Vulnerable, naïve, poor and desperate.
Many of those that find themselves trafficked could be described as such, tricked by someone they trusted—shockingly by family members sometimes—and ending up far from home working in an industry like prostitution where they feel trapped and robbed of their dignity.
How can you help people in this situation?
Solely getting them to escape their plight will only offer a temporary solution, and the likelihood of them being sucked back into trafficking is great.
Setting them up with a new trade and income is what BMS World Mission and its partners are finding leads to a permanent life-enhancing solution.
In the heart of the red light district of Bangkok in Thailand, BMS partner NightLight is working with women who, either through poverty or trafficking, have ended up in the sex industry.
BMS mission worker Sarah Brown heads up a team of these women who are being trained in making jewelry, which is sold worldwide through the NightLight website.
All the money raised from the jewelry goes to the women’s salaries.
“We are working with some of the most courageous women in the world,” Brown said. “As their self-esteem grows, as their confidence grows, as they have found freedom for themselves, they are able to pass that baton onto others. We have had women who have been transformed that are going to help other women as well.”
In the last year under Brown’s leadership, NightLight has branched out into baking.
Brown has been training women on how to bake breads and cakes. They have opened a café in the red light district, where the breads and cakes are on sale to largely ex-pat customers.
In India, BMS partner Freeset is also using business to set women free from trafficking.
Freeset, set up by New Zealanders Kerry and Annie Hilton in Kolkata in 2001, is well known worldwide for its bags and clothing made by women who have escaped the sex industry.
Now Freeset is trying to prevent vulnerable girls from entering trafficking in the first place by setting them up in business.
It is in the process of establishing business incubators that teach budding entrepreneurs at school-leaving age all the things they need to know about starting a business in India and will give them experience of working in one of the Freeset businesses.
They will then help them set up their own business with marketing communications, product design and logistics provided to give them the best start possible.
BMS volunteers Ron and Annette Salmon are helping to set up the project.
“If you can save the girls from being trafficked in the first place, then that’s a lot better than finding them a route to escape,” Ron Salmon said.
In the United Kingdom, government funding allows women who are deemed to be viewed as a victim of trafficking by the National Referral Mechanism a 45-day “reflection period” and support by an aftercare provider.
According to former NightLight and BMS worker, Emily Chalke, this is often too short a time to help a woman who has suffered the trauma of trafficking.
Chalke is part of a project called Ella’s Home, a safe home and rehabilitation project for trafficked women, due to start later this year in London.
It will work with women on the basis of their individual needs with the more realistic target of a minimum three-month period of recovery.
Supported by BMS, Ella’s Home is connected to Kahaila, a thriving church plant and coffee shop.
Like at NightLight, it is hoped women will get training and skills by helping out at the coffee shop.
“I am hoping that it will be able to give women a real chance at freedom,” Chalke said. “A way to build their life again, to truly get out of a cycle of exploitation.”
These projects will not help all of the millions of women, men and children being trafficked each year, but they are life-changing for those we can help.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles on how Baptists are addressing human trafficking around the world. A column by Marion Carson of the European Baptist anti-trafficking working group will appear tomorrow.
Previous articles in the series are: