Back in April, I joined hundreds of other participants to run the 5K-Race 2 Rescue-Color Run that was filled with fun, music, and sweat. It was my first 5K, first Color Run, and first time ever doing anything to the cause I had been wanting to support for a long time, the fight against human trafficking. When the race was over, I felt moved to do something more. So I applied for a volunteering position at Rescue Her.
Why did I want to do this? Why did I care?
Growing up in a Southeast-Asian country, human trafficking has always been a familiar subject to me. Moreover, in my younger years, I was friends with people who took advantage of prostituted women. It all seemed so normal to them, so casual, and so harmless. But deep down, I knew better. I might have never been a prostitute, but I've got to a point where I devalued myself way below my true worth in my younger years. I thank God that my future is not determined by my past, and now whenever I look back to those years, I feel the urge to tell younger women that they are worth it. That they are more valuable than they think or they are told they are. That they don't need affirmation from guys to know that they're beautiful.
What's sad is the fact that high-profile pop singers are promoting this self-devaluing with lyrics like "You (men) can have it anyway you like it, anywhere you like it" in chart-topping songs kids sing along to these days. Even top divas like Beyonce encourages girls to base their self-esteem on how good they are in bed and how much money they can make. What a deadly combination ! I did what I did out of choice, out of the desire to be wanted. But those young girls that are being trafficked? They are forced to do way crazier things than what I did, with guys they don't even know and like, by fear and often addiction to drugs that are introduced to them by the pimps. Many also do it for the money, and over time, they will grow numb and they will end up saying that they do this because they want to.
Can something be done about it? Sure! And it might just start with a soap and a sticker.
After waiting for a few months, I finally got the opportunity to volunteer for Rescue Her last Friday night. I started by showing up 6 p.m. for a briefing with the founders, Brad & Josie Carignan.
I was relieved to know that most of the people who showed up were first-time volunteers too. We were told that we were to give away handmade soaps with stickers on them that have got National Human Trafficking Hotline written on them to motels in low-income areas. Why? Because human trafficking-related activities and transactions usually happen there. We also brought cookies to the motel owner/managers, because all we want to do is connect with them and cookies help building the bridge!
Before we left, Brad reminded us that pimps and dealers are usually armed, so...we gotta be careful. We left our stuff at the office, carrying only our phones and driver's licenses. That's why I didn't take that many photos, I didn't know if it was safe enough. Maybe next time I'll take better photos :) We were also told to pray short prayers with our eyes open, whenever somebody asked us to pray for them. And, if our 'watcher', who stood by the car, called us to get back to the car, we must drop everything we're doing and get back immediately. I was like, wow, this is for real. I have only seen such images of American pimps and dealers in movies. Never seen them for real, so I was kinda excited! We split into 2 groups and carpooled to the motels.
I took the following photo from inside the car. It was the first motel we went to. It was not scary when we first got here because the sun was still up, but it got pretty scary after the sun went down ( we spotted a car that looked suspicious stopping in front of a room, a guy approaching our car and all). However, the owner was very receptive towards the idea of putting the soaps in the bathrooms, he asked for like 20 soaps!
Of course not every motel owner liked the idea. So we got some 'No's' too. But I learned a lot from this experience, especially through how the Rescue Her founder, Josie interacted with the people she met in the motels. She was very compassionate towards them. There was no fear, no judgement, just love. And that's how I think we oughta look at people, no matter who they are and what they do. And no matter what they think of us!
Now, we were encouraged to ask people if they needed us to pray for them, but not everyone said yes. There was this guy who actually said "No. I got enough problems. I've tried that before." He might have been disappointed by Christians who didn't show him love in the past, or life might have been so tough on him, I don't know. All I know is that he is loved too, and we just gotta keep him in our prayers.
We went to a few other sketchy motels, and we were able to give away 250 soaps in total! A few motel owners also put the stickers on their check-in window rightaway! It was quite a successful night. We did pray for some people and all motel owners got cookies (even the vegan ones)! We finally wrapped up at 9.30 p.m. and Mr.Man + J picked me up at the Rescue Her office promptly.
I was tired, but very happy, knowing that what I just did might one day help a young girl who is stuck in a motel room, abused and helpless.
There's something so fulfilling about doing something for others. I guess that's because it's what we're meant to do. After all, this life is too short to live it just for me.
If you know or see or are a young girl who is being prostituted, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline : 1 (888) 373-7888 or Text "HELP" or "INFO" to 233733.