Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Lesson From Trafficked Victims

Ingredients For A Happy New Year
 by Iana Matei with Pam Pyne

              I say it all the time, "I wish you a happy New Year."  But what exactly does that mean? The girls from the shelter and I made some discoveries during this Christmas season that stand a good chance to move us forward into more happiness in the coming year.
            As Christmas approached, the mood in the shelter turned from one of relative calm to bickering and backbiting.  It went something like this:
            “It’s not my turn to clean the bathroom and I don’t want to.” 
            “Iana, she keeps borrowing my clothes…”
            “You have all these rules for us because you don’t want us to have any fun…”
            “At least when we were with the pimps we got to drink beer and wine and go to the clubs…”
            “She keeps putting my things somewhere and I can’t find them…”
            They went on and on throughout the afternoon. Their voices rose and the complaining and fighting intensified.
            Finally, I’d had all I could take. “STOP IT!” My voice rose above the others. “Just because you’ve been hurt, doesn’t make you the center of the universe.”  I lowered my voice slightly. “Come here, I want to show you something.”
            I brought an envelope out of my pocket.
            “What is she doing? Why is she showing us her mail? Like we care?”
            I opened it and pulled out a picture of several attractive girls surrounding a large bin of clothing. Each girl held up an item and smiled at the camera. Their eyes shined, as if they were happy.
            “Who are they?” Andrea asked.
            “They’re girls from the US.”
            “So, what do they have to do with us, why are you showing us that picture?”
            “I’m showing you their picture because they collected a lot of stylish clothing that they’re sending to all of you.”
            “Do they know us?”
            “No, they don’t know you.”
            “Then why did they do it?”
            “They did it because they heard about you and they wanted to share.”
            “Why would they want to share with us if they don’t even know us?”
            “The way you’ve been acting, I have no idea.” I turned and left them with the social workers for the rest of the day.
            When I arrived the next morning, the house was clean and the girls were sorting through some clothes that had come for them some time back but were put away because they were too big. One girl brought boxes from the closet under the staircase another sorted out the nicest items, yet another girl ironed and a couple of girls neatly folded and placed the clothing into bundles according to size.
            I shook my head. “What are you doing?”
            “We’ve called the home where the elder people stay. We’re going there tomorrow to take these clothes. The lady on the phone sounded happy that we’re coming.”
            I walked toward the back of the house past the living room and on into the kitchen. “What are you baking and where did you get the flour?” I asked the girls as they placed dough onto the baking sheets. I knew we were nearly out when I had left the day before.
            “We used our cigarette money. We’re baking sweets and taking them to the orphanage.”
            I nearly choked. “What happened to you?”
“We saw the pictures of the American girls and said, ‘If those girls who don't know us and live so far away can do something nice for us, then surely, we can do something for the people we live around.  Once we started, it became fun.” Alina smiled up at me and winked. “After all, we’re not the center of the universe, you know.”
As she turned her back to me and placed more dough on the baking sheet, I recognized this moment as one that offered us secure passage into a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Root Cause Of Child Vulnerability To Human Trafficking (continued)

by Iana Matei with Pam Pyne

(continued from December 6, 2010)

The root cause of children being lured by human traffickers isn’t poverty. It’s dysfunctional families living in the midst of poverty.  Iana Matei

When slave traders, transported 18 year old Sylvia, a virgin, from Romania to Italy with the intension of selling her into prostitution, the role her family played in her heroic escape illustrates this point.

Review from last week:  Sylvia’s widowed mother can’t afford to send her brilliant daughter on to higher education. An elderly woman from the small Romanian village where she and her seven children live offers to send Sylvia out to Italy where her own son and daughter have opened a restaurant. The woman assures Sylvia’s mother that in two years, Sylvia will make enough money to come back and attend one of Romania’s best schools.  When Sylvia arrives in Italy, she is made to share a room with the son. After dodging his advances all night, the next morning, she discovers there is no restaurant and the daughter of the elderly woman exposes the real motivation for bringing Sylvia to Italy.

      “Before you can start making money for yourself, you’ll need to pay us back for your trip out of Romania. You didn’t think that came for free did you?  There are several men around here who will enjoy a girl like you enough to pay well.  You’ll need to pay us back first, then after that, you can keep the money for yourself.”
      Sylvia considered running from the house at night while the brother and sister slept. Where could she go? She didn’t speak Italian and the traffickers had taken her documents.  She’d need to play things smart. She began flirting with the son.
      “Can I rub your shoulders tonight? I can’t have sex with you yet because I’m in the middle of my period.  But in a few days, it’ll be OK. I’d rather my first time be with you, someone I know.”
      That night, when the son had fallen asleep, Sylvia took his cell phone from the nightstand and went into the bathroom. Quickly, she dialed her mother’s number in Romania. Her mother’s sleepy voice answered.
    Sylvia whispered into the phone,  “Momma, I’m in trouble. I’m not going to work in the restaurant like they said. They want me to have sex with strangers and give them the money afterwards.”
       Her mother sucked in her breath. “Are you OK? Have they hurt you? Do you know the name of the street the house is on? I’ll call the police here and see if they can call the police in Italy and get you out of there. Don’t panic. Act like you’re cooperating and I’ll try to find a way to help you. Remember, we love you here, no matter what happens to you there.”
      The next morning, Sylvia pretended to go along with the plan.
      “Could you give me a complete list of expenses that I have to pay back? I want to get to work on this as soon as possible so I can pay it off and start to earn money for myself. I saw so many nice things in the shop windows as we came through town.”
      “What is the address here? I need to know how to pronounce the name of the street in case I get lost. I want to practice saying it.”
      She walked around the house all day rolling the double r’s off her tongue.
       That night she said to the son casually, “Only another couple of days and we can be together, then after that, I can start working. I think I’ll do well with this. I’ll have you paid off in no time and then I’ll explore Italy. I’ll know the language by then and I might even make a few friends.”
      When the son fell asleep, Sylvia took his cell phone off the nightstand and snuck into the bathroom with it again. This time she dialed the same number for emergency that she would have dialed in Romania. “Dear God, please let it be the same number here!”
       Sylvia let out a sigh of relief when the woman on the other end of the line said something rushed in Italian. Since the Romanian and Italian languages are similar, Sylvia and the operator had an opaque understanding of one another. Sylvia gave the woman the address where she was staying.
    “Problema, Problema!” Sylvia kept repeating.
      The woman understood enough to know that Sylvia needed help and she alerted the police. They arrived within 20 minutes and knocked on the door.
The daughter opened the door and stared at the police defiantly, her lips pursed tight and her eyes narrowed
“Why have you woke my household at this hour? What is this all about? You’ll wake the entire neighborhood if you’re not careful.”
       “What are you doing? Stop that!” she shouted as the police slapped handcuffs on her wrists and tossed her onto the corner armchair.
      “Stay there while we fetch your brother.” The daughter glanced at the door, hoping to make a run for it, but one look at the big burley policeman blocking the doorway convinced her to keep her seat.
      The other two police officers brushed past Sylvia and ran down the hall into the bedroom. One of the officers caught the brother’s foot as he attempted to climb out the window and dragged him back inside.
      “You’re under arrest for human trafficking and forced prostitution.” They cuffed the young man as he shouted, “This is all about discrimination, isn’t it? This is because we’re from Romania, isn’t it?  
      Sylvia watched as the officers stuffed both the brother and the sister into a patrol car. As the car lurched forward, Sylvia caught the eye of the sister and barely resisted the urge to stick out her tongue.

      Today, the elderly woman,  son and the daughter are all in jail awaiting trial. Sylvia has agreed to testify against them.
Iana’s shelter is covering Sylvia’s educational expenses making it possible for Sylvia to finish her education.
     While cleaver thinking aided Sylvia in her escape from her captors, her mother’s assurance that she wouldn’t be blamed or shunned for what happened to her motivated her efforts to escape.
      As parents, weather we are married, single, divorced, widowed, rich, poor or middle-class, the most effective protection against human trafficking we can offer a child stems from an atmosphere of love and stability in the home.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Taking the time to be thankful..... By: Joy Morris

I look around me and see family and friends and I see all the beautiful blessings that God has given me yet I hear others complaining about life and what they don’t have and how bad their life is. I ask myself….why is that? Why can’t we be happy with what God has given us? We waste so much time complaining and griping about what we want and don’t have and yet we lose sight of all that’s important.

So many families this year have lost a loved one. They will be spending Christmas alone. So many parents have lost a child. They don’t know where to turn or how their life will continue on. This could be our lives. We could have lost something so precious and dear to us. We could be homeless and without food in our stomachs. We could be six feet under the ground.

I’m not saying that what goes on in your life isn't as important as the people who have lost something, but I am saying that even if you’ve been through hard times and even if your still going through hard times, God has given you the willpower and the strength to continue on. We can still fight for what we want in life and still be happy and content. You may have had someone take something away from you that was so precious or you may be in a situation you need out of but the way to make your life better is not to complain or “wish” that things were better….it’s to take action and use the strength that God gave you to push forward and to create the life that brings Joy and happiness to you and everyone that surrounds you.

If you're in a situation that you need out of….take the steps to make that happen. If your gut is telling you that you don’t need to be in the situation you are in then you need to listen to it. Each and every one of us have problems and issues that we want to go away but if you do not take the time to really work hard and make it all disappear you will always be in the rut you're in now and you’ll do nothing more then complain like everyone else in the world. I want you to be the person who makes a difference in this world. Even if you feel you're only one person and you can’t make that difference you need to think again. Each voice can create a world of change if you just speak up and work hard to make that change happen.

If you take nothing else from what I’m saying tonight then take this….don’t stay in the life that leads to misery and self destruction. Stand up and fight for what is right and make your voice be heard. All it takes is one voice to make that positive difference in every person’s life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Message To Victims

by Joy Morris

     There are so many times when things don’t go the way we planned for them to go. We feel as though it’s time to give up or to just give in. The sad thing is I believe our government sometimes behaves this way.
     When it comes to human trafficking, the pedophiles are doing wrong. A trafficker robs a girl of her innocence and vulnerability then he looks back over his shoulder to see if anyone notices.  The numbers of children trafficked into the Untied States from other parts of the world indicate that we’re not noticing enough. Are we giving in or giving up?
     In looking on the statistics for this site, I noticed that we have a lot of foreign readership from places like The Ukraine, Russia and Viet Nam. The thought crossed my mind, could some of these readers be trafficked victims?

Message To Victims

     Have you ever felt like just giving up because you have been the victim?  I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to give up OR give in. I believe that even after you’ve been through the worst nightmare of your life you can still pick up the pieces and turn your life around.
     You see everything that you do in your life from this point forward is a choice. You have a choice to wake up, a choice to put your clothes on, a choice to eat something and even a choice to keep going. These people who try to take your dignity from you want you to just ball up and wither away. So if you choose to do this then you have let them win. You remain a victim because you choose to. You don’t have to be placed in that category. YOU ARE A REAL HUMAN BEING. Someone with feelings, a family, and even a heart.
     Don’t give them what they want!! Make the choice to pick the pieces up and put them all back together. It’s going to take time. You will have to do this piece by piece by piece. But, you can eventually complete the puzzle.
    Then you’ll be a testament to other girls and other victims. You’ll have a story with the potential to save other girl’s lives. If you go out and make other girls aware of the dangers and the schemes these pedophiles pull then you’ve turned your title around from victim to victorious. You have not only possibly saved another girl’s life, but you’ve taught them that amidst despair comes triumph. So if you have been one of these girls, take some time to sit back and to decide how YOU will be the turning point in this “giving up and giving in” society. World change starts with us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Root Cause Of Child Vulnerability To Human Traffickers

by Iana Matei with Pam Pyne

         The root cause of children being lured by human traffickers isn’t poverty. It’s dysfunctional families living in the midst of poverty.  Iana Matei

       When slave traders, transported 18 year old Sylvia from Romania to Italy with the intension of selling her into prostitution, the role her family played in her heroic escape illustrates my point,

     Sylvia had lived her entire life in a small Romanian village with her widowed mother and six siblings.  While Sylvia’s mother struggled to provide materially for her children, she provided ample lessons in love, self-respect and respect for others. 
     It distressed Sylvia’s mother when Sylvia wasn’t able to go on to higher education.  Sylvia received excellent grades and her mother felt she could go far with further training. But Sylvia’s mother had no money.
     An older woman from the village approached Sylvia's mother.
     “I noticed Sylvia isn’t in school. Why not?”
     “There's no money to send her.”
     “I may have a solution for you. “
     The older woman leaned in and smiled.  “ You know my son and my daughter moved to Italy a couple of years ago. They come back often to visit. You’ve seen them around. My daughter married and opened a restaurant that caters to Romanians traveling into Italy. She needs a girl who speaks Romanian to wait the tables. Sylvia could do that job.”
     Sylvia’s mother had noticed the son and the daughter coming and going around the village. Judging from the car they drove, their restaurant must be quite successful. The woman’s living conditions had also improved. Her house was painted, her fence was fixed and she wore a new coat.
     “They’ll be here next week. Sylvia could ride back to Italy with them and stay with my daughter and her family. She could work in the restaurant and send money home. After two years, she would have enough to come back to Romania and go to school.”
     Sylvia’s mother trusted what this woman said. She had known the woman her entire life and she’d watched her children as they grew up.
     The following week, Sylvia left with the daughter and the son and headed for Italy. When they got there, the daughter showed Sylvia to her room. The son was already there and the room held only one bed.
     “I don’t want to sleep with him. I’m a virgin and I want to stay that way.”
     “It’s the only bed here. Take it or leave it.”
     Sylvia dodged the young man’s advances all night. The next morning Sylvia received a call from the young man’s mother back in Romania.
     “You traveled all the way to Italy with my son and now you won’t have sex with him? You selfish girl. He’ll explode! Have sex with my son and get on with it.”
     That afternoon, the daughter and the son revealed their plans for Sylvia. She would sexually satisfy several men each day and give them the money she earned to pay for her trip to Italy.

(Continued next week)