What is your dream? If the next stranger you saw asked you that question, what would you say?
Maybe at some time in your life you could answer right away and maybe some of you would need some time to think about it. This is the story of one young survivor that without hesitation knew exactly what her dream was and that she was going to do everything she could to see it become a reality.
Some of you might remember the rescue operation in South America earlier this year in April (Operation Chiquitos III). Most children are provided the opportunity to dream without abandon, but the nine survivors rescued in this operation face a long road to recovery.
One of the young girls, age 14, captured our hearts right from the beginning. She was kind, full of love, and with her eyes full of tears expressed how grateful she was to be free from the man who had been selling her. Within an hour of her being rescued she started to tell the aftercare team about her dream of becoming a nurse one day. Do you remember what your dream was when you were her age?
Was it to be an artist? Maybe a singer? Perhaps a famous athlete? Or maybe you were like a lot of people that had no idea what they wanted to do for a job when they were 14 years old? However, if a 14-year-old looked into your eyes and told you with confidence what her dream was, would you not do everything you could to fight for her dream to become a reality?
Following the rescue we continued to get updates on her progress. Two months later we followed up with her in person. Her bright smile greeted us at the door as we walked in. I could tell she was so excited to personally share with us the progress that she had been making at the aftercare home. She told me about how she was doing well in school, and how proud of herself she was for the additional words she had been practicing in English. I’m sure you can guess what one of my first questions for her was. Do you still want to be a nurse? She responded without hesitation and with her huge smile she said, “Of course I still want to be a nurse!” With pride, she sat next to me as the director reported that she was doing really well in counseling and they thought they might have identified a healthy family she could live with.
Dreams Bring Hope
In November, we were able to visit the aftercare home again to follow up with the girls living there. I have to admit it was disappointing that I did not see our sweet 14-year-old at the door when I arrived.
The reason why I did not see her though is because she had just moved to live with her aunt!
It was reported that she did so well at the aftercare home and that because her aunt was such a safe and healthy family member, she was able to live with her. The aftercare home has done in-home family services, and to have a safe family member to live with is always ideal. For those of you that have worked with people that have been through trauma and have been removed from their home, you know that the majority of children still long to be with loving and caring family members.
We all still consider this young, bright, teenager who is full of life as O.U.R. family. We already look forward to the day when we get an invitation to her high school graduation.
Not all stories are like this. Some are very painful. While you cannot convince someone to have a dream for their life, you can lead by example. When all odds are against someone, there is still hope! In many cases, you can be the hope to the stranger you meet at the grocery store, your co-workers, your neighbors, or your family. Tell them about your dream and how you support dreams like our beautiful 14-year-old’s dream.
We thank you for partnering with us! We thank you for believing that if there is one more boy or girl to be rescued to live out their dream, it is worth the fight. We believe there is a hope and future for survivors of human trafficking in this world. We know that you also believe this and together we will not stop fighting for the freedom of a dream.
Jessica Mass, Director of Aftercare, Operation Underground Railroad.