I get overwhelmed sometimes. I find myself thinking about a topic, and a simple idea quickly goes from one digestible thought, to a hurricane of thoughts, concerns, doubts, random ideas, and unrelated images that accumulate into a cloudy brain-fog. To this, my usual response is to shut down my brain instead of thinking about the original topic and moving on out of necessity.
On a list of places NOT to visit if you get overwhelmed easily, a densely populated developing country is definitely at the very top! And yet, that is exactly where I found myself this past November: in the heart of a loud, visually stimulating, and emotionally overwhelming country. But, I was there with a purpose. Having a purpose tends to quiet my sometimes hurricane-like brain. It slows the molecules of the foggy thoughts enough to turn them into a liquid that can be separated into containers for storage… at least for a moment.
I thought our purpose was simple: visit three local partners working with Rescue:Freedom so that I can learn more about their holistic approach to fighting human trafficking. But upon stepping into the first safe home, “simple” became the very last word on my mind.
After the first few days of meeting the boys, girls, and women–touching their hands and experiencing their smiles–I was forever heartbroken and changed by them. I quickly went into “social-justice mode” and picked [Rescue:Freedom International’s president] Jeremy’s brain for hours about human trafficking: the political, economic, and social issues that need to see change and reformation. I fished for more information on the different focuses of safe houses and aftercare, prevention methods that are still in their formative stages, EVERYTHING…I quickly became overwhelmed!
There’s just so much involved in fighting human trafficking, it is incredibly daunting to decide which area to focus on!
My train of thought at this time was looking something like this: there’s prevention, which seems like a logical place to start, right? But what about the hundreds of thousands of victims that are currently enslaved? So, we should focus on rescuing victims, right? Ok, but studies show that if you simply take someone out of an environment of sexual slavery and put them back on the street or into a government house with no aftercare program in place, they will most likely return to an environment in which they can be easily re-trafficked! So, aftercare programs need the most attention, right? Well, the emotional and mental well-being of these women and children needs to be slowly rebuilt, and they need to be taught vocational skills in order to be independent and healthy members of society. Ok, but what about the social stigma of hiring a former prostitute, and oftentimes the legal blacklist that many victims are placed on due to their forced involvement in prostitution? Even if these women are taught vocational skills, who will hire them? So, let’s focus on the laws that need to be changed. Well, the best way to change laws is by having a survivor speak about their personal experience and push for the change with the backing of an informed and passionate public! So, that means we need to be putting our effort into empowering survivors to pursue a higher education in order to effectively produce change. Well, yes but we also have to make sure that there’s an informed public to stand behind them–so, let’s focus on spreading awareness. Well, spreading awareness about an issue without actually doing anything for the individuals involved in the problem, is empty…
If you’re as overwhelmed as I am raise your hand!
While we were in the country, I had the opportunity to connect with some of the girls in the second safe house we visited. The little girls in this home were absolutely effervescent and feisty, which was borderline intimidating despite their petite size and young age! Upon meeting us, they performed a delightful presentation that included personally drawn cards that had each and every one of their names written on the back.
After this presentation, each little girl came up to me and asked:
“What is my name?”
My response of a blank look led them to be devastated that I didn’t know their names after the five minutes
of introductions at the beginning of the night! They continued to repeat their names for me, usually 10 times fast, and then asked me what their name was again! I was about 50 percent successful on this second round…ok, 25 percent…
These little girls were so adamant for me to know their names but I just couldn’t understand why it was so important to them. Later that night I realized these beautiful girls simply wanted to be known. They wanted their new friend to know their name and have a face attached to it because it meant that when I left and returned home, they would be remembered. They would exist outside of their circumstances. Their existence would transcend a safe home, and be brought into the wide world of “existence”. All I had to do to fulfill their wish, was to remember their name.
I worked hard that night to try and memorize each of their names and made up rhymes in my head to try and trick my brain into organizing these unfamiliar sounds into recognizable proper nouns. The next day when we came back to the same house, a gaggle of girls ran up all shouting,
“What is my name!?”
And I knew them! Well most of them…
I’m left here, several months later, thinking about these girls. And as I do, I remember the small, hand-drawn cards I was given with their name on the back of each.
Looking at these cards does not help spread awareness about human trafficking, it doesn’t provide prevention plans, it doesn’t fund an aftercare program, and it doesn’t help send a survivor to college. But, it does do something. It personalizes human trafficking into the names of 26 little girls, very far away from where I am now. Looking at these cards helps me to remember these girls.
And do you know what else it did? It quieted my mind and opened up space for me to think about what ELSE I could do to contribute to the fight against human trafficking. I could write a blog. I could talk to my friends about the work that Rescue:Freedom is doing. I could send a donation to help fund those same local partners I visited.
The thing was, there is always SOMETHING we can do. All our efforts, all our SOMETHINGS, add up to be much more than we could ever do alone.
Clancy Cauble is an actress whose day job is as a professional matchmaker. For fun she travels the world but her heart is always wherever there is someone in need of a friend and defender.
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