According to Equity Now, nearly 21 million adults and children are trapped in the dark world of sex trafficking.
Two former victims found their safe haven in Hattiesburg.
Sothea Theoung and Rotha Kao of Cambodia survived and their road to survival started with the help of Psychologist Beverly Smallwood of Grace Temple Church in Hattiesburg.
“So she came to me about six months ago and asked me if I would be interested in training the guys,” Topher’s Brand President John McCarter said.
McCarter said for three months Theoung and Kao trained at Topher’s Rock 'N' Roll Grill for something more than burgers and fries.
“To go back and do a restaurant to provide more jobs to get people out of the sex trade,” he said.
Currently there are three Topher’s restaurants in the Hattiesburg-Laurel area, but the local food chain plans to open another restaurant in Cambodia.
“Our whole mission is 'Love God, love people, go change the world' and this fits into our mission,” McCarter said.
“And ultimately we will have our goal of helping those people in sex slave trafficking make enough money to not do that,” said Ian Shows, the general manager of Topher’s in Oak Grove.
“Their calling is much greater than this restaurant," said Ben Hernandez, the general manager of Topher’s off Broadway Drive. "That’s really inspiring for all of us to know that they came in here, run business with us."
McCarter said he hopes the Cambodia location will open within a year.