Legacy and Eleventh Candle Co. out of the desire to bring hope to women both in the United States and in Ethiopia who’ve been vulnerable to human trafficking, abuse, exploitation and addiction.
In buying our candles or choosing to be an ambassador, you’re helping connect these two worlds by sharing our mission and showing your community how to be a light in all this darkness.
While in Ethiopia, I realized part of creating life-long change for this community I was growing to love included helping to identify a solution that was sustainable. We needed:
Here in Columbus, we needed to identify a solution that was sustainable and profitable:
Since that first, life-changing trip to Africa, Legacy has helped build a school, create a soccer field for children, support a local co-op, and employ Ethiopian artisans. Most recently, Legacy has been alongside the Ethiopian Almaz Ashene Children and Family Support Center Association, whose focus is on early childhood education, working with the street children and empowering women in their own communities.
We’ve also launched a successful company—Eleventh Candle Co.
Every purchase helps support these programs and these people. Thank you!
- Amber Runyon