Twenty girls, two different rooms.


Two small rooms. The one is empty, except for the sparse furniture, and intends to tell the story of 20 girls who were trafficked from Ghana and Togo to New Jersey. They were forced to work 14 hours a day, braiding hair with no pay. According to the judge who sentenced their traffickers, the girls’ conditions were harsh and cruel. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to try and breathe in this room under those circumstances. (Photo: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger)

The other room is also small, but crammed full of 20 young girls, giggling. They are students at City Harvest School of Hairdressing and Beauty on the outskirts of a Nairobi slum. I still remember their confident voices as they told me about their dreams after graduation. These girls walk into this room every morning, full of hope.

One room existed to exploit; one exists to empower. One raped, the other births futures. One nurtured fear, the other nurtures freedom. One existed to diminish; the other is helping 20 (apparently now there are 30 students!) to flourish.

Question: Where was the last place where you have flourished?

  • Tina Francis

    I find I flourish two scenarios:

    When ‘I’ matter: In the company of strong women that see me for who I am today and the potential in future-me. It could be the passenger seat of a car, during worship, over coffee, road trips, conferences, over the phone. It could be sitting beside my grandmother or commuting on the skytrain. The physical space is usually just a backdrop. If someone trusts me enough to give me a responsibility because they think I make a valuable contribution.

    When I am inspired: It could be a Youtube video, a piece of art, a song, a saxophone riff on the street, Sunday morning at church or hearing someone’s encouraging story of beating the insurmountable odds. I can physically sense my metaphorical roots getting deeper and my flowers blooming.

    I can usually feel myself flourish. It’s a physical sensation. A warmth covers my body. A headrush. Because I know I just unlocked yet another mysterious door to my purpose.