PART 1 – Brave Girl Human Trafficking Travel Journal – Manila Trip

Dear Friends,

This will be my first post about my (our) trip to Manila, Philippines… to work in the world of human trafficking (particularly women and girls being sold for sex) …. the first time I have written about it since I got home. Below is a photo of Jeanette and I with one of our new sisters that I will tell you a bit about in the coming posts. We were walking the streets of Angeles City, just outside of Manila….wearing shirts given to us by the girls at the safe house that said “YOU’RE NOT FORGOTTEN” as they took us into the brothels to help us understand what is happening there, and to talk to their sisters who they so want rescued…

photo by Jake Hixon crasheleven.com

You can look HERE to know more about why we went, etc…..we went with our friends from FULL CIRCLE EXCHANGE ,  a beautiful organization founded by my dear friends, Jeanette and Mark Priddy (and Mark’s brothers John and Ed Priddy), with the mission to”empower women and whole communities to rise above poverty through economic opportunities that are sustainable and dignified”…..and we have partnered to create a very wonderful plan to help what is going on out there in the world…..we need YOUR help too.

I simply have not been able to speak or write about it until today. So many of you made TRUTH CARDS after watching THIS VIDEO before we left……we took thousands of them with us and I can not wait to tell you about the miracles that happened because of those works of art that you made. I will tell these stories in multiple blog posts……

It has actually been a month since I came home and yesterday, I spoke of my trip for the very first time to a room of strangers. I just have not been able to speak of it….and have put off talking to my family and close friends and anyone who asks. I have not been able to figure out why…..it has just been locked up in my heart and won’t make it past there….and when I try to speak of it, the words will not come. Yesterday, I sat with Mark and Jeanette in a room of their friends and with their help, we spent 4 hours only scratching the surface of what we saw and experienced, and the plan that we are part of to do something to help.

So…I ask for your gentleness…your understanding as I try to start telling this story from my point of view. But first I must get a few things out of the way……

I have searched and searched for the reason that it is so hard for me to talk about it…and it all boiled down to one thing. I do not ever want to contribute to any reason for you or anyone else to ever use the word “whore” or “prostitute” or as some of the slang goes in the Philippines….”birds that fly low” . My apprehension has all boiled down to my fear that I will not be able to adequately put words to this that will make you see these beautiful girls as souls that are just like you and I….just like our daughters and our sisters and our mothers and our nieces and aunts and friends.

But I am going to try. Damn it, I am going to try (and I am sorry to swear……really….but sometimes, you just have to give words to some things are difficult to talk about and I hope with all that is in me that you see what it has taken me to climb to the top of a mountain to proclaim a thing or two from a megaphone)

This first blog post will be to beg you to come to understanding that you absolutely, positively have to come to before you can begin to understand this experience….10 days smack in the middle of sex tourism, sex trafficking, sex slavery, sex workers, sex for sale.

photo by Jake Hixon crasheleven.com

These are the places that I beg you to come to…before I can even begin…..

Her identity is not a whore. Or even a rescued whore. She is not a whore.

Her identity is not a prostitute. Her identity is not a former prostitute. She is not a prostitute.

Her identity is not of a product to be sold. She is not a product.

She is not less than. She is the same as.

She is a beautiful beautiful beautiful soul.

Even if she has “chosen” to work in the sex trade….she is a beautiful soul with a very complicated story. Many of these women and girls have “chosen” this because it was their only choice (which to me, makes it NOT a choice…because a choice requires multiple things to choose from…..in so many cases the choices are sex trade or die……sex trade or starve…sex trade or be beaten to death…) …..and so, one of the biggest problems in this huge problem is when those of us who DO have multiple choices in our lives write these women off when we ask a few questions from our own frame of reference and just say….”well, she chose that life…”

photo by Jake Hixon crasheleven.com

 There are millions of sex workers all over the world. They each have a story. This is not their identity. Each is a soul. Just like you and I. Each has hopes and dreams……her story and her life and her value goes far beyond being seen as a prostitute or a product to be sold.

But you see….I met, worked with and built a relationship mostly with girls who had been tricked, trapped, and enslaved into it….and who had been rescued…..they deserve to be free…they ARE free now…and they love to be free….and their #1 goal is to help their sisters to be free….here they are….the girls who changed my life forever……

 photo by Jake Hixon crasheleven.com

we worked together…we did SOUL RESTORATION work, we did job training…..but we spent our days and nights in the thick of the streets, brothels and face to face and heart to heart with girls who are still stuck in it…….whether they “chose” it or whether they had been taken there against their will…..these girls are trapped, stuck, sucked in, oppressed….no matter how they got there………no matter the beautiful smile on their face and the provocative bikini or mini skirt and the 5” heels……….her soul aches. When you spend a few minutes talking to her…………….and SEEING HER…….not just listening to her but HEARING HER……she will tell you that her soul wants to be free.

I am angry. I am heart broken. I am confused about how this can be happening. I have nightmares and I think about it every day. I also know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and that I will never be the same after this. I am grateful, thankful, compelled…..changed. I can not stay silent and I REFUSE TO DO NOTHING…..

Soooo….before I go into the specific stories and the specifics of all of it, before I beg you to help….I am going to illustrate to you something that I finally feel like explains what I think is happening, why it is happening….and how we can stop it from happening (and this is just concerning the attitude surrounding this…which has to change before we can make things change……)

I just want you to imagine the most disgusting cesspool and lake of smelly, disgusting, vile, poisonous, puke inducing sewer that you could ever imagine…just imagine it for a minute…without anything attached to it….don’t think of it as an analogy…just as what it is…

Imagine that you know where it is….you know how it smells, (it is the sewer, it is stinking, rotting garbage and filth…there are flies and rats all around it) so… you know that you just want to stay as far away as possible from it………and once you know about it…you learn to. (of course) You teach your children and friends to stay away from it…you talk about how much it stinks, how poisonous it is…how much disease it is spreading…how you must do all that you can to stay away from it…….and of course…it would be great for   it to be cleaned up….but for now….just stay away….it is so gross, so smelly, so disgusting…so dangerous, so vile….so absolutely opposite from everything good and true and beautiful and healthy…..

Ok….got that picture?

Now…imagine a girl that you love more than anything that gets thrown into it. Maybe she can swim, maybe she can’t. Maybe she even decided to jump in because someone told her that if she does it for a while, she can have the life she wants to have.

But she is in there, ok?

She is treading water, or she is drowning, but she is in there.

You see…..one of the problems with human trafficking (specifically sex trafficking) is that we turn away when we see it…..because it is disgusting….like this lake of sewer. It is dangerous, it is smelly, it is offensive. So we make our path in a way that we can avoid being near it. We orchestrate our life so that we do not have to smell it or see it. When we do approach it…..we look for a moment and then we look away. We look away before we see the souls that are in it. We only see the sewer, we only smell the smell. We only choke on the vileness that oozes off of it, making our eyes burn. We look away before we see the soul that is drowning or treading water in it.

What if it was your daughter, or your sister, or your niece? What if it was your best friend’s daughter or sister or niece?

We have got to stop thinking the girl is part of the sewer.

WE HAVE GOT TO STOP THINKING THAT THE GIRL IS PART OF THE SEWER.

THERE IS THE GIRL….AND THEN THERE IS THE SEWER.

We have got to stop looking away when we see the sewer….because she is in there.

I used to do it. I used to look…and then look away….what could I do, after all?

This is all that I will write today. I just have to do it like this because I know these girls now with all of my heart. I could not bear the thought of ever portraying them as anything dirty, used, usable, or less than. I spent long days and long nights with them, hearing their stories. I have to do all that I can to know for sure that I did my part in making sure that you know for sure that there is not ONE SINGLE SOUL in that sewer that IS the sewer. No matter what a big smile she has on her face (something she was trained to do) …. no matter how provocative her clothes and shoes (the clothes she is trained to wear) …no matter how happy she looks on the arm of some fat, old, disgusting pervert (she is forced to be with him) …….

SHE IS NOT THE SEWER. SHE IS IN THE SEWER.

AND SHE WANTS TO BE FREE……SHE DESERVES TO BE FREE.

photo by Jake Hixon crasheleven.com

(and I added some wings because they fly now)

Tomorrow I will begin. But for now….I just ask you to come to that place…..where no matter the photos I show you, or what you have heard, or what your frame of reference is….you will never think of her as a whore, or a prostitute, or less than…..EVER…..but only see her as a SOUL who is just like you, just like our daughters, mothers, aunts, nieces and friends.

I ask you to love her before I even tell you about her. Love her and SEE her.

(and I know you will…..because you sent love to her and I took it with me and she received it with great surprise and deep gratitude) I just had to say all of this before I can begin……..

More soon. (ahhh, I did it……breathe deep) Thank you for being patient with me.

xoxo

melody

photos by Jake Hixon of Crash Eleven Productions …. he went on the trip with us and he is an amazing photographer, videographer and film producer…please call him if you need an amazing guy like that to do amazing things for you…….you will love him.  Jake Hixon at crasheleven.com

p.s. if you haven’t watched the video about what we are doing to help….see here….

Comments

  1. Anna Maria says

    When something is too confronting its easy to pretend it isn’t happening. You faced it Melody and that took strength and courage. You’re a great example to us all ,well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *