Human Trafficking

At Risk

Risk. It’s a word that we hear thrown around in conversation. “Don’t risk it.” “Take a risk.” “At your own risk.” Sometimes the thought of a risk seems thrilling, exciting, on the edge. Other times it seems foolish and like something best avoided. We do a lot of things to take the risk factor right out of our lives. We live in homes with doors that lock, and drive cars with airbags and seat belts. We make choices about our health, our bodies, and what we put into them. We wear sunblock, and floss our teeth to lower our risks, to extend our lives, and to avoid sickness and pain. But what if you were born “at risk?” What if you stepped out of a warm, safe place and in […]

Free The Girls Christmas in El Salvador

This past year was one of new opportunities, and personal growth for women involved in the Free The Girls program here at MTES. We continue to be grateful to FTG for partnering with us and enabling us to serve these women that we love and respect. Our girls worked hard in El Salvador this year. For some it has been a year of personal struggle, for others a year of victory. We took some time the week before Christmas to celebrate all of these amazing survivors and to dream together about 2015. We had a guest speaker from Pittsburgh share with us about her own painful past, and the beauty that God has brought from it. Many of the women had tears streaming down their faces as they listened to […]

A Third Too Many

This weekend our newspaper reported a sobering and disturbing statistic about girls in El Salvador. At latest count, thirty percent of all pregnancies in El Salvador are to girls under the age of 15. That is roughly 1 out of every 3. The text under the headline reported that many of the cases are rapes. You can read the report in Spanish here. This is terrible news for girls. The reality is that girls in El Salvador are in crisis. They are vulnerable to rape, abuse, and trafficking. These girls leave school and enter a cycle of poverty that is virtually impossible to break.  A third of all pregnancies to girls under 15 is a third too many. Unfortunately the news isn’t much better for boys. Tori had to do […]

Something to Celebrate

Yesterday we had a beautiful celebration for our three Quinceañeras (15 year old girls). In this culture, turning 15 is a big deal and communities and churches join together to celebrate the life of the girl turning 15. In many cases, whole communities pitch in to sponsor different parts of the fiesta…a friend may sponsor some of the food, a family member may pay for balloons, a neighbor might provide plates and silverware. When we heard that three of the young survivors we work with would be 15 all in the same timeframe, we knew that we had to celebrate! It was an amazing thing for us to see our donors both in the U.S. and in El Salvador surround these girls with love and form a community of support for them […]

Party Time!

Part of our work in El Salvador includes offering resources to women and girls who are human trafficking survivors. We have several initiatives to serve them and to help them build a better future. We recently discovered that several of the girls we work with will be turning 15 all within the same timeframe and so we’ve decided that it’s time to party! Turning 15 is a really big deal in El Salvador and a 15th birthday celebration is called a Quinceañera.  For many girls in El Salvador (and throughout Latin America), turning 15 is a much bigger party then even a wedding celebration. These girls who have survived the horror of human trafficking have no family or community to celebrate this important moment in their lives. We want to do […]

The Face of Human Trafficking in El Salvador

On Saturday morning I opened the newspaper and began to read the local stories…immigration, crime, the economy. As I flipped through the paper, it fell open onto a story about the recent arrest of 7 people accused of trafficking underage girls for sex.  Five of them are women, and two of them are men. All of them are young, not much older than their victims. This is the face of human trafficking in El Salvador. These are real traffickers who were selling girls in malls around San Salvador, and on their Facebook pages. A news website reported that one of the men had an album titled “My New Girls” advertising young virgins for sale. The article also reported the disgusting fact that the victims were forced to fake their virginity […]

Immigration…It’s Complicated

This morning as I was driving in my car listening to talk radio, I heard about the latest public awareness campaign. This one is called “Dream Versus Nightmare” and is targeted at educating would-be immigrants about the potential perils involved in taking the journey North. I also opened the paper earlier this week to read the latest news from last week’s meeting between Obama and Central American leaders. As I flipped through the paper other stories were reported…the skyrocketing number of Salvadoran students killed so far this year, another double homicide, more Salvadorans abandoning their neighborhoods in the dark of night because gangs caused them to fear for their lives. There are complicated messages out there…it is absolutely true that immigration can take a dream and turn it into a […]

Getting Creative

Next week is Semana Santa (“Holy Week”) and everyone goes to the local beaches during the vacation days. Costa del Sol is a popular beach in El Salvador, and next week it will also be the site of an art exhibit featuring original paintings by men, women, and children involved in our programs and ministries. The idea is a creative one, and it was developed by a generous donor and friend who offered to sponsor an exhibit featuring works of art painted by survivors of trafficking, and men and women who have lived on the streets of San Salvador. The artwork will be sold, and the money invested back into our projects. This past week our artist friends have given several painting workshops and we have all worked to help […]

Connecting

When a women is sexually exploited she is entrapped, held down, by lies that are like iron chains. The lies are strong and hard to break and they wrap themselves around her soul. The chains are engraved with words that whisper in the night. You are worthless. Sex is the same as love, and it’s the only love you‘ll get. You deserve to be used. You are alone, and no one cares. You are ugly and utterly unlovable.  The work before us is not to offer trauma counseling, or legal advice. But rather, our work is to support the women as they walk through those processes, and to walk with them further as they struggle to integrate into a normal way of life. We work to build relationships and offer […]

Love

I spend a few hours each week with women and girls that have survived the horror of being sold, and of being exploited for someone else’s gain. I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not a trauma counselor. Those are not my roles in the lives of these women and girls.  I simply try my best to be a truth-speaker, a supporter, and a friend. Every Thursday I have a small group discussion with some of them on a topic related to God. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so this week, love seemed like the natural thing to discuss. Love. How on earth could I begin to talk to these girls about love? They’ve lived through trauma and pain that I couldn’t find in my darkest nightmares. Life has not brought much […]

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