In a bustling neighborhood in the City of Lima, in the shadow of the national stadium, sits a nondescript home with an amazing contribution to the world. Started by a Catholic nun from Spain over 20-years ago, the home (and another house directly across the street) is the only program in the country of Peru for adult woman who have been the victims of sex trafficking.
The program, run on a shoestring budget and staffed with only four full time employees, is a powerful testimony to the dedication of a group of passionate people. With just enough space to house 12 women at any one time, the program offers vocational training in computers, industrial sewing, hairdressing, and baking; and a holistic environment for women to rebuild their lives and create a pathway to a future.
Many of the women living in the home have children. Young children. The program offers full time child care to allow the women to focus on vocational development and life skills enhancement. Still, as Sister Maria Francisca told us, the program is challenged to find volunteers who can spend nights at the shelter and be available when the women are awaken with night terrors and need a caring compassionate person to comfort them.
The women in the program can stay up to 6-months. They come from extremely marginalized and impoverished backgrounds. Often transported between countries. Some from as far way as Spain or Portugal. They have been through unspeakable trauma. When we entered the facility we were introduced to a young lady working in the computer lab. She was covered in the protective clothing used by victims of severe burns. Her face was swathed in a mask and her head covered in a large sun hat. God only knows the depths of her pain.
We met with the staff and asked them how we could help. They talked about the need for engaging more volunteers, securing more donations, and increasing the opportunities for serving more women. They talked about building greater solidarity for the women. Sister Maria Francisca said, "we must never forget that these women deserves every opportunity we can help them to find."
I am not entirely sure how HBI can help. And having been to the Casa Maria Micalea program and met with these powerful women - I know we have a tremendous opportunity to build a bridge . . . and we will do just that!
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.