Our Interview with Andrea Powell, Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate

We love Andrea in The Amira in twilight, which she wore to the Trust Conference where she was a panel moderator. She's pictured here with Monique Villa, the CEO of Thompson Reuters Foundation, as well as panelist Snezana Vuckovic.
Being an entrepreneur is incredibly challenging, and working in the anti-trafficking world can also be very draining. What are some of your strategies for self-care and rejuvenation?

Yes, being an entrepreneur means stress. You have to know how to build your support network of allied entrepreneurs and co-leaders in your space.  You also have to be able to see the warning signs of going down the path of burn out when you work in a space that is inherently built around lifting someone else out of exploitation and abuse, such as in the field of serving survivors of human trafficking. I have been working in this space as a founder for 14 years. After just launching my newest nonprofit and soon-to-be benefit corporation, Karana Rising, I know I’ll need to follow my own advice if I’m going to continue to serve survivors. Here are a few practices that keep me going:

  • Knowing my personal red flags (e.g., are you not getting enough sleep, are you drinking more coffee than usual, are you feeling more annoyed by little things?).
  • Making designated time each day to reflect, journal on my entrepreneur experiences, write out the stories, power walk, cook. Basically, I make an hour a day for this and rarely do I go off this path, because if I do then I see the “red flags".
  • Getting enough sleep is tough for me, so lately I listen to meditation music to help me fall asleep. Or, I take a warm bath and use hot almond oils.
  • I have a tribe of women entrepreneurs (and this one guy named Ben) who I can share with and spend time growing together. They inspire me in their work.
  • I read 20 minutes a day of non-work related materials (I love feminist philosophy and a recent favorite is Kate Manne’s “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny").
You're an excellent cook and incredible vegan baker. I know many women who struggle with finding the time to make healthy food for themselves. What advice would you give these busy ladies around incorporating cooking into their already saturated lives?

First, thank you! I so love creating healthy meals and sharing them with those I love.

In my work with survivors of trafficking, I most enjoyed coming up with budget-friendly, vegan recipes that were fast and easy to share with these brave young girls.  I found we can often learn how to heal ourselves and take care of ourselves if we better understand our bodies and what we feed us.  It is a form of self-love to me when I intentionally create healthy meals. Actually, when I learned about the link between what we eat and how to overcome anxiety and depression, I knew that I had make healthy food a part of my “entrepreneurs must” list. Here are some ideas:

  1. Make sauces in advance each week (or two weeks) and place them in same re-usable jars so you always know what you have and what you need. This means, when you get home, you can throw together those vegan tacos and your mole sauce and salsa are already (saving time on all that tomato chopping)
  2. Seriously. Go to the farmers market and make sure you have what you need for the week. I am very concerned about ethical food, so I like to get to know my farmer’s market vendors and ask them what is fresh or coming up.
  3. Make a little “menu” for your week and have that viewable so you stay on target.
  4. Use your recyclable bags and containers and seriously pack your lunch with good food like the fresh hummus I know you are dying to make from scratch! Seriously, try to pack a lunch or have healthy snacks so you don’t end up eating that sugar-bomb brownie or chips that will later just make you feel yucky.

Some ideas for sauces:

Sour Raspberry Dressing

Juice three lemons and crush a box of raspberries or strawberries in with a fork, add about ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ½ cup balsamic vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of agave nectar, pepper to taste. You can even add some rosemary sprigs in the mix so that the dressing takes on their flavor. You don’t need much of this dressing b/c it’s so flavorful and really quite light. (note, this also tastes great spread on toast with greens and cheese (or vegan cheese).

 Fresh Tomato Sauce / Soup

This is can function as a sauce for pasta, pizza, or tomato bread soup

10 to 12 ripe tomatoes (gutted), 5 to 6 garlic cloves, about 12 large basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste, splash of red wine (maybe two tablespoons), about ¼ cup olive oil.  First, sauté the garlic in the oil with the salt and pepper. Then, as they brown, add the tomatoes in, finally add the basil all chopped fine in the mix. Simmer on low until ready.  You can store this in jars and it will keep for a couple of weeks. 

 Avocado Cilantro Sauce

Two avocados peeled and pitted, juice of two limes, juice of one lemon, four gloves diced garlic, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, one green chili pepper. Just blend it all together and add fresh cilantro in as your blend until it’s smooth and really light.  This is great on rice, veggies, as a sauce on veggie tacos, etc.

 Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Juice of two lemons, 1/3 cup agave nectar, ½ cup siracha sauce, 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. This is all just mixed together and put in a mason jar. I love it on Chinese dumplings, udon noodle soups, and stir-fry. It’s spicy, so make it at your spice level.

Our world is deeply interconnected, and the choices we make each day have tremendous impact on people and our planet. What are some of your daily practices around honoring people and the planet in your consumptive choices?

I can feel the impact of my choices on those around me, but I think it takes a certain intentionality to decide the kind of footprint we want to leave behind us when we are gone. First, it’s about the people in our daily lives. I believe that in order to do good in the world, we have to look to the stranger next to us on the train with the same level of kindness that we would, say, a survivor of trafficking or war. 

Second, it is where we spend our money. I like to patron local places where I know the management care about social justice, like Emissary in D.C.. I also like to get to know the service staff so that I know they are treated with respect and paid fairly.  I look at the diversity of who is employed, too.  When I shop, I look at ethical brands where I know local artists are being showcased and celebrated. 

Finally, just as important as honoring your body by what you consume, it is also how we honor the earth we all live on together. Ethical farming, sustainable environmental practices, and fair wages for farmers are all key elements of that one can research when thinking about where and from whom they purchase the food that will feed themselves and sustain generations to come.

How would you describe your personal style? And how to you incorporate your values in your clothing choices?

Oh, I like to mix it up. I like funky little accessories and often make my own jewelry or wear the jewelry made by the amazing young survivors at Karana Rising or The Giving Keys. I also love knowing that I’m supporting local artists and seek out locally made bags and brands of clothing. I do wear a lot of black, but that means I add layers of scarves, hats, fun knee-highs, and colorful boots or shoes.  I like my style to tell the story of my mood, so there is just a lot of colorful little accents all the time.  For example, for Gratitude Day (otherwise known as Thanksgiving), I wore print gold and black tunic by Symbology (hand printed in India by women working for a living wage) together with black tights and boots.

I know that you are working on some exciting new endeavors to support women. We'd love to hear more and learn how we can support!

This fall, I founded my second endeavor, Karana Rising. We support teen and young adult women who are overcoming exploitation and human trafficking.  We offer young survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking weekly survivor-created workshops around health, wellness (yoga, meditation, journaling), personal budgeting and finance.  Our survivor-led team focuses on engaging these young survivors in creating ethical fashion jewelry and travel-sized personal wellness products. Each year, we will train and employee up to 12 survivors to teach mobile yoga and meditation classes and host wellness conversations and events throughout the city. Our vision is simple: survivors of human trafficking are resilient and know what it takes to overcome and lead lives full of self-love and compassion. Now, more than ever, the D.C. community needs what these amazing young women survivors of human trafficking have to offer.  Our work is by survivors and for anyone who is interested in starting a new chapter of daily wellness for themselves and their community.  Learn more as we grow at www.karanarising.com or @karanarising.

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