January of last year I spent a week in Chisinau, Moldova. Ground zero of most of the current human trafficking pandemic.
If I didn’t understand the sanctity of life and humanness before then, I did by the time I boarded a plane back to the US.
I am speaking out because all life is precious. All life is sacred.
Over 200 young girls were kidnapped and taken hostage in Nigeria. Many of these girls have already been sold into slavery. And the terrorist group holding them is saying they’ll sell the rest.
This is maddening and outrageous. Every single one of these girls is sacred. She is a creation – I don’t care what your religious views are!
Image credit: Ami Vitale, Alexia Foundation
Last night I sat in my hotel room trying to find words to feelings my brain wanted to wash aside. I couldn’t. For all my effort I soon found myself frustrated and exhausted and decided to get sleep.
As you drive though Chișinău it is very easy to forget that you are in an impoverished country. It looks nothing like the images of poverty you see in Africa or Haiti or even Mexico. The people in the capitol seem to live normal lives. The rushing from here to there, cars narrowly dodging other cars and the cable cars that make up rush hour traffic all day long. Imagine the traffic on the streets of NYC but the streets only being one lane each direction and no lines on the road……yeah.
Yesterday our team divided into four teams and visited the homes of girls who had either been trafficked, are single moms, and/or at risk of being trafficked. The lives of the girls I visited with fellow team members Nicole and Michelle were vastly different than the others stories we heard from our other team members.
The girls we visited were single moms living in rural villages about a 12 miles outside of Chișinău. Roads filled with pot holes, cows, chicken, citizens, and the occasional dog.
The first girl we visited is a 28 year old single mom who lives with her father, mother, brother, & her 10 month old son in a flat about the size of a cheap hotel room in the US. She shares a small room with her son and brother.
She met us outside and was full of smiles. She graciously prepared tea and cake for us, and to be honest….this was some of the best cake I’ve ever had. I was struck by her generosity because this would have meant a good deal of money for her to spend to make the cake for us. The poor in Moldova earn at best $7000 a year, the families we visited yesterday would earn around $1000 a year. That’s A YEAR. So I know that was out of a gracious and loving heart.
When she discovered she was pregnant her boyfriend gave her an ultimatum to either abort the baby or he was gone. She chose the life of her dear, cuddly son. This is not a rare occasion. We heard many stories of girls who are told by their boyfriends to make the choice between them or the baby. For some I can’t imagine this is an easy decision. To choose their baby will often times mean they have little to no financial support for themselves let alone themselves and their newborn children.
The second young lady we visited is 22 and lives with her 3 children (boys: 5, 3, & 10 months), and her sister and her 3 month old daughter. To get into their house from the yard you enter a room that serves as laundry, kitchen, & bathroom. A gas stove top stands against one wall with a propane tank in the room to provide gas to heat it. The room is little more than the size of a large bathroom.
The rest of the house is divided by heavy blankets in doorways that help keep what little warmth they have in the rooms.
They like all of their neighbors (I would assume) have no water in the house. They are fortunate to have a well in their yard, but we saw many wells along the roads we drove and women carrying a single, often times plastic pail to get water.
It’s been a harsh reality check. During a team debrief yesterday we confessed our feelings with certain words that could only be used, of how we complain about the entitlements we feel we deserve and don’t get at home, while other girls who are not only living in deplorable surroundings but have also endured being trafficked for sex & labor and/or have chosen to raise their children instead of the possibility of some financial security.
I realize this post is very long and I’m thankful that you took the time to read the stories of these young ladies. They are just like you and me. They laugh, the cry, the cuddle their children against their breast, but they live with little hope. Over the next day I so it’s my intention to share with you how Beginning of Life (the organization we’re working with on the ground) is working with them.
With that I bid you good night, errrr good morning as it’s now 12:10 am. Thank you again. Much love from all of us in Moldova. ❤
In 24 hours I will be on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic. This is my first international journey. I never thought I’d take a step as large as this without my husband at my side, but here I am taking it, going as I feel God has called me.
It hasn’t yet hit me that I’m making this journey. That I will board a plane tomorrow evening and jet off to a country that has known strife, division, poverty, and in some ways destruction.
As I was on my lunch break yesterday I saw a homeless man walking down the side walk. As I watched him I realized that I’m not prepared for what I’ll see or for what I’ll experience. I’ve read stories, but reading isn’t the same as experiencing. I’m not prepared.
Over the next week I’ll be sharing stories of my time in Moldova. I’ll share how God is working.
Please continue to pray for our team. We’ve had a couple of ladies get sick in the last couple days. Pray for protection. Pray for the girls and families we will meet. Pray that we will have open and sensitive hearts.
Thank you for everything.
I sat there staring at the numbers in front of me….
1 in 35
Such a small number yet so hard to grasp the magnitude that exists in such a ratio.
1 in 35 people in Moldova are victims of human trafficking.
These numbers make me uncomfortable. Make me sick to my stomach. They leave me depleted. They leave me ripped apart.
I think of the 84 people that work for our company and quickly do the math in my head that means at least two of my co-workers would be part of this statistic.
With such numbers, chances are everyone in Moldova knows someone affected by trafficking. It’s their daughter, sister, cousin, neighbor, the shy girl in the pew at church.
I’m trying to reconcile these facts in my brain. I can’t seem to.
Human trafficking, slavery – for that is what it actually is – doesn’t seem to translate well into our 21st century mindset. Not after slavery has been abolished for over a century.
Our coffee beans and cacao beans for our chocolate magically get harvested or at the very least are harvested by workers who get paid fairly.
Prostitutes are just girls who don’t think well enough about themselves and so they sell their bodies.
That’s why we have fair trade coffee & chocolate. Why a piece of us breaks when we hear of sweat shops across the world paying pennies to those who’ve worked 18+ hour days.
And prostitutes…yes, while some sell their bodies because they can make a quick buck (or 300), many have no choice in the matter.
Lest you think this isn’t a problem in the US, between 2008 & 2010 the Dept. of Justice opened 2,515 cases for human trafficking – an average of 3.5 cases a day! And of course this is only cases that were opened. It doesn’t speak to the vastness of predators who didn’t get caught. This isn’t a problem happening in another country. It’s happening in our own back yards.
My intention isn’t to make you feel guilt. It is to make you aware. Awareness helps breed action. Action breeds change.
Over the next few months I’ll be talking quite a bit about Moldova and about trafficking. I’ll share posts others have written as well. Thank you for supporting me.
Prudence is going to Moldova January 20 – 28, 2013, with Children’s HopeChest. You can learn more about her trip here. She greatly appreciates your support no matter what form. ♥
Prudence is a 30-something writer who lives in Arizona with her husband Shawn and their chihuahuas Lengua and Zeus. She writes her life, her experiences and her crawl back to hope. Eventually, she hopes to visit India – a place that’s captured her heart without ever stepping foot on the soil.