Hello Rewind: WU alum helps sex trafficking survivors by making laptop cases
Hello Rewind actively fights sex trafficking through work with foreign sex trafficking survivors in the United States. Lin’s company provides victims of sex trafficking with employment, language skills and vocational training.
The survivors work with other employees to turn old, much-loved T-shirts into chic personalized laptop sleeves.
After getting a new laptop, Lin began searching for the perfect laptop case, but was dissatisfied with the options.
“I found I had all of these T-shirts sitting in the bottom of my drawer that I no longer wear and I was thinking [whether] people had this problem too, you know if they had all these things in the back of their closet that they never wear,” Lin said.
Lin created Hello Rewind in an effort to solve both this problem and the problem of sex trafficking. For $49, Hello Rewind will transform an old T-shirt into a custom laptop sleeve. This process is known as upcycling, a new form of recycling that has increased in prevalence recently.
Traditional recycling, or downclycing, differs from upcycling in that downcycling turns products into items of lesser quality while upcycling converts objects into products of greater value.
“A good example is recycled toilet paper,” Lin said. “You are taking previous paper products, which are good paper products, and you are making them into [lesser] paper products. Upcycling is the concept of taking something existing and making it into a better product.”
Initially, Lin launched Hello Rewind for these environmental reasons. After contacting Restore NYC, a non-profit organization in New York, Lin expanded her company’s goal.
Restore NYC provides holistic care to survivors of sex trafficking, predominantly Chinese and Korean women who have been trafficked to the United States under false pretenses; the organization also contains a long-term safe house for these survivors, which provides survivors of sex trafficking with food, clothing and basic necessities. Without these provisions, the survivors will often turn to prostitution out of pure economic necessity.
Lin works with Restore NYC to provide further care for these women.
Lin believes that this period of healing at Restore NYC must be followed up by another method of rehabilitation. She aims to build off of the care sex trafficking survivors are already receiving by helping them become self-sufficient.
Lin said that employing these women to work at Hello Rewind has proven beneficial. The company provides the survivors with the opportunity to practice their language skills in a natural environment as opposed to a classroom. In addition, survivors begin to feel a sense of pride in their work, something many of them have never felt before.
The company also focuses on spreading awareness about the issue of sex trafficking in the United States.
“People think that trafficking is a travesty that happens in other countries, but it is happening in our backyards,” Lin said. “Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it’s a shame that modern day slavery is still happening in the United States. People shouldn’t be treated like this anymore.”
Lin added, “Our message is about renewal, how we renew discarded things into everyday life, how we renew the lives of women who have been broken.”
While Hello Rewind promotes an ecological and social message, Lin also intends to make a statement about social entrepreneurship in general.
“What we are trying to do is create a social enterprise blending the commercial capitalist side of a for-profit with the altruistic do-gooder side of the non-profit, so it is a blended model,” Lin said.
As the face of social justice is changing, Lin hopes that Hello Rewind will set an example of the role social entrepreneurship can play and the impact it can have.
Lin stressed that students have many options after graduation—not just business consulting or being a starving artist.
“There’s a whole rainbow of choices and things that people can do to help bring value and meaning into the world,” she said.