Reunion in Peru: One survivor's story
Sometimes when we least expect it, miracles appear before us.
As a mother of three, I have fallen into the bad habit of rolling out of bed, barely looking at myeslf in the mirror, checking my email and emptying the dishwasher in my favorite outfit - comfy yoga pants. Sometimes, though, I get caught up responding to email and the like and begin to run late. This one particular Monday, that was the case. I looked like hell - or at least that was my perception - as I rolled into Laura's Bakery to meet my new friend, Maggie.
I perused the delectables as I patiently waited for my friend, though she never showed. It simply wasn't meant to be, is all. Instead, I found myself greeted by two friedns meeting for breakfast. one of the duo comented, "Oh, I just love your hair." Really? This lady must be kidding me, I thought. I laughed and told her, "I just rolled out of bed to come here. I'm supposed to meet a new friend to talk about human trafficking."
"Oh, the traffic's bad out there," this southern belle replied.
I laughed and explained,
"No, not traffic - human trafficking, "
emphasizing the difference.
"Oh, human trafficking. I can tell you all about human trafficking."
Who knew I'd be spending the morning learning all about the story of a real-life
survivor of human trafficking? Certainly not me.
After making proper introductions, we found a sunny spot by the wnidow and settled in with our coffee and breakfast plates and spent the next hour in disbelief: this was synchronicity at play, for sure. I'd just met a director the day before, asking him if we could partner together and createvideos which tell the story of human trafficking survivors. And here I was the next day, ready to hear the tale of one Peruvian woman's tale.
I quickly relayed the tale of how I came to do this work, speaking of my calling from the Magdalene to help the invisible children of the world to heal. Covered in goosebumps, Donna could tell I was onto something by following the trail of breadcrumbs that had led me to where I was. She told me her daughter, Susan, had spent the last ten years of her life helping a suvivor of human trafficking reclaim her life. Susan had just returned from a trip to Peru. She was down there with her godson, Jimmy, who had never met his grandparents or his two half-siblings.
Lured by promises of a better life in America as a domestic servant for a wealthy family in Washington DC, Maria left behind two young children with her parents and siblings in Peru. Maria had been hired by a woman who knew the family and who worked for a well-resepcted bank. Trusting and hopeful, Maria's family had no reason to suspect they'd never see their daughter, mother, neice, or sister ever again.
When Maria reached Washington, DC, the kind-hearted woman who'd promised a better life turned nasty on her, taking away her documentation, so she couldn't eascape. For months, Maria was verbally and physically abused, working many, many hours for no pay, hidden away in a back room and given very little food. Somehow, after months of abuse, Maria fled her captors and landed in North Carolina, where she met Susan, a Spanish professor in North Carolina.
The two women - kindred spirits - formed a close bond, with Susan mentoring Maria. Susan cared for Maria, even heading to Washington, DCseveral times to advocate for Maria's rights and to testify against Maria's trafficker. The trafficker ended up, thankfully, getting arrested, though Maria's passport and birth certificate were never returned.
Can you just imagine life without documentation? You cannot get very far. With no way of applying for a driver's license or even a library card, life can be very restricting for an illegal immigrant. Thankfully, Susan helped Maria find work within her town, diligently cleaning houses for people in Susan's church, so she wwas able to maintain her dignity and buy groceries. Over time, Maria met an American man and started a family with him. Susan was honored to be named the godmother of Jimmy, who was born in 2005.
Susan promised she'd take immy to Peru to meet his grandparents and his siblings. She had to jump through hoops to apply for his passport. Somehow, by the grace of God, the passport was approved the second time around and Jimmy was able to leave the country. Armed with an IPa, Susan had a clever idea to take video with Jimmy and his siblings, grandparents, and Peruvian aunts and uncles. Seeing her three children together for the very first time brought much peace to Maria's soul, and Susan knew she had done something wonderful for Jimmy, too. He lovebeing with his older brother and sister, and his grandparents just adored every moment they spent with him - they gobbled him up, huggng him whenver they could, knowing they might not see hima again for a very, very long time. This trip to Peru had truly been a blessing for everyone.
Later that week, I was blessed to speak with Susan over the phone, humbled by all that she had done to help Maria survive her ordeal with her traffickers.
Susan, a mother of four children, believes with all of her heart and soul
she was put on this good earth to help Maria.
She swears she spent her entire life learning Spanish, living in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, and becoming a Spanish language professor,
just so she could help this survivor of human trafficking.
This was simply part of her destiny.
Susan spoke of the poverty she saw in Maria's hometown in Peru, a village that had electricity only some of the time, and manyhomes did not hvae running water or toilets. The people didn't know any other life, and many people had been trafficked from that area of the country. Always a teacher, Susan had plans to go back to Peru next summer, and she's going to bring her own 6-yeard-old daughter with her and Jimmy. She will be doing some mission work while she's down there...once a giver, always a giver.
Thank God for heroes like Susan who help surviivors of human trafficking rebuild their lives. With nearly 30 million people enslaved today - in brothels, nail salons, restaurants. massage parlors, in people's homes as domestic servants, we need all angels on deck to help stop human trafficking.
What do you do to Shine the Light on human trafficking and to help survivors heal? Share your story. We'd love to hear from you. Names and locations will be changed, to keep things confidential. Email your story to dorina@firstname.lastname@example.org