Jan 15, 2015
Nicole* contributes today's post. Nicole was a victim of human trafficking and is now a thriving survivor.
Human trafficking could be happening right in front of you without your realizing it. I know, because though I lived and worked out in the open, no one knew the truth about me, a girl named Nicole.*
I was born in Ghana in West Africa. My family was not rich, but education was important. So when my aunt’s friend promised to take me—like one of my older sisters—to America for a better education, I was eager to go. This “friend” was my trafficker, and I was 10 years old.
Once we were in her home in Togo, she changed my name to Sophie and put me to work selling candies. A year and a half later, she prepared documents for my visa. I complied with everything she asked me to say and do at the United States embassy. Once in America, I babysat a younger child. But when I was 13, my trafficker decided I should work at an African braiding shop like my sister and the other girls who had come with us. I had to say I was 18 and give her all my earnings.
Soon I was working all day, seven days a week. I was forced to tell my family in Ghana I was in school and everything was great. I was too afraid to tell anyone what was happening. And shop customers never asked questions that might have mattered—not even some who were suspicious when year after year, as if I never aged, I dutifully told them I was 18.
In September 2007 police rescued us after an anonymous call, and the federal government, working with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, coordinated placement for me in the unaccompanied refugee minor program. Bethany Christian Services would provide a fresh start for us under the age of 18, and soon two people from Bethany came and flew with us to Michigan.
Bethany found a school, a great foster family, and counseling for me. They visited my foster home monthly to ensure my safety and that my educational and personal needs were met, and they helped me grow socially and gain independent skills. I graduated from high school diploma three years later and began living on my own. I received an associates’ degree two years after that, and currently I am majoring in nursing at a Michigan university. I have grown to be a strong, brave, independent, and motivated young woman, and I am in contact with my family. But many others remain in labor trafficking situations or need help after rescue.
Here are two ways you can help. First, intentionally interact with young individuals who could be trafficking victims, paying close attention to their nonverbal cues. Putting forth the effort to communicate with them might help them confide in you though they fear their traffickers. Second, assist rescued youths by serving as foster parents or donating funds through programs or organizations like Bethany Christian Services to provide services for them.
Words cannot express my gratitude to God and Bethany Christian Services, but so many victims of human labor trafficking are in need. Will you do what you can to help them?
*Name has been changed for the privacy of the individual.
Bethany believes in the Sanctity of Human Life for ALL children, whether they are unborn, refugee children fleeing for their lives, special needs children awaiting adoption, or children in foster care awaiting the love of a permanent family. Leaving aside the politics of immigration, Bethany will always work to protect and support vulnerable children as our motivation behind all our work is fulfilling Matthew 22:39. Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If you are interested in helping a child like Nicole find hope and security as a foster care family, please click here.
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