‘With Our Hearts Burning we Journey’ I found these words in a small prayer card and it seemed to sum up what I wish to share with you. For me it’s exactly what seems pertinent to our current state of the world and each of us in our own little world too. On our life’s journey in early 2020 we are all affected by what we could never have imagined possible – we are propelled through the journey of Covid 19 pandemic. Like it or not there is a deadly virus around and a highly contagious one too. At the workplace it has highly impacted on people’s lives, thousands, even millions are suddenly out of work and nobody was prepared for this sudden change. It also seems to hold a link to the following: I quote below from “Singing to the Dead”
“God is not a fairy godmother and hope is not a belief in happy endings. It is a willingness to accept the human journey; complete with its dangers, its equal potential for happiness or disaster. And this is what I take with me; courage for the journey. A willingness to take the risks most likely to bring life, to walk the unknown and dangerous road in search of joy, even though we can see from where we stand that this is the road through fire. There is no other road, no such thing as safety. None. Certainly our hearts are not safe. Not so long as we love, not as long as we remain vulnerable to the painful possibility of hope. And the only consolation is, if we are not safe we are not alone. In the end, in a world as small as this one, we all carry one another’s future in our hands”
“Singing to the Dead” by Victoria Armour-Hileman. Page 257
In the work we do in Counter Human Trafficking we take very seriously the thrust to carry another’s future in our hands. Currently, we are carrying the story of a Kenyan woman who is in Lebanon since 2012 – it is a long story and this is only detail we can share with you now as we do not wish to jeopardise the ‘difficult paths’ we are using for her safe release and passage back home. In such situations we rely only on the Power of Prayer.
We are seeing that even though the pandemic is so endemic in all our countries here in East Central Africa the same deadly story of Human Trafficking is painfully played out. Traffickers devise new tricks all the time – so we rely strongly on the support you can give us. Just last week we learned that people are taking others as ‘flesh’ to sell. At this moment we are also working on the case of 18 energetic, able bodied Ethiopian youths with high hopes and a willingness to help their families to rise out of extreme poverty. But instead found themselves locked into one room in a Nairobi slum. For days on end they pondered their fate. With a meagre diet of two slices of bread and water only morning and evening they worried what impact it will have on their health.
Eventually, a few of them escaped and fortunately met one of our most committed Human Rights Defenders. She made all the right connections and through us, hopefully, the Transnational Crime Detectives may crack the leads we have given them to ‘out’ a deadly trafficker who specialises in trading these youths. He sells them on as Slaves to become the property of another who will guard them with shackles. Not surprisingly, this is our Vision “A world free from the shackles of Human Exploitation and the prosecution of every woman or man who dares to take up this evil task to the detriment of the most vulnerable in our society” (CHTEA Vision Statement)
“Hope is not a Belief in Happy Endings” (How ‘Alice’ Coped).
We have to hold onto Hope despite the ‘worst case scenarios’ which come to us daily. Let me introduce you to ‘Alice’ When I met her for the first time she said in the course of our conversation “I am still young, 25 years old” I smiled and she went on to say: after Form/4, I received a scholarship to Kampala and graduated with a B Comm, then I proudly came home at Christmas. In the New Year, a lady at our parish (who runs a business between Nairobi and Kampala), told me of a friend who owns a hotel in Kampala. She explained that he needs an accountant who would be his ‘third eye’ on the local (Ugandan) staff.
But it turned out we were 9 young women aged 16 – 23 years old, engaged in bar work and sex favours. There were 7 of us in the night shift alone. Then in an explosion of tears she said “clients could come any hour of the day or night” I knew the wound was deep in her soul. Alice made her escape by a miracle. Early one morning a Kenyan man came in for breakfast, he was completely shocked to see her behind the bar. Briefly, he handed his car keys to Alice saying where it was parked outside. In two hours they were over the border, he dropped her at her parents’ home. She had to concoct a story that she was robbed in Kampala.
We journeyed with ‘Alice’ through counselling, provision of shelter and a means of income. Today, she runs her own shop and ATMs for 2 local banks. She has reached the point where she is able to share her story and is particularly good with youth and senior primary level. Of ‘Alice’ I can certainly say that she, more than any other person I know took “courage for the journey” (“Singing for the Dead”).
Survivors of Human Trafficking.
We carry hundreds of victims of HT or as I prefer to call them Survivors – the dictionary describes them as ‘extraordinary people who carry and overcome extreme difficulties in their lives’ these are people I have come to know over the years in working Against Human Trafficking. But Covid 19 took another toll on them which presented with difficulties which were far from easy. We had set them up with resources to be self-sufficient in caring for their family’s needs but with the sudden drop in the economic situation the majority of them were unable to cope in meeting daily needs. The approach we took to boost their incomes was to add a supplementary item/s to what they were already doing. The addition of selling sweets, sodas and/or cigarettes can enable them to supplement their income to a fairly normal level.