Global Women Executive Director Cindy Dawson helps welcome campers in Moldova. (Photo: Global Women)
Editor's note: This column has been updated to reflect that the Beginning of Life camp ministers not only to victims of human trafficking but also to those at risk of such predation.
While the Olympics gave us a glimpse into the lives of athletes who overcame traumas and extraordinary obstacles, an eight-member Global Women team quietly began working last Friday in an Eastern European country with women who needed an Olympic-sized hope that their lives can be different.
The Global Women team is serving alongside ministry partners Beginning of Life in a camp outside Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, an Eastern European nation between Romania and Ukraine.
The campers that this team is working with are girls and women involved in Beginning of Life's rehabilitation and restoration ministry.
Human trafficking expert Lauran Bethel has called Beginning of Life a "best practice model" in ministering to victims of trafficking, or those at risk of being trafficked.
The 40 women attending camp have been exploited and abused. Some of them have been rescued after being trafficked. They are all at a point in their lives to be open to God's continued healing through fun and refreshment, Bible study, prayer, time with counselors, and even through loving strangers visiting from America.
Beginning of Life provides staff for the camp, with the Global Women team helping carry out their plans.
The single mothers who attend have no support system to provide child care elsewhere, so their 27 children (from 2-14 years old) and 21 infants and toddlers attend camp with their mothers.
Human trafficking provides one of the top exports for Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe.
"Tens of thousands of Moldovan women are estimated to have fallen victim to human trafficking," according to Radio Free Europe. "Most victims come from rural areas, where economic hardships and ignorance turn young girls into easy prey for traffickers."
Before returning to the United States, the team will visit in the homes of several women from camp. Seeing the rustic conditions of village life will help them gain an understanding of these fertile recruiting grounds for traffickers.
Global Women has supported the work of Beginning of Life for seven years in keeping with the organization's strategy to work with indigenous Christian women leaders.
Yulia Ubeivolc and Natasha Klapanyiuk lead the team of 20 to 25 young Christian women and men, most trained as social workers.
Beginning of Life offers an extensive ministry in Chisinau and surrounding villages and is in the process of replicating their program in central Asia.
The organization provides counseling, medical care, emergency assistance and directs a rehabilitation home and restoration program for women who have been abused and exploited.
The process of learning to live independently is slow. Many of the women lack formal education, job readiness skills and even basic skills, such as cooking and personal hygiene.
As part of the Beginning of Life program, the women are encouraged to live lives that include service to others.
Christina is typical of girls and young women who are part of Beginning of Life's program. She was born to a mother who spent most of her time in jail.
At a young age, she was forced into prostitution and missed two years of school. She was 13 when her mother died, and she was sent to an orphanage.
When she came to Beginning of Life, she was aggressive, refused help and was uncooperative.
Christina is now excelling in school and building solid friendships with her classmates.
Her attitude toward people has changed. She helps the other girls at the rehabilitation center with their children and has restored a relationship with her half-sister.
Christina has realized she can earn money through her participation in cleaning and handicraft projects.
Her attitude toward God has also changed. "Don't tell me about God, I don't believe in Him," she initially told Beginning of Life staff. Now she is active in church and determined for her life to be different.
In a country where an estimated 30,000 women and girls have simply vanished, Global Women joins Beginning of Life in offering life-changing hope.
As long as the countrywide desperation continues to be fueled by poverty, high unemployment and poor education, the need will continue to exist to help prevent trafficking and to offer restoration and hope to the victims of modern-day slavery.
Trudy Johnson is the associate director of Global Women. Visit the Global Women's Facebook page. Follow Global Women on Twitter.