A Princess and Her Castle: A Mother's Day Post


While sitting on a folding chair on the beach, I watched my girls jumping the waves on their boogie boards with my littlest next to me, digging scoops of perfectly wet sand into her red bucket. When the pail was almost full, Sarah put aside her yellow plastic shovel, lifted the red container to eye level, and tipped it over in her first attempt to make a sand castle. 
Whimpering from disappointment, she asked, "Why didn't it work Mommy?"
"Let's try it again." I got off my chair and sat with her and together we refilled two pails and packed the sand down firmly and hubby and I coached her how to tip closer to the ground, quickly. Speed was key. And to her giggling delight, it worked! She had already collected several seashells to decorate her castle. Cuz that's what a girl loves to do. Once she has her castle, she has to furnish it. And make it her own. 
As we walk across the sand to make our trek back to the hotel room, I think about another little girl whose story I heard during Nomi Network’s Mother’s Day Luncheon from Laura Lederer, J.D., board member and Vice President of Policy and Planning for Global Centurion. Her name is “Rosa,” and when she was thirteen, she walked across the sandy deserts of the Rio Grande, a journey that unveiled surprises that no little girl dreams of.  

You see, Rosa's story is one that will break your heart if your heart beats. She came to cross the border from Mexico to Texas in hopes to work at a restaurant and make enough money to bring back to her family of nine, hoping to save her younger siblings from having to drop out of school to help feed the family. The opportunity to work in America offered wages and Rosa came to the designated location only to find herself among hundreds of girls of similar ages and told to pick up a backpack and a water bottle and to start walking. 

When we drove through Manhattan Saturday morning, we saw plenty of New Yorkers walking, biking, and jogging along the Battery Park walkway, backpack in tow and water bottles everywhere, they were free to enjoy an exercise filled start to their days. Rosa didn't choose her backpack or the size of her water bottle. Or her destination.

When they walked across the desert on foot to illegally cross into Texas, they were shuttled to a town in North Florida, packed into trucks like sardines, and when the driver dumped them in front a trailer park neighborhood, a burly man stood in front of them and announced, 

"I bought each of you girls for ten thousand dollars. You will now work for me to pay off the debt. And how will you do that?" He pointed to the trailers behind him. "Back there. That's how you'll pay off the debts."

"What about the restaurant job?" Rosa protested, unwilling to believe that she had been duped. 

"There's no restaurant job here. This is the only way. And don't even think about running."

Rosa ran. She was immediately caught, and taken to one of the trailer parks, where she was gang-raped and physically reminded the painful price of disobeying this new boss of hers. For three years, she was trafficked to various visitors of the trailer parks until she escaped out of second story window with another girl and the ring of illegal traffickers were busted and prosecuted and the remainder of the girls were set free.

Most of the girls and young women being trafficked around the globe do not get this lucky. The only castle they will ever build will be of the clouds above their heads. Which will dissipate into nothing the moment reality reminds them that they are trapped. The only time they are called princess is by liars who use the word to get what they want and treat these girls nothing like princesses.

I could cry an ocean thinking about how so many little girls are shuttled into such sadness.

But the world has enough oceans. And the girls, I'm sure, cry oceans every night that they are not rescued and lie in wait for someone. A real prince. A soldier. A hero. To come and fight for them.  For their broken hearts. For their whole selves. 

Dr. Laura Lederer presenting at Nomi Network's 2012 Mother's Day Brunch

Listening to Dr. Lederer this past Friday, I heard one of the strongest voices fighting against the injustice of human trafficking. When she shared how she speaks to U.S. Troops overseas about the issue, I was acutely aware that she stood in front of our armed forces and the tables were turned. Here she was the front line soldier educating the Troops about the battle that they needed to help her fight. The battle for the voiceless. 
Dr. Lederer shared a powerful slide show with a lot of stats and stories, reminding the room of fifty or so attendees who attended the Nomi Network Mother’s Day Luncheon that the turmoil of human trafficking continues to spread with the power of the Web and only second to drugs, humans are the second largest item illegally sold. In fact the online traffickers often speak in code such as “180 roses for half time or 800 roses for full time.” The roses symbolize dollars and the “time” represents they type of services offered by trafficked women and girls. The estimated 19 billion dollar revenue produced by sexually trafficked victims doesn't include all the undisclosed cases.
The stats are powerful, don’t get me wrong. But not until you think of how that little girl could be your best friend, your sister, your daughter. Because she’s somebody’s daughter. And when I look at Sarah playing freely in the sand, and my other three princesses jumping in the waves, I swallow the awful thoughts of what life would be like if I was forced to put a price tag on any one of my daughters, knowing that their sold bodies might be the only way we eat dinner tonight. The Catch-22 that pierces deeper than any dagger is one that so many poverty stricken families face daily. Life’s not fair. That’s a given.

So what can any of us do, apart from shedding a few tears and saying a prayer for these girls who never chose to be born into the life of desperation that found them? I know one thing for sure. We can all do our part. Even if we can’t do everything. We can all do something. Mother’s Day is as good a day as any to purchase one of the really cool items that survivors and women at high risk for human trafficking have produced overseas. And buy the special women in your life something lovely and useful in the process.
That’s what I love about Nomi Network and all the women present at the Mother’s Day Luncheon. Great food and visionary company peppered the entire event. Ava Chen also shared about Nomi's progress in India thus far. Every guest present has a heart for the issue of human trafficking and wants to do something about it. No one claims to save everyone, but we are all dedicated to helping some. And for each of the women in Cambodia and India that is rescued from a life of trafficking and given the opportunity to express their creativity and make Nomi’s products, the non-profit organization offers them a chance out of the desert. Across the line of hopelessness to a future where they are valued. Nomi says it well with their totes reading, “Buy her bag, Not her body.” The price tag should read “Priceless,” because humans are not for sale in a perfect economy where life is valued and each life is equally precious.


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