Monthly Archives: January 2011

Day 11- End of the Journey

There is a Tibetan proverb that says, “On a long journey, you must die once.”

We fly home tomorrow.  Yesterday, we said “goodbye” to our girls at the safe house and drove away, waving, with tears in our eyes.  This was the death of the journey for me because this moment held both great pain and great purpose.  To me, a person’s eyes are the windows into their soul, and when I looked into the eyes of the girls as I hugged them for the last time, I recognized and understood something for the first time.  I realized that combating sex trafficking is incredibly extensive and broad; it is a crime that occurs around the world.  But even though the problem seems overwhelming, we have to remember that what we are doing is not really about an “issue;” the Red Thread Movement is about people.  Laughing with these girls, singing songs with them, comforting them as they cried showed me that even if all of our efforts thus far had been for just one of these girls, it would have been worth it.  I have died to seeing sex trafficking as a faceless crime.  We were staying in a small village the other day, and there was a newspaper article about a girl who had gone missing from there; she was most likely trafficked.  I finally fully understood that these girls are daughters and sisters and friends.  Some of them are now my friends, and that is why it was so painful to say “goodbye” to them.  I love them.  But I know that there is purpose in our leaving Nepal.  Nearly 12,000 more women and girls from this country will be trafficked within this next year, and even though I do not know them personally and may never meet them, I love them too.  And I believe that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.

We are going home tomorrow with a mission, a mission of love and determination.  Currently, the Red Thread Movement supports two border units and one safe house in Nepal.  Our goal for this year is to open an additional border unit and two more safe houses, so that we will be funding a total of three border units and three safe houses.  Each border unit rescues around four girls every day, and the safe houses house 20 girls each.  The border units each require $800/month to operate, and each safe house, $1500/month.  We are already working on a structure for the Red Thread Movement, expanding it to support these projects.  We will not stop advocating for the girls in Nepal and around the world who are being abused and exploited until sex trafficking is ended.  Will you join us?  Put on a red bracelet, and wear the freedom of these girls on your arm!

One of the bands supporting the Red Thread Movement, Sent By Ravens, has a song whose lyrics encapsulate our journey in Nepal: “Love.  Love is all we need.  I came here with nothing, but I left with everything.”  We came here with a passion to end sex trafficking in Nepal, and we are leaving with a love for these girls that now mean everything to us.

-B

Namaste

End of the journey


Day 10- The Jungle

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.”

-S

Border Station with Female Police Officer

Campfire to keep warm!


Day 8- Sewing Centers

Today was an eye-opening adventure as we visited two more border units and two sewing classes.

At the first unit, the girls expressed how glad they are to have the job of rescuing victimized girls. They remained alert, even while we spoke with them, watching for girls.  According to a border girl, an average of three victims are rescued every day at her station. It takes incredible courage for these girls to approach those crossing as they demand to see legal documents, facing much harassment.  She said, “Sometimes I am afraid of the pimps, they can be dangerous. But the police here are helpful.”

We watched as one of the border girls approached a group to question them. It was a family, taking their daughter just past the border to send her off to be married. The fiancé did have marriage documents, so it was not likely a trafficking case. Just the same, the border girl spoke with them for a long time to inform the young woman of trafficking and to give her opportunity to second guess the man she was with. The border girls cannot force anyone to stay, but they must do their best to convince the trafficked girls to not continue to India.

The second unit was not far away. When we stopped at the border unit, a mob of men began to surround us. We decided to casually ‘walk away’, but as soon as we made it out of the mob, they all just turned and followed close behind us. When it was evident the crowd was only getting larger and not leaving, we knew it was time to go.  Our KIN leader exclaimed, “I have never seen this before! They do not stare when it is just me!”

The rest of the day was spent meeting some amazing girls who are part of the sewing classes.  With support from Eternal Threads, the local NGO began their first sewing club for at-risk girls two years ago. The sewing skill provides the girls with a sustainable income making them less likely to be trafficked.  The girls in these villages are high risk to being trafficked because they are hard workers who know nothing about trafficking but want to provide all they can for their family.

This is where Red Thread Movement comes in. Today, for the first time, we asked the girls if they would be willing to help spread awareness of trafficking throughout their community by giving their friends the same red bracelets we wear. When asked how many people they could share the bracelets with, both groups of girls claimed about 10 per person was manageable. This means we would need to donate about 250 Red Thread bracelets to each sewing club. We decided to begin a new project within Red Thread specifically for this. For three dollars we can wear the Red Thread bracelet and raise awareness in America. For an additional three dollars, you can pay for a Red Thread bracelet that will help spread awareness in Nepal.  Words cannot describe how eager these girls are to start being ambassadors in their community, and it is exciting to them that we are doing the same in America with the Red Thread Movement. These sewing clubs are only the beginning of a viral spread of sex trafficking awareness in Nepal.

The trafficking will only end when all girls in every village and community are educated on the issue and know how to refuse the traffickers. We invite you to buy a bracelet for yourself and for a girl in Nepal. With help we know that this project will flourish!

-R

Sewing Class in Remote Village

Sewing Class


Day 7- Border Units

 

We visited the first of seven border units this afternoon.  It was established almost three years ago.  While we did not cross into India, we could see the archway welcoming people into the country.  Nepal and India share an open border, so citizens of these countries can pass between them at will without documentation; this makes it especially difficult to catch traffickers and the girls they are trafficking.  Although the border units do not have the authority of law enforcement, the police are right next to the units and assist them when a trafficker is recognized.

The NGO we partner with focuses primarily on the aspects of prevention and protection concerning sex trafficking, and the police handle the prosecution process.  Unfortunately, the traffickers often cross the border behind the girls they are trafficking to avoid suspicion, so while it is easy to identify a girl traveling alone and rescue her, catching her trafficker is much less common.  For this reason, the women working at the border units stop almost every person crossing the border that is not a local.

The women working at the unit stand on the road and look for young girls traveling without a man; some of the women working at the units were themselves victims of sex trafficking, so they are especially skilled at recognizing other girls who are being trafficked.  They then ask the girls why they are going to India and talk with them about sex trafficking.  The two women at the border unit today told us that about two out of every ten girls they stop claim to be victims of trafficking and are rescued.  We saw them talk with two girls traveling together this afternoon, but the girls said they were just going to India to shop and were not being trafficked.

-B


Day 6- Ambassador Club

There is a seventeen-year-old girl at the safe house who has been teaching me what it means to love.  This precious girl is eight months pregnant as a result of rape, and she has chosen to bear and raise her child.  She did not choose this baby, and I can imagine that carrying it inside of her is a constant reminder of the worst times of her life, when she was both trafficked and sexually abused.  Nevertheless, her eyes lit up when she showed me the clothes she was learning how to sew for her new little baby, and the other girls talk about how excited she is to be a mother to this child.

When traffickers take a girl, they are attempting to take everything from her.

Approximately 90% of girls rescued on the border have already been abused, and the social stigma for trafficked girls is very difficult to overcome.  Even today, we were walking in the street by the safe house with some of the girls, and a few of the locals commented, “So these are the sold girls.”  They are seen as an egg whose shell has been cracked, even if by another person, and many cannot return home after being trafficked because they are “shamed.”  However, if a girl goes back to her household and village with a skill she can offer, such as sewing, she returns with both dignity and a reason for her lengthy absence, as she can say that she was in vocational training.

So, the safe house is a place where the girls can both receive this training and claim back what was taken from them.

Some of the girls at the safe house have been very sad recently, and one was crying as I sat next to her today.  Our Nepalese partner explained to us that some of them are getting ready to leave the safe house; they are flying out of the nest.  He said that it is a scary thing, flying for the first time.  But he promised us that he will not let them fall.  Leaving the safe house is a part of these girls’ ultimate rescue, as they go back to the lives they had before being trafficked.

You see, traffickers took a lot from the girls I have met, but they did not succeed in taking everything.  There is a bravery and a hope in my new sisters that cannot be stolen, and these things are going to give them ultimate victory over what has happened in their lives!

We also visited a village where 25 girls have begun something similar to a micro-lending self help project.  These girls are being given an education in business and an opportunity to use their skills.  As a result, they have dignity and self-respect, and it is programs like these that will ultimately end sex trafficking.  Traffickers prey on, and appeal to, girls who do not have any hope for their lives; the girls are tempted by the idea of a marriage or job in India.  If these girls have a purpose for their lives and respect as women in their villages, the source for slavery will disappear.

These girls, who we refer to collectively as the Ambassador Club, have also been going out to speak to girls in villages nearby, to let them know about sex trafficking and how to avoid becoming a victim.  Their goal is to put signs up in the villages that say, “No girls have been trafficked from this village.”

The older girls in this group mentioned today that they would like to learn how to sew, as they are now in need of a skill they can make a living with.  The programs to teach girls how to sew can train 40 girls at a time, so our partner put these village girls in charge of finding the 40 girls and a facilitator to teach them how to sew; he put us in charge of raising a one-time amount of $1400 (or $35 per girl) to fund this project.

We are asking you, and anyone interested, to sponsor a girl by giving a one-time gift of $35, by making a donation at http://www.EternalThreads.org.  The girls have a proverb they abide by, “If you are planting for one year, plant crops.  If you are planting for ten years, plant trees.  If you are planting for a hundred years, invest on men.”

-B

The girl’s bracelets
 

 

Ambassador Club

Meeting with the ambassador club


Day 5- Safe House

Today we finally got to meet the girls who are the reason behind all that we do. The safe house was not at all how I pictured it, it was far better. We were warmly greeted with laughter and handmade leis and given a full tour of the 4-story building that included the girls’ living area, classroom, workroom, shop, garden, the organization’s offices, etc. The building was beautiful and very well kept by the girls.

While we were looking at the office, they explained the entire structure of their work to us. The organization has a very strong and impressive setup. They operate seven border units; near each unit is a transit home. Rescued girls are able to stay in the transit homes before either going back to their homes or entering the safe house.  The East/West Highway that runs the length of Nepal is 1026 km long. Of that 1026 km, the stations cover 626 km, leaving 400 more kilometers to cover with 5 more border patrol units in the future. Each unit has been rescuing from 150-200 girls a month, which is about 4-5 girls a day, depending on the location and the season. They currently only have one safe house but two new safe houses will be opening this year to increase the number of girls that can be housed. Each safe house can rehabilitate and train 20 girls at a time. So, with the two new establishments, 60 at a time can be helped. Their future goal is to have 5 safe houses across the country so that each region can send rescued girls a shorter distance to reduce the hassle of them all having to travel so far from various places. In addition to the safe houses and border units, our partner organization also raises awareness through radio station jingles, street dramas, literacy training, and door-to-door groups. Our partner explained the program for the safe house and showed us the functional literacy books used to teach the girls that are based on lessons in managing money, raising families, self care, and other useful topics. Almost all of the girls who leave the safe house return to their families and are able to offer their new seamstress skills that can help transform their whole village.  We looked through the records of all the rescued girls. It was fascinating to see what excuses the traffickers had fed the girls and to see what relation the girls claimed they were to the traffickers. There were many different stories and there were also many trends in the stories told. They had page after page of records of the claims the girls made to get across the border to the fate that awaited them in India.

We spotted the girls’ handicrafts throughout the house. These are the same items that we sell at the booths we set up in the U.S. Yet, here they were, half a world away, being handmade by girls close to our age.

After the tour, I presented the girls with the scrapbook I made that had various pictures of the Red Thread Movement in it. It included pictures from events and a picture of each of the supporting bands and other photos of people wearing the bracelets. When we showed the book to the house mother first, she was initially shocked and then incredibly excited to see the bracelets on people’s arms and asked if these were really their bracelets. The girls sat through the first flip-through watching quietly but went back through it again discussing each of the pictures. D translated some of their commentary and it was funny to hear what they thought of some of the pictures. They spent a good while comparing some of the band guys to their favorite Indian actors in the shows they watch. They also went through and pointed out every picture that we were in, excited to recognize someone they know. We taught them what Red Thread Movement was and they all learned how to say it in English.

They prepared us a genuine Nepali lunch that we felt the need to eat Nepal-style (with our hands). The  girls had a lesson on the roof and then finished early so we could visit with them. With the help of D’s translation, we taught them how to play UNO and they understood the rules rather well. There were quite a few cheaters, but most of the cheating was a comical misunderstanding. We learned four new colors in Nepali and there was quite a bit of laughter every time we messed them up. Afterwards, we painted their nails and they painted ours as well. I couldn’t tell exactly what they were saying but I’m pretty sure they made fun of how different purple nails looked on someone as white as me. The color did look much richer against their beautiful dark skin. I gave them some playdough also and was molding a snake out of it and they, trying to guess what it was, said “it’s a bird, no it’s a plane…”.

We asked them how long it took to make one bracelet and one of the more experienced artisans, who was working on making one as we spoke to her, said an hour. The other girls jokingly poked fun at one girl saying it took her a whole month to make a bracelet. It was so wonderful to see them laughing and joking, just as we do. They are so full of life and hope; I was so thankful for the joy they have found. The girls are so genuine in their affections as they interact with us.

I can only imagine the feeling of utter betrayal you would feel after being trafficked by someone who had been close to you and the distrust that would generate. Given everything these girls have been through, I found it amazing that they had such a huge capacity for love and affection towards strangers. Their hearts were not hardened towards love but instead they loved each other deeply and warmly welcomed us into their lives. They are hard workers and are eager to finish projects and learn new skills. They are trained to become leaders and they all step into the role so beautifully. Even though the thought of leaving the safe house saddens them, they understand that they have a new responsibility to go back to their communities and help other girls so that their villages can be transformed and lives can be saved with the new hope they bring with them. The girls were absolutely inspiring. It was a complete blessing to spend today with them; I only wish there was more time.

We are now back at the hotel trying to get a good night’s sleep before another day of travel. Our bathroom is flooded, our electricity is pretty finicky, and the three of us are sharing a bed, but we finally got our heater to switch on so we feel extremely content. God has blessed us greatly on this trip and I know that much more lies ahead!

-S

Rickshaws


The sewing instructor



Weaving a Red Thread bracelet

B flips through the scrapbook with the girls

Some of the wonderful staff

Warm welcome

Namaste

Working on a sewing project

Painting the girls' nails

Making new threads!

Beautiful new nailpolish

Day 4- The Prison

We drove six hours today from Katmandu to western Nepal. Although it was a bit bumpy and a few of us got a little queasy, the trip was an incredible experience. Nepal is such a beautiful country, lots of trees and high hills. Getting short glimpses of the daily lives of people in the villages we passed by was meaningful because the culture is very different from our own.  They work very hard and live simplistically.

Half-way to our destination we stopped at a women’s prison where about 20 or 25 women are employed to make Red Thread bracelets. The leader of the project is actually in prison because she used to be a trafficker herself. She is now so thankful to be doing something that combats the crime she used to commit. The other women prisoners also feel blessed for being employed by Red Thread. They many times feel depressed in the prison, but making the bracelets helps not only give them an income (which they usually send home to their families), they also know that the bracelets are for a great cause. Their family and friends are now more educated about trafficking because of what they are learning in the prison while making the bracelets.

A young 14 year old girl rode back with us today after spending a week in Kathmandu. She has been in the safe house for the past 9 months and will hopefully return to her home village soon.  She was rescued on the border; she had been deceived into thinking she was on her way to getting a job in India. The trafficker told her to pretend they were engaged to be married, thinking it was a more believable lie for the anti-trafficking surveillance unit. We loved spending the day with her; she is such a precious girl. We really look forward to meeting other rescued girls in the safe house tomorrow.

-R

The overseer of the work in Chitwan


Day 3- Kathmandu

“Welcome to Nepal.”  It was surreal to walk off the plane and see these signs letting us know that we were finally, after three days of travel, in Kathmandu, Nepal!  We were in the country that we had talked about for almost a year and a half, and suddenly Nepal was not just a place on the map where we knew sex trafficking occurs; it was real, and we could see it with our own eyes.  Our final flight from Delhi, India, was delayed by almost five hours because of fog, but it provided us with numerous blessings.  Not only were we given a fantastic free breakfast buffet at the airport in Delhi, as a result of the extended layover, but we were forced to reschedule our meeting at the American Embassy in Nepal.  This last part may not sound like much of a blessing, but because we were near the Embassy at the end of the work day, we bumped into the American Ambassador to Nepal and were able to tell him about the Red Thread Movement as well!

The highlight of our first day in country, however, was the meeting we had scheduled with the Human Rights/Trafficking in Persons Analyst at the American Embassy in Nepal.  A few months ago, I had a chance meeting with the American Ambassador to Eritrea at my university in Texas, and when I told him that I was going to Nepal in January to address the sex trafficking there, he put me in touch with the analyst.

The contact recently became the TIP Analyst for Nepal in September of 2010.  This year, he will write the Trafficking in Persons Report section for Nepal.  The TIP Report is a large document, which U.S. law requires be put out each year by the U.S. Department of State.  It tracks human trafficking around the world and provides specific reports detailing the prevention, protection and prosecution methods occurring within countries where significant human trafficking occurs.

Concerning sex trafficking, Nepal is considered a source country, meaning that women and girls are taken from Nepal to be sold into slavery elsewhere.  Most often, the women and girls are sold into Indian brothels.  As dictated by the TIP Reports, countries are assessed on a four-tier system: Tier One, Tier Two, Tier Two Watch List and Tier Three, with Tier One being the best.  Since the reports began in 2001, Nepal has consistently been ranked as a Tier Two country, with the exception of 2005, when it received identification as a Tier One state.  These rankings are given out by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.

We were able to present the Red Thread Movement to the analyst and introduce him to the Nepalese man the Red Thread Movement works with in Nepal.  He runs a non-governmental organization in Nepal that rescues girls on the Western border Nepal shares with India and rehabilitates some of these women and girls in safe houses.  The analyst’s report for Nepal will reflect information he gathers from people within Nepal working to combat human trafficking, and these are often NGO contacts.  At the conclusion of our meeting with the analyst, he agreed to travel with our contact in the upcoming months to visit the border units and safe houses KIN operates, in order to better understand and assess the situation in Nepal.  This will give the United States’ Embassy in Nepal and the G/TIP in Washington, DC, access to more information about what is being done to combat sex trafficking in Nepal and the methods this NGO is effectively employing to rescue Nepalese girls on the border and rehabilitate them.

Immediately following the conclusion of our meeting with the analyst, we walked past the American Ambassador to Nepal.  I had seen his picture online and recognized him, so I turned around and introduced myself and our group.  He attended school in Minnesota, which is where I am from, so it was fun to make that connection in a country half way around the world!  We gave him a press kit for the Red Thread Movement and talked with him for a few minutes about sex trafficking in Nepal.

All in all, today was a very long day of travel, but will remain one of the most greatly anticipated and informative days of my life.  My dream is to one day work as a Trafficking in Persons Analyst for a U.S. Embassy, and it was incredibly exciting and unexpected to meet the person who currently occupies that position at the Embassy in Nepal.  If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking, the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report is available online by entering it into a search engine.  The next report will be issued this upcoming summer.

-B

Our arrival in Kathmandu

Day 2- Kuwait, Bahrain

Our flight from DC to Kuwait ended up being very secure, since we shared the plane with six air marshals on duty. Upon our arrival in Kuwait, we were immediately informed that cell phone usage was absolutely prohibited. We knew they were serious because of all the anti-phone signs and because all the locals immediatly whipped out their iPhones and were not penalized in the slightest…  We had about 45 minutes to kill in Kuwait before we re-boarded our plane to head to Bahrain. I was the last of our team to go through the ticket line and, as I began to pass through the doorway to the gate’s tunnel, a man began to follow me. He turned out to be one of the airport workers and he pulled me aside. He was pointing at something. I thought I was getting in trouble (again) for luggage, etc.  and I was prepared to calmly assess whatever problem there was. However, he persisted in pointing and finally turned to me and said, “We found something on the plane…” and all I could think about was “Oh no, that can’t be good!” He began describing what he had found and he formed his hands into a rectangle and said that there was something that looked like “that” in it, pointing to my wrist. It finally hit me, he was gesturing about my Red Thread bracelet! We had accidentally left one of our press kit folders in the pouch on the back of one of the seats and, from the sound of it, this worker inspected every single document. He had me follow him and began asking more and more questions about what we were doing with the bracelets and listened with interest as I began to explain. Typically, I would be alarmed at his inquisitions, but I had a feeling that it would be okay, so I was able to tell him a little bit about Nepal and sex trafficking. We reached the end of the tunnel and he gestured to a few other male workers standing there and one immediately nodded and went and retrieved the press kit. It shocked me at how seriously they handled the issue of a forgotten folder. One man had it grasped tightly in his hands and walked up to me with a rather serious expression on his face and asked me to list off the contents of the folder. As I racked my brain listing everything, he began to laugh, joking, and handed it to me. I ended up giving him a bracelet and he wished us well on our endeavors.

 I was the last one on the plane and, as I started to take my seat and tell the others what had happened, there was a sudden swarm of flight attendants asking what  the deal was with the “red things.” They cleared out to prepare for take-off but one of the ladies returned immediately after the fasten seat belt light turned off and plopped down in the empty seat next to me as I started telling her about the Movement. Right about the time she had to leave, another attendant came up and was curious. He ended up coming back later with another flight attendant, and another two stopped by after. Every time someone would come by and talk to us, our section’s flight attendants would stand around and listen too! One even came back to buy one for her sister-in-law and another guy bought some for his Nepalese roommates. So, during the course of the mere one and a half hour flight, the Red Thread Movement expanded into 3+ new countries!

We are now on our way to India!

-S


Day 1: Dallas -> Washington DC

We have left DFW and are now on our epic journey to Kathmandu. After all this time and work put into the Red Thread Movement, we finally get to go and see the fruits of our labor. We have long anticipated being able to put a concrete place to the names we’ve been talking about and to put real faces to the people. This trip is much needed as we progress in developing this outreach and will no doubt give us an ample supply of motivation as we continue.

We tried to develop Red Thread in a way that allows us to be transparent to our supporters. Our desire is to make it possible for them to have a personal connection with the cause. We want them to see the pictures, hear the stories, and have the most recent updates on current situations in the lives of these Nepalese girls who are in such a great need for genuine love and for justice. That is why this trip is so important, we will finally have the chance to share their world with thousands across the world and to experience that world for ourselves.

I never feel more alive than when I’m traveling. The world is suddenly more vast and more exciting. There are new people to meet, things to experience, places to see, food to eat. Everything about it is wonderful to me. It is especially different taking a trip of this nature in the winter, in the midst of the typical winter lull where activity seems to cease and all I desire is to do nothing. This is a vast change in the routine.

Three of us met up at DFW and easily caught our non-stop to DC which, to our delight, was 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Another teammate had no problem getting out of Chicago and arrived ahead of us. Our flight attendant stopped by our aisle to ask us safety questions, since we were on the exit row, and he inquired about one girl’s age. He turned bright red when she said she was 22. We couldn’t help but laugh hysterically when we discovered the minimum age for exit row seating is FIFTEEN! I love the group I’m with, we have a really excellent team and I’m so blessed to be able to travel with each of these women.

We spent New Years in the lobby of our hotel where someone was hosing a New Years celebration. They kindly equipped with party hats and horns and we saw in the new year with some new friends.

We are picking up our final teammate at the airport at noon and we depart this evening. Our next stop is Kuwait, then Bahrain, and then Delhi before we finally arrive in Kathmandu!

-S