It’s been a few weeks since we started the Free the Girls Pilot Program. The girls that are involved in the pilot program are from the Gerardo Barrios community, and the program has been a learning experience for us all. I’m happy to report that the girls are doing great selling the bras so far.
There is one girl, I will call her Karla, that was hesitant to try the program. She is quiet and shy, and doesn’t talk very much. She rarely smiles. She was chosen for the pilot program because at just 15 years of age, she already has a history of being prostituted and exploited. I think of myself at 15 and I can’t even wrap my mind around it. I can’t imagine the trauma and pain that she has lived in her young life. That’s why we are doing this pilot program, to find a way to help girls like her all over El Salvador.
I’ve been meeting with the girls each Saturday and talking to them about the program, how they think it’s going, and how we think it’s going. Karla is doing well. She sold her first bag of 50 bras in about a week, and she is working on selling her second bag of 50 now.
Until this opportunity with Free the Girls came along, Karla hasn’t been doing much. She dropped out of school a while ago, and she has just been sitting at home. I asked her on Saturday if she had thought about her future, and she said she was starting to because she has a job now, she’s doing something. I encouraged her to open up to the possibility of returning to school, and she said she wasn’t sure that she could do it.
The thing is that Karla believes the lies about herself…that she isn’t valuable, that she isn’t worth it. But she is. As I talked to her, I spoke truth to her saying, “You can do it, you are doing so well and working so hard” and “you are beautiful, you are smart, and you can do it.” One of the other girls was sitting with us too, and she joined in with me encouraging Karla, “You can do it!” As Karla was listening to us, a smile began to spread across her face. A real smile, the first true smile I’ve seen.
As Karla left, she was still smiling, and she said she was going to really think about it. I told her we would help, support her, and cheer her on. I’m so grateful that we have this opportunity to work with Free the Girls. In just a short time, Karla has gained a tiny bit of confidence, and a tiny bit of success. I’m trusting God to keep working in her life as she takes one step, then another, and then another toward a future where she can feel like she is valuable and worth it.
Working with people who are suffering is not easy. It never will be. The obstacles are huge. But there is so much reason to hope, and a smile is just the beginning.