The past few days have been rather fast-paced and very informative. I am incredibly impressed with the two organizations behind all of the work we have seen, Eternal Threads and Kingdom Investment Nepal.
B, R, and I are all student interns for Eternal Threads, a non-profit organization that works to create a sustainable income for women and girls around the world. They have developed a variety of projects in different countries, selling hand-crafted products that employ countless women and children worldwide for fair-trade wages. ET then uses the proceeds to donate to additional projects in these countries. B and I, who began volunteering at the warehouse just last year, started the Red Thread Movement as a project within Eternal Threads to raise additional money for all the work that Eternal Threads does in Nepal with our local partner, an NGO that does very vast and in-depth anti-trafficking work all over Nepal. Their main focus is to empower girls and make them agents of transformation in their communities. Through counseling and the acquisition of skills, the girls become leaders in their communities and work to inform other girls about trafficking. They are very keen on giving girls the opportunity to learn sewing and other skills that enable them to make a living so they do not have a desire to accept foreign “job opportunities” or false marriage proposals. Everything they do can be traced back to the need for girls to be confident in themselves and their ability so they can rise above the oppression and find respect in their society.
I have been blown away with the generosity and the genuine care of the founders of both of these organizations. Watching them work and interact with the people we meet has taught me so much. For instance, when we go to a sewing facility to meet with a class, they are immediately keyed into the girls’ needs and are eager to supply them with the necessary things without delay. Whether it is finding a bigger facility, starting a new literacy program for them, providing more sewing machines so the girls can practice more, giving them bracelets of their own, etc. They desire to care for the flock that has been entrusted to them. They could claim that they have done well enough by establishing what is already in place, but instead they strive to constantly add and improve. They have lovingly committed themselves to care for the needs of these girls and they will personally see these projects through, never promising what they know they cannot provide and always trusting that they will be provided with the necessary resources.
We met another staff member and she told us some of her most intense trafficking stories over dinner. We heard of a student who received consistent calls from a stranger promising a significant amount of money for her schooling. Desperate to add to her dwindling funds, she took a friend and met up with the man who then conned her into coming to a hotel on the border. They happened to board a vehicle with a police man in his civilian clothing and that same vehicle happened to stop right by the NGO’s staff member’s home as she was returning from work. Instead of being ushered to the hotel where a trafficker awaited her, the student was questioned in the police station and the traffickers were brought to justice. There are so many similar stories; stories that may be quite similar to ones we could read online or in other human trafficking books. The difference for us, however, is that we have met face to face with the people who, not only witnessed these events firsthand, but were directly involved. They had the intuition, they talked to the girls, they spotted the trafficker. To them, these are not just stories, this is reality.
Last night, B was sitting in the restaurant of our hotel and a man came up and asked to share her table. The waiter asked him to leave and he complied, annoyed. Later he returned and handed her a note before being ushered away again. The note said the following: “Sis I know you is a founder person is in Nepal- but you can see in their activated for reural person and commenaty. Please don’t waste your times and your money in our country. Thank You.”
We hear the girls and the staff talk about the opposition they face and the difficulties of being in this business, but we never have been truly able to know what they are put through on a daily basis. That night, this encounter and note made trafficking finally start to become more of a reality to us.
We strongly believe that we were brought here for a reason, and we believe it is all coming together now for a reason. God has opened unbelievable doors for us and it is not in vain. This country needs to undergo a transformation, and there is no better time than now for a change.
We set off early in the morning to visit a nearby border unit where we met with more girls. They were quite distraught over a situation that arose the day before where a 12 year old girl, whom one of them was certain was in bad company, got away. After a half hour of counseling her and seeing suspicious reactions from her and the people she was with, they took her and her “uncle” to the police. The police, without thoroughly analyzing the situation, let her go. This is highly unusual since all the police we have encountered so far have been incredibly cooperative while assisting these girls. We even met a female officer who expressed her desire to do what she can to stop trafficking. The girls at this unit planned to return to the police station today to talk to them. Our contact made them go alone so they can begin to establish the confidence they need to work with the police. We left the troubled girls reluctantly and, as I hugged one girl goodbye, she told me that, after awhile, I needed to come back there.
We then moved on to the the final border unit visit of our trip. The girls there talked about how, as time passes on the job, they become increasingly able to recognize patterns that the rings of traffickers use to get girls across. The traffickers are constantly changing their methods and the girls constantly have to adapt their methods of stopping them. Currently, their weakness is gaining access to the personal cars that pass over the border. Buses, rickshaws, and pedestrians are easier to stop and interrogate, but personal cars can slip by more easily through the open border. They are looking for a way to fix this problem.
We are still learning about just how difficult, but absolutely necessary, this whole undertaking is. There is so much that goes on with trafficking behind the scenes that is impossible to keep tabs on. It’s incredible that the girls are able to see as much as they do. Yet, they don’t waste time being discouraged; they only become more determined to educate girls and to persecute those deceiving them.
We spent the rest of the day and the next day out in the jungle. We stayed in little huts right outside of a national park and met some delightful people. Our host, Mr. B, had an incredibly kind family and staff that welcomed us in and cooked fantastic meals for us. They have quite an amazing outreach in their community, opening their doors to local girls who are abused by their husbands and taking in orphans to provide them with schooling. We were also surprised to come across an Englishman named Dan who unveiled his entire personal story to us of how he crossed the Himalayas and spent seven months in prison because of it. He actually had an entire website, www.freedan.co.uk , written on his behalf. He ended up at Mr. B’s somewhat by chance and now stays with him several months every year. He helps to improve Mr. B’s business and brings loads upon loads of eye glasses to the locals in need of correctional lenses. We all sat out around a campfire and talked for hours before calling it a night. We added about 5 layers of clothing to our sleepwear to keep warm overnight. We woke up early and were able to journey through the jungle for a few hours before having to leave our new friends and start our journey back. We had a late departure from Mr. B’s but a transportation strike has significantly helped clear up the traffic on the road; we’ve gone miles without passing anyone.
It is sweet and serene places like the small village we were in that really make me appreciate the good-nature of the Nepalese people. They are so genuine and hard-working, it is hard to not want to do all you can to improve their situation and to give our sisters here some hope for their future and an equal chance at happiness and freedom.
We met a potential future employee of our partner NGO who left us with a memorable quote. She said, “There is no hope and no future for the young Nepali girls; so I want them to have something. It is a very inhuman activity to sell a human as a commodity, so I want that to stop.”
Border Station with Female Police Officer
Campfire to keep warm!