Break the Chains of Slavery

by The GOD'S CHILD Project
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Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Break the Chains of Slavery
Maria Paula
Maria Paula

She sat on the rotting garbage as if she were a queen seated regally on top of a gold-gilded throne.  She knew this place, she said, and she has had dreams here.

 Maria Paula, the young queen of this smoky domain, is all of 10 years old.  Her voice is deep from constantly breathing the smoke and toxic fumes that rise from the refuse.  Her hair is tied back with a pink band, yet filled with lice.  She’s unbelievably beautiful, yet dirty and covered in something sooty and oily.

She wants to go back to school, she says. Then she wants to get a job.  She says that God made the situation as it is, and because of it she now is the only one in the family who can care for her younger brother and sister, as well as her aging grandparents.

She’s skinny and small for her age.  She’s covered in bug bites, bruises, and scrapes.  Someone hit her on the side of the face, but she won’t tell me who or what happened.

She’s lived and worked in this garbage dump outside El Tejar, Guatemala for most of her short life. When she was too young to remember, her father died. Her mother quickly found a new partner, but this man didn’t like the small children who looked like their father.  The new boyfriend beat the children for no reason, Paula said, and he always hit her the most.

One day, Paula’s grandmother came to visit. She saw the bruises on the children and knew what was happening. She brought all three of her grandchildren back to live in her tiny shack that day.

The siblings were happy living with their grandma and grandpa. They were loved and cared for. Although they never had much of anything, they had enough to get by, and together the children discovered happiness.

The grandparents even let Paula, her brother Carlos, and her little sister Karla go to school.  That lasted for a couple of years, Paula says. She smiles while remembering the classrooms, lunches, teachers, and homework.

Then, their grandpa became too weak to work. There wasn’t enough money for him to visit a doctor, so he just got worse and worse. Eventually he could barely lift his arms high enough to feed himself.

Their grandma went to work in the only place she had ever had a job…the garbage dump.  Years ago, she had searched for scrap tin and aluminum cans there, but when she married, she said she would never go back.  Now, though, her husband and grandchildren were starving.

The grandmother pulled Paula and her siblings out of school. With sadness in her heart, she taught them how to sift through the rotting food, old diapers, and other waste to find recyclable items.

Together, this family earns about $55 a month collecting cans and plastic. They spend all of it on food.  The children go to bed hungry every night.

From her garbage throne, Paula tells us about the bad days; the moments when they can’t find enough recyclables to buy even a few tortillas and beans.  She explains how she can tell if the rotting food she sifts through is OK to eat.

We watch her grandmother in the distance, slowly bending over as she sorts through another of the endless piles of garbage. Paula talks about how worried she is about her grandparents’ failing health.

What will we do if my grandparents die? Paula asks, more to herself than to us. Just a child, she’s already suspicious outsiders who offer help and make promises. She doesn’t believe our offer to take care of her, Carlos, Karla, and her grandparents.

So, we leave the children at the dump and promise something small…to return the next day with new clothes and shoes. The following morning, we find them waiting by the side of the dump, trying to hide their excitement. Paula stays distant, and focuses too much interest on her work.

Next, we promise to bring them some food. Little by little, our promises get bigger.

Finally, after several visits, we make them a huge offer. Let us help your family, we say. Paula and her siblings can go back to school, where they belong. Her grandma can stop digging through the trash piles.  They can all visit our clinic for free.

Paula is quite for a very long time. No one in the family knows what to say or do. We tell them more about ITEMP.

Then, very thoughtfully, Paula asks if she can start school in first grade. She won’t do it if she has to repeat kindergarten, she says. Kindergarten was too easy. We say yes.  Her face brightens into a big, beaming smile.

Watching Paula, Carlos, and Karla play during recess last week, we saw three happy kids right where they should be…learning and growing, taken care of, and loved.

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Heart
Heart

In recognition of International Women’s Rights Day (March 8), we wanted to share with you this message from ITEMP Operations Director, Claire San Filippo.

Today the world celebrates women. We rejoice in our respect and appreciation for them. We honor their advancement and contribution in our global society.

In a patriarchal country like Guatemala, however, machismo remains pervasive. There's a lot left to do here in the fight against discrimination, gender-based violence and widespread human rights violations. Here, women are often considered inferior to men, sometimes even viewed as merchandise. They are at high risk for abuse and exploitation...including human trafficking.

Meet Esperanza, for instance. Her name means "hope." She's a pretty and energetic 15-year-old girl whose eyes invariably light up when she starts speaking about her latest passion: computers. Although you can't tell by looking at her, Esperanza isn't just any teenager. She's a survivor. When she was 13, she was kidnapped on her way home from school, held captive by a group of men who did unspeakable things to her over and over again. Eventually, they dumped her on the streets.

Although safe from her attackers, her personal hell was far from finished. Her family called her a “slut." One of her uncle’s even tried to rape her. Since she had been ravaged, she was not a virgin anymore and thus a “hooker."

Esperanza was enrolled in our program to help her recover from this traumatic event and rebuild her life. She was given medical and psychological assistance, as well as legal aid. She was enrolled in school. That’s where she learned about computers.

It's been two years. Esperanza's obviously still trying to forget but she has made tremendous progress. The once destroyed and terrified girl has become a shy teenage, but eager to survive and full of life.

As Esperanza continues to rebuild her life and plan for the bright future that lays ahead of her, we wanted to thank our generous supporters for helping provide this opportunity for her. Hope is precisely what you give Esperanza and all of the other women in Guatemala who have suffered in silence for so long.

Happy International Women’s Rights Day.

Please remember that human trafficking is a worldwide issue, threatening to destroy our neighborhoods just as it endangers boys and girls in Guatemala.

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Credit Ray Conway
Credit Ray Conway

The end of the year is the perfect moment to reflect on the work that has been carried out during the year.

Despite our hard work, 2.5 million people are being trafficked right now. These victims are usually our most fragile neighbors: children, young women, and runaways who are abused, degraded, and victimized.

Guatemala is no exception. This is why we work to prevent, rescue, recover and rehabilitate human trafficking victims. This year, we rescued 12 trafficking victims. A dozen broken people, who had been ruthlessly exploited and denied their basic human rights. There was Maria, who came to Antigua hoping for a better future and had her life turned to hell when she was forced into domestic labor and pressured to sell her children. There was Gabriela, who had been sexually exploited in horrific ways. Twelve lives changed permanently because of our help and protection.

ITEMP provided all of them with medical and psychological care, social and legal assistance, as well as with education. And most importantly, we gave each person their dignity back.

The end of the year is also the best time for New Year’s Resolution. Ours is to keep rescuing victim after victim after victim. We resolve to keep fighting against modern day slavery in all of its terrible shapes.

What is your resolution? Will you help us in our battle? You can make a difference in 2012. You can offer a fresh start and a new life to a trafficking victim with a simple donation. Happy New Year from each of our rescued victims, and from all of us at The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons.

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Credit Taylor Aubin
Credit Taylor Aubin

There are gifts you remember. This year, Ana will remember hers. And she’ll remember us. Because to Ana, ITEMP is the closest thing to Santa Claus she has ever experienced. Better than she dreamed of, she says.

And if there is one thing—probably the only thing—that Ana has never lacked, it’s dreams. When you listen to this young woman, you cannot help being fascinated by her willingness to fight and determination to live a meaningful life.

But life has not been so tender to Ana. She was born the product of rape, into a family where her mother’s husband vowed never to love her. To earn his approval,Ana dressed and acted like a boy. And worked liked one, too. Ana fell victim to labor exploitation and was soon told to go work near Guatemala’s border with El Salvador. But, thankfully, Ana refused. She knew that the “work” was in a brothel, and refused to let her life end in such a painful way. So she ran away.

When Ana first came to us, her aged face told a million stories of pain, anger, distrust,and even violence. But Ana is an artist and a poet, too, so music and acting soothes her to some extent. There is much more work to be done with Ana, though.

When she entered our program, Ana was given a bed, a new school uniform, a living allowance, medical and psychological care and, most importantly, an education. Unlike most girls her age, Ana’s Christmas wish wasn’t for new clothes or more makeup. Her dream was simple and yet so powerful: Just let me keep going to school, she said. And, for the first time in Ana’s life, she will go to school for the second year in a row. And this is priceless for her. But not for us. Not for you. With a donation of only $25, you can support Ana’s school tuition for a month.

What’s your wish for Christmas this year? A new DVD? Or a better world for us all? Make Ana’s simple wish come true this holiday season with your generous donation.

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Carlitos
Carlitos

Carlitos came to us a few years ago. He was scared. He was scarred. He had been abused in horrific, stomach-wrenching ways. He was only 7 years old but had already lived a lifetime of trauma and abuse. Carlitos was sold by his desperate mother to a man who did unspeakable things to him.

He was placed in a loving foster family, one of our best. He was enrolled in school and given new clothing. We bought him new shoes and a back pack and everything else a little boy needs to fit in. Most importantly for Carlitos, though, we set up frequent visits to our staff psychologist.

Slowly, carefully, and with lots of love, we learned about what happened to Carlitos. We taught him boundaries and rules. And he started teaching us, too. He quickly became the face of our programs, greeting new visitors with a friendly smile and quick sense of humor.

Carlitos graduated from primary school last month. His foster father, who he calls “papa,” was there to cheer as he accepted his diploma. We try not to pick favorites, but when a child has come this far in a few short years, you can’t help but feel so proud of his accomplishments.

We’re more proud of Carlitos than words can express. But we also know that he has a long way to go. He’s about to hit puberty, which can be a rollercoaster even for children raised in the best environments. We’ve promised Carlitos that we’ll stay with him as long as he stays in school and keeps being such a great kid. But we need your help to keep that promise. Please, donate today to give Carlitos the bright future we all see for him.

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The GOD'S CHILD Project

Location: Bismarck, ND - USA
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Project Leader:
RINA LAZO
Director of Benefactor Services
Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez Guatemala
$46,903 raised of $70,000 goal
 
811 donations
$23,097 to go
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