Sandra is a Young lady who has had a complicated life in spite of her Young age, she was enrolled in the ITEMP program due to the sexual abuse she had been a victim of since she was a child. Sandra told us when she turned 7 years old her mother sold her with a 52 year old man because the family lacked of resources. Sandra’s mother told her to go with this man and she would pick her up later, she should also do whatever he would ask her to. Some years later the scene got repeated one more time, she was sold one more time for an adult man to abuse from her. Sandra’s problem didn’t quite finish there, sometime after this one of her step brothers tried to abuse from her as well but an uncle of her didn’t let it happen.
What Sandra had gone through affected her physically and psychologically and gave her enough reasons to abandon her house at age 14. When this happened, she met Gabriel. We may say they met in the moment she needed it the most, she needed love and affection so after a while Gabriel proposed her to go live with him. The only inconvenient was that Gabriel was already father of three children but Sandra didn’t care; the only thing she wanted was to leave everything behind and start over with someone she could trust.
Sandra and Gabriel have lived together for two years so far and it hasn’t been easy since they have had to face the economical problems of our country. In the middle of the year 2012, Sandra´s husband was shot three times at work, while driving his tuk-tuk (small cabs used to transport people around) while they tried to steal it from him, he was left unconscious and unable to move his arm for a few days but thanks to Gabriel’s parents they were able to overcome this situation.
During September, Sandra was enrolled as victim #27 of the ITEMP department. When she joined the program she got both medical and psychological assistance as well as clothes and shoes, She was also provided with a small economical support in order to cover some other expenses. She was also encouraged to continue studying.
She is very happy with the lifestyle Gabriel has provided to her because of the fact that he treats her with respect and they are both currently planning to get married in order to start a family of their own.
Sandra is second youngest of her four siblings. Her parents are currently living in Santa Rosa and visit their children every month; however, due to a lack of money they have not been able to visit recently. When the parents visited each month they contributed economically to the household, although it was not much. Life for Sandra has not been easy since she has had to work from a young age. A few months ago her job consisted of collecting old junk door to door in San Andres Itzapa. Though Sandra had little revenue, she was able to contribute something to her household.
A few years ago, the young lady also worked for a vegetable exporter in Zaragoza, Chimaltenango. Sandra’s boss at the time offered her an opportunity to go work abroad and promised a better quality of life and income. Sandra refused the offer. Then, some time ago, Sandra was walking home when four men attacked and raped her. As a result of this incident, Sandra became pregnant and later had a miscarriage; nonetheless, Sandra continued persevering to achieve her dreams and be someone in this world.
Sandra´s greatest desire was to be able to have an education, however, the need for money to survive drove her to work in construction, as a mechanic, as a clown, and she was even forced to ask for money in the streets. The little money she collected she saved to be able to pay for school the next year. In 2010, Sandra received information about Centro Educativo Tecnico Scheel (Scheel Center) which belongs to Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados. In order to be able to go to the school, Sandra commuted from San Andres Itzapa to Jocotenango. Since Sandra did not have money to pay the bus ride in order to get to school, she worked on the bus collecting bus fares from the passengers and this way earning her bus ride. Once Sandra was accepted into the school she was provided a scholarship and a volunteer named Ida Jaarvik helped her cover the costs of the bus fare.
Although Sandra was receiving help, it was not enough to keep her from collecting junk to sell. As a result, Sandra was received into the program of ITEMP to provide her extra assistance due to all she had been through. The first step in the program was to provide with psychological assistance and then carry out medical exams. Additionally, Sandra received help to fund her education.
In the end, Sandra was not the only one that benefited from the assistance that was provided. With the help the family received from ITEMP, Sandra´s sister, was also able to go to school. Currently, both women are studying. Sandra was also able to attend some beauty course and continue studying at the Scheel Center. Sandra´s entire family is grateful for the help they have received. Thanks to the support she received from Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados, Sandra ´s life has improved and she now has a promising future as a professional.
It is often hard to imagine the atrocities that victims of human trafficking experience, especially when those victims are children. This case is no different. We can’t use his real name, so we’ll just call him Juan.
Juan lived on a small farm in a cattle ranching community of Guatemala. When Juan was seven years old, his cousins began to sexually abuse him and continued to tease him. In another year, he and his mother moved to a shantytown outside of Antigua, where his mother met a new boyfriend. When Juan confided in his mother’s boyfriend about his awful experiences, this man’s response was to sexually abuse Juan just hours later.
When Juan was twelve, he encountered an opportunity to leave his horrible life. A couple from El Salvador offered to take him to work in Mexico. Juan accepted the offer and left with them that same night.
After years of brutal treatment at the hands of those who were supposed to love him most, Juan thought that this was his ticket out. What Juan didn’t realize was that the offer made to him was a doorway into a world of abuse and exploitation that would change his future.
For four years, Juan, just a young teenager at the time, was drugged and forced to swallow and smuggle bags of cocaine and heroin across international borders. As if this was not enough torment in itself, after each transport Juan was locked in a small room where he was sexually abused by multiple men a night. Each time he complained, he was injected with a drug that would make him more compliant.
While most sixteen-year-olds welcome their birthdays with a big celebration and a new driver’s license, Juan was not granted this rite of passage. On this day that is special to many teenagers, Juan was being forced to smuggle more drugs. Fortunately, Juan gained enough coherence to break away from his traffickers. Soon after, he met a woman who offered to help him. Once again, Juan was the victim of a broken promise. He was sold to a black market brothel, where he was drugged, shaved, and exploited for sexual purposes.
Months went by before Juan saw an opportunity to escape the hell he was living in. He ran away and began life on the streets of an Oriental Marketplace, surviving by digging through the trash. Though he wanted to return home, the drugs had taken their toll on his mind and he did not know how. Eventually, he was found by the police and was sent to jail, where he experienced more abuse before being sent to a group home.
It was here where the bitter chains of slavery were finally broken. The home talked to the government and the government talked to us.
Despite being threatened by government officials and encouraged to commit suicide, the long battle was won. One of our staff members stood with Juan a few weeks later at the Guatemala City International Airport. Juan was coming home.
The Institution of Trafficked, Exploited, and Missing Persons encounters situations like this all the time. Juan’s story is just one of many. In fact, each year there are millions of victims of human trafficking in the world. Many of them are children who are robbed of simple pleasures, such as a sixteenth birthday party.
Your prayers and support are what makes recovery for victims like Juan possible. Every little bit counts. Please donate and join the fight against modern-day slavery.
Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family and to reflect on all that we have to be grateful for. Like many citizens of the first world, you probably have much for which to be thankful. You likely have a family that loves you more than you can imagine, a roof over your head, an education, food to eat, and perhaps most importantly, the freedom to enjoy all of these things.
Having freedom is not something we often actively think about. It’s a default; something we frequently take for granted. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine a life in which we can’t express our opinions openly or choose our elected officials. Harder still is imagining a life in which we are forced daily to work in subhuman conditions without pay, or to submit to the whims of another individual.
As hard as it is to imagine, that’s the reality for an estimated 12.3 million people around the world this Thanksgiving. It has also been a reality for Lucia, a 16 year old girl that we’ve gotten to know at the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, and Missing Persons. Lucia’s life wasn’t much different from most girls her age. She liked school and enjoyed spending time with her friends. She didn’t have much, but she was determined to succeed and dreamed of becoming a doctor one day. Yet as she was walking home from school one day, her world was turned upside down. A car pulled alongside her and several armed men got out. They pointed their guns at her and told her to get in. As she screamed, they grabbed her and pulled her into the vehicle. Lucia endured weeks of unimaginable abuse at the hands of her captors, a powerful street gang in Guatemala City. She was only let go when the gang leader, who by that time had captured other sex slaves, decided he was through with her.
Thankfully, at ITEMP Lucia is learning to dream again. She has been able to return to school in a safer area. She’s been overcoming her psychological trauma with our counselor, and our legal team is seeking justice for her. As we enjoy the blessings that our freedom affords us this Thanksgiving, we must remember Lucia’s story. And we must also remember those who are still suffering silently, desperately hoping that someone like you will not forget them, that you will fight for their freedom. These people are the victims of child prostitution and sexual exploitation, forced labor, and domestic servitude. If these people have a family, it’s one whose company they’re unable to enjoy. If they’ve a roof over their heads, it’s one that does little to add to their safety. If they have food, it’s food they’ll consume in isolation, without the company of friends and the blessings of a light heart.
Knowing that these people live out their existence in these conditions is just one more reason to be grateful for our own freedom. But the gratitude that we feel for being free should spur us to action. We may not be able to free these people ourselves, but there are things we all can do to help them.
As you give thanks for all the blessings in your life, here are several ways to make a difference this Thanksgiving:
1. Understand the problem of human trafficking. By learning about the dynamics of contemporary slavery, you are becoming part of the solution.
2. Understand where the products you buy come from. Check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies to investigate and eliminate forced labor from their supply chains and to be transparent with production information.
3. Research human trafficking in your community and write a letter to your local newspaper to raise awareness about the problem.
4. Write to or meet with your local, state, and federal representatives to let them know that you’re concerned about human trafficking in your community. Ask about the steps they’re taking to address the problem in your area.
5. Consider volunteering with an anti-trafficking organization. Help out with awareness raising or victim outreach.
6. Give. The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, and Missing Persons (ITEMP) works to prevent human trafficking by raising global social awareness about the problem. We also work to rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking and exploitation. We provide victims with safe places to stay, medical and psychological assistance, social and legal aid, and perhaps most importantly, education.
We need your support now more than ever. Please donate to help those without freedom this Thanksgiving.
This beautiful smile belongs to Claudia, a diffident yet cheerful young woman who maintains this smile despite having endured more hardship in her fourteen years than most have in their lifetime.
A mother’s love is something that most of us take for granted, but Claudia never had the opportunity to assume a blessing so great. At age seven, Claudia became one of the youngest sex-trafficking victims we’ve met at ITEMP when her mother sold her to a middle aged man for what amounted to a few dollars. After enduring the unimaginable for several weeks, Claudia escaped, but only knew of one place to go: back to her mother – the one person in the world who was supposed to love her and keep her safe. She was once again trafficked for sexual purposes at age nine, once again to a man more than thirty years her senior.
From the abuse, Claudia bore more than just psychological scars. She suffered physical injuries at the hands of both her mother and the men to whom she was sold, and at the incredibly young age of 11, she was forced to abort a pregnancy that had resulted from her abuse.
The good news is that Claudia’s story does not end there. At age 12 she found the courage to escape her abusers and located her biological father who worked with the local DA and helped get her referred to ITEMP.
On the day we met Claudia she was understandably reserved. But that smile – the one expressing the joy of a childhood she’s just beginning to experience – peeked through when we told her that we were there to help her. At ITEMP, Claudia is now in safe hands and receiving the psychological care she needs to overcome her trauma. She also receives a scholarship allowing her to attend school, giving her a chance at a better future.
Claudia’s story reminds us of the harsh reality that slavery still thrives in our world today. 2.5 million people are being trafficked right now. These victims are usually among the most vulnerable in our communities: children, young women, and runaways who are abused, neglected, and degraded.
This is why we work to prevent, rescue, recover and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking and the worst kinds of exploitation. So far this year, we’ve been able to rescue or help nine victims of trafficking and/or exploitation and their families. ITEMP has provided all of them with medical and psychological care, social and legal assistance, as well as with education. And with these things we were able to instill within each of them something even more important: hope.
Will you help us in our effort to restore dignity and hope to those who yearn for these most basic of things? You can make a difference in the lives of these people. You can offer a fresh start and a new life to a trafficking victim with a simple donation. Every little bit helps.
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