Alisa (not her real name) fell prey to a human trafficker in her hometown in Armenia. She was just 20 years old and the single mother of a nine-month-old baby. The trafficker forced Alisa into prostitution by threatening to kidnap her young child if she did not do as he said. He kept her enslaved and took all the money she made.
Alisa felt isolated and without recourse, her only defender the grandmother with whom she and her child lived. She was one of the more than 12 million people around the world who today are trafficked into forced labor, bonded labor, or forced prostitution.
One night, more than a year after Alisa’s ordeal began, she happened to catch on a television news ticker the hotline number for a human-trafficking prevention program. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which runs the program, invited anyone in need to call for information and assistance. Alisa wrote the number on the palm of her hand. It seemed to her a sign, a chance to change her awful life. UMCOR is funded by your generous gifts on One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday, Thank You.
When Alisa finally called the hotline, she was identified as a victim of human trafficking and promptly referred to UMCOR’s shelter. Police officers arrested the trafficker. She was safe. But now she had to deal with the trauma with which her experience had left her. Alisa found it impossible to speak, eat, or sleep, haunted as she was by her nightmarish life. She was unable to interact properly with the child she loved so much and remained fearful that the child would be taken from her. She felt desperate; the light in her eyes seemed to fade.
The shelter’s psychologists worked with Alisa to awaken in her the will to live. They spoke to her about how much her child needed her for support and for the child’s own future. Eventually, Alisa began to feel better, to eat, and even to cook. She started to speak and interact with the child, and, ultimately, the nightmares left her. With medical attention, Alisa’s physical health began to improve, and she was able to take care of her child on her own. She participated in culinary courses. The possibility of finding a job and supporting her child and grandmother brought the light back into her eyes.
Soon Alisa will leave the shelter and when she does, she will take with her the memories of kind people, good treatment, and new skills and knowledge that will help her rebuild her life.
Alisa escaped a life of slavery thanks to UMCOR Armenia’s Anti-Trafficking Project. While the problem of human trafficking seems overwhelming, the project’s staff focuses on each person in need who comes to them for help.