It was pouring rain and a perfect time for snuggling up with a cup of tea and good book. I love the rain. I love to watch it fill the street with small rivers. I love the sound as it hits the roof and drips to the ground. And, oh, the smell – fresh and clean. All this while safe, warm and dry.
I held a small paper-back in my hand. A unique page-turner, opening the window to a world foreign to my own. Story after story – women, girls, and boys – showing life lived – but not of their choosing. My mind struggled to see the invisible faces, shivering on another cold and wet rain filled day – selling body and soul to survive.
Human trafficking. Forced prostitution. Indentured services.
My expectation of snuggles and warmth turned to tears matching the downpour that day.
It’s been several years since that rainy afternoon. The small paperback stirred in me an urgency to learn more. A seed was planted, a thought continually hovered in the back of my mind…be more aware. The reality of human trafficking is daunting – so many tricks and cover-ups. Evil lurks and I still ask myself, “what can just one person do?”
Fear and doubt can paralyze and render us useless. While, compassion, faith, and purpose can turn paralysis into confident mobilization.
Not sure of my initial efforts, I decided to look into volunteering at the Pregnancy Resource Center here in my city. This organization gave excellent training tools for breaking my shell of fear. I learned needed skills to listen deeper, speak patiently often, and offer compassion unconditionally. For nearly 14 years, I crossed the invisible border from my little world to another as I engaged with young women experiencing critical life struggles. Whether the new immigrant, the single mom, the mentally ill, or, the occasional trafficked young woman, my heart opened toward real lives damaged by circumstances spiraling out of control. The greatest gift would then bear witness of transformation toward hope. This was my training ground. A springboard to other pursuits.
Meanwhile, the business of human trafficking continued its ugly destruction. In recent years, educating the public of these crimes has become essential and more aggressive. On-the-ground servants work sacrificially in rescuing the vulnerable and exposing the perpetrators.
It’s taken a long while for the public to see and understand human trafficking. But unique efforts are helping bring that awareness to the front, such as, Starfish Project jewelry.
Starfish Project was birthed as a result of one person’s desire “to do something.” Jewelry became that avenue for hope. Precious jewels for precious lives.
I had the rare privilege to taste-and-see a young friend in action while visiting her in Asia. It was our Christmas holiday. Bearing small gifts, my friend and her national partner invited me to shadow while they visited a few businesses posing as massage parlors and salons, for example.
At each location, we were welcomed with cheerful greetings. The women ranged from very young, to a handful near my age. They were family for each other and, even though somewhat shy with the Foreigner, they were kind and naturally curious.
My friend and her partner were genuine in seeking out and building friendships with exploited women. I am reminded of how Jesus also seeks us in a very similar fashion, not wanting any to perish, while bringing compassion, hope and tools for renewed life.
Building Trust …
…the exploited will make their first step from slavery to freedom.
When a woman decides to take that leap of faith and accept Starfish Project’s offer of Hope, she begins her process of healing in these ways:
- Safe Housing
- Vocational Training
- Career Opportunities
- Reach the Exploited
- Health Care
- United with Families
- Educate Children
- Facilitate Empowerment
Faces no longer obscure, but clear and beautiful. Dull eyes have become bright with hope and a future. Whether in Asia, a refugee camp, a housekeeper, or mani-pedi worker in my own city – human trafficking cannot be ignored.
My efforts seem small in comparison to the bigger picture. But, I won’t minimize the effects one piece of jewelry makes for each of these women at Starfish Project. As the program grows and develops, more lives are impacted.
We never know what our efforts will mean in the larger picture. But, we can be assured, our efforts are not wasted.
What has impacted your life for change? Share with us in the comments.