Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You Give Me Hope

What is the one thing in your life that gives you hope? Have you ever taken a moment to stop and think to yourself what or whom it is that you turn to when you need that extra boost of confidence or you are having a bad day? It could even be that you have an important deadline and you need a reminder of why you started the project in the first place. Instead of giving up, you find that one thing that gives you hope and reminds you why you need to keep moving forward. 

I have previously discussed what human trafficking is, what individual people can do to prevent it from happening to them, a friend, or loved one, and how to identify a victim. However, I want to share with you the stories of survivors that have given me hope when it comes to combating trafficking. To be completely honest there have been moments in which I have gotten discouraged because I hear of another incident of a person being trafficked and long to hear a story of a trafficker who has been brought to justice. Success stories are not always easy to come by when dealing with human trafficking, but the few stories that I have heard keep my hopes up and determined to inform people and get them traveling on the road to ending modern day slavery. Today, I want to share a few success stories to show you what hope has done for survivors of trafficking as well as for the individual people combating human trafficking.  

The first story I want to share happened in the United States, in the state of South Dakota. Robert John Farrell and Angelita Magat Farrell, husband and wife, committed visa fraud to bring Philippine workers into the United States.  The Farrells then enslaved the workers to perform cleaning and front desk duties at their hotel. The victims described how the Farrells controlled every aspect of their lives, including what they ate, where they lived, and the hours they worked. The victims described working 16-18 hour days and after that were expected to work a second job at local fast food restaurants. The Farrells hid their activities by issuing the victims paychecks, which the Farrells then required the victims to endorse and return to the them. The victims testified that they had hoped to send money back to their children and families in the Philippines. In this case, the victims were saved and the traffickers brought to justice. A Federal Jury, after hearing the four victims testify on their own behalf, sentenced Robert John Farrell to 50 months of imprisonment and his wife Angelita Magat Farrell was sentenced to 36 months of imprisonment.  They were both ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and will be placed on three years of supervised release following their respective prison terms.

The next incident happened in a truck stop in the United States.   Late one night, a trucker pulled over at a truck stop near the highway. The driver observed a man with a young girl who appeared to be around 13 years old, approach several trucks.  One of the other truckers told him that the man was offering to sell the young girl for commercial sex.  He had frequently seen them at the truck stop in the past.  The driver contacted the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), who reported the information to a federal task force and luckily the girl was saved.

Another case is about a girl named Rosa. Rosa was trafficked from Mexico into the United States. When she was taken she had never had sex before nor had she ever imagined selling her body. Her nightmare began when the men that took her decided to initiate her by raping her over and over again because she was a virgin and they said they were teaching her how to have sex. Over the next fifteen years, she was taken to a different trailer every three months. Every night she had to sleep in the same bed in which she had been forced to service customers all day. Luckily Rosa survived and was later saved. 

The last story I want to share is a story that I got to directly be a part of when traveling to Guatemala in Central America. Within the first couple of days of traveling to Guatemala I was fortunate to accompany a social worker who took me to a garbage dump in a small village located near Antigua.  Once we arrived, I noticed many young children as well as a few adults working in harsh conditions being forced to collect garbage that would later be sold for money. One particular little boy cut himself on a piece of garbage, and because we were there at the right time we were able to take the boy to a local clinic and have a doctor look at the cut. The boy was then taken to safe house. If we would have not been there, the young boy potentially could have died from infection and would have been forced to continue working, injured or not. Remembering that day and that young boy being saved, gives me hope. 

There are so many more stories to share besides the few I have shared with you, however not every story has a happy ending. There are so many untold stories, but these untold stories are what give people hope to keep pushing forward. Ryan Kirkland defines hope in his song, You Give Me Hope.  “I look at your smiling face. You’re so weak and yet you have such strength. You take a glance around this place. And you make the best of everything. You give me hope in-spite of everything. You show me love even with so much pain. So I’ll take this life and live like I was given another try.”  When it comes to battling human trafficking, Kirkland has it right, my hope comes from the victims that are rescued, whether it be to see their smiling face or the strength they have to survive, that gives me hope. By working together to combat human trafficking we will continue to create a world that is full of hope which will in turn lead us to more smiling faces.  

Yours truly,

Stacy Schaffer
Miss ND International 2011
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