Light Despite the Darkness
At 10am on November 15th I was asked by two different men if I was for sale. It was the morning after a late night of outreach in the red light district of Bangkok. I was walking the same streets to grab a coffee and process what I had just experienced. Resisting the urge to slap them in the face, I simply said no and kept walking. As I began to sip my coffee, I realized what had just happened and started to cry – not because I was offended, but because I had the freedom to say no. The night before I had talked to countless Ugandan women forced to work the streets. Enslaved young women with pimps demanding they sell their bodies to pay off an enormous debt. Women who didn’t have the freedom to say no, though every single fiber of their being yearned to.
6 Children Rescued
The phone rang early Friday morning. The head of the Ugandan Task Force was on the line with an urgent request. His team had raided a brothel in the Kiseni slums and found children being sold for sex. The task force needed the help of a trusted partner to provide housing and aftercare for the girls they had removed from the brothel. Phones kept ringing as we banded together to prepare the home and follow the proper procedure to receive these girls. We were made to do this work, to open our homes to these precious girls and provide them the shelter, love, and dignity they deserve.
At Willow, we are charged with helping women and girls escape sexual slavery. Our rescue scenarios vary greatly as human trafficking looks different for each victim in its wake. In Uganda, poverty, unemployment, and death of parents are among the most common reasons that women and girls are left vulnerable to trafficking. We see parents conned into sending their children away with strangers with the hope of work that will feed them, orphans coerced into prostitution by family or village members who view them as burdens, teens tricked into going to “school” or taking “jobs” in the city – only to be forced into sexual slavery. We rescue bright young women, once small business owners, so eager to lift their extended families out of poverty that they’ve sold what little belongings or prospects they had in pursuit of a better life. Futures are stolen from such women as they hand over their livelihoods only to be forced to sell their bodies against their will.
Why We Fight – A Tribute
When I think about Natasha, I first reflect on a morning in March of 2013. It was pitch dark outside. The city of Kampala was sleeping. Although Natasha was in high spirits, I was not because it was 4:30 am, Natasha was very ill, and we were about to wait in line for the one radiation machine in the entire country. Amongst other life-threatening illnesses, Natasha was fighting stage 4 cervical cancer. She was fighting hard for her life, but her attitude and demeanor didn’t show it. She was peaceful and filled with unexplainable joy.
The Journey of my Life in Willow
The willow is a strong and tranquil tree. Its branches hang gracefully and its roots run deep. Often found near streams of water, it exudes peace, offers to share that solace with guests. Offers comfort, offers refuge. Offers gentleness.