As I looked at people’s faces through the van’s window in Jamaica, I wondered about their lives. I was glad to get away from the resort. I got to see people in their everyday routines. I saw where they lived. I caught glimpses of their lives.
It wasn’t all easy to see. At times, I felt intrusive. Sometimes, my eyes met someone’s, and we had a brief connection, smiling a moment of encouragement. Other times, I saw pain, irritation, impatience, hunger…or at least, something that prompted me to assume those things. I took no photos. It was too private and personal. Sometimes, the memory of someone in his or her context creates a more searing snapshot than a framed photograph.
We headed down the mountain about the time the second wave of school children were out for the day, along with many people heading home from work. The sporadic, small villages began to string together so that there was rarely a stretch of land without someone sitting, walking, or living alongside the road. I was taking in the faces outside my window when I saw her–a young girl peering out a door. She looked scared and uncomfortable. I glanced around her and saw a slightly older girl standing nearby, a little less reluctant but stiffly poised to attract attention. An older man stood and smoked nearby. My skin crawled. I couldn’t know for sure what was going on, but I was pretty certain. I wanted to jump off the bus and snatch the girls and carry them away.
Not too far down the road, I saw three schoolgirls sitting on the rocks beside the road, high enough to be at eye level. Two were dressed in their school uniforms and seemed preoccupied with chatter about the day. The third was dressed in a skimpy sequined dress, focusing on people walking and driving by. She was only a few years older than the younger girls I had just seen, but there was a resolute routine in her eyes.
I sat back and prayed. I knew my initial response to swoop in and save the day wasn’t a long-term solution. Money and relocation can’t touch the problem of trafficking and slavery without education, healing, and compassion wrapped in a relationship. I don’t know how God is working in those young lives, but I trust Him, and I have committed those faces to memory so that I can pray for them daily. God brings them to my mind and overwhelms my heart often. I know it is in those moments that I can pray for their protection and provision.
What else can I do? What else can you do? Know the signs.
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking. (Source: dhs.org)
How can I help? How can you help?
- Get educated.
- Raise awareness.
- Take action.
(Source: Today’s Christian Woman)
National Human Trafficking Resource Center:
1 (888) 373-7888 SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) traffickingresourcecenter.org