Monday, October 18, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
I spent 8 years living in Romania where I worked with a humanitarian foundation serving abandoned children. In the late 1980s the world was shocked to see the situation inside Romanian orphanages. By the time I arrived in 1993, many of these children, approaching their teens, had left the orphanages for the streets.
They lived down under the manhole covers, beneath the street, huddled around sewer pipes for warmth. The cold and hunger weren’t their worst enemies. These proved to be men in shiny cars with dark tinted windows who pulled over and stared at the children. They would motion or point to a child. An adult or an older child would get out of the car and walk over and stand, huddled with him/her for a few minutes. The child would get into the car. The car would drive off and the child wouldn’t be heard from again for weeks, months, maybe never.
This was my introduction to child prostitution.
These children, were promised food, a bed and clothes. What they weren’t told was that they would have to have sex with 10 or 20 people a day and they might be forced to travel to a different country where they didn’t know the language and their documents would be taken from them. They'd be at the mercy of pimps.
I saw this happen and I was unable to do a thing about it. In 1998 I met Iana Matei, another humanitarian-aid worker who assisted street children. I was drawn to her immediately. A short, pretty, blonde woman who never stopped talking, Iana had lived in Australia for 10 years where she trained as a psychologist.
. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Iana not only knew her way around the complicated, ever changing Romanian governmental system (something it takes years if ever for a westerner to comprehend) but she was also getting things done. By this time, because of the corruption, many western NGO's had come and gone.
Iana had what it took to hold her own against all of this. In the last three years I lived in Romania, she established a safe house for girls who had been forced into prostitution. Iana was also instrumental in the conviction and imprisonment of some of the most notorious pimps of minor aged victims.
As the years went by, I returned to the States and resumed my life. What I had seen while in Romania haunted me. I still wanted to do something.
I called Iana one day. She told me she was trying to build a hotel where at-risk girls could work. I wanted to help her. Assisting Iana with this blog is my way of contributing. It’s not that Iana needs me to enable her to write a blog. She’s perfectly capable of doing that herself, and she probably would do it...if she weren’t busy rescuing girls and doing things that only Iana can do. Her story is worth telling, and it’s my honor to help her do so. Read it with your heart.
Posted by Iana Matei at 9:36 PM