A Winnipeg ministry is working directly with exploited women to help them find freedom physically and spiritually through the Good News of Jesus.

Shona Stewart founded the ministry Setting the Captives Free (STCF) a few years ago after returning from a health leave. Before the health issues she had run Dignity House since 2012; a ministry which provided women caught up in the sex trade a safe place to stay and get out of that line of work.

Stewart herself was an exploited woman, caught up in prostitution until 1999. That's when she went to an Alpha Course and met Jesus. She then went to Briercrest College were she completed a BA in Biblical Studies and an AA in TESOL. Since then, she's worked tirelessly to help other women.

Today, that includes running the Overflow, a women's boutique thrift store on River Avenue in Osborne Village. The profits from the store help support the ministry of STCF.

"[The store] has been an avenue for which we randomly have women walk in who disclose they have been or are in the sex trade -- that's their words," she says. When meeting these women Stewart not only helps clothe them, if needed, but introduces them to programming she has available including a trauma wellness program that she created.

"The program has eight different workbooks and workshops that I do working on their relapse prevention; motivation; stress management; communication; conflict resolution; cognitive behavioural therapy; trauma."

Stewart also provides counselling for the women as well as a church service on Sundays.

When thinking about something like Manitoba's Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Stewart says that awareness is just the first step.

"Once you're aware, you can pray. Anybody and everybody can pray, right? But I say pray for the end of demand." Many of the women Stewart meets are coerced into the sex trade by people they know. She says that educating the people who pay for these services is likely the best way to fight back.

"When you say, 'end human trafficking' it's not just about the traffickers, it's about the people who are buying the sex from young girls and women. They both need help."

Stewart hopes that better education programs for people arrested for buying these services will result in lower repeat offenders.