My mother grasped my wrist and pushed me swiftly along the sidewalk. She pivoted to motivate my father to walk faster, and it was then that I saw what mom had nervously been trying to get us away from: he stood at about five feet two inches, with a ghostly white face and dirty hands. He was just a boy. The picture represents a trip I took to Chisinau, Moldova in 2007 and how it changed my life forever.
I ventured to the infant country of Moldova, a former member of the Russian U.S.S.R. My mother is a college professor of psychology, and she was assigned to teach and counsel students at Keiser University for one month in the Republic of Moldova. The offer was on the table, so I couldn’t help but accept. My father did so too, and soon enough we packed our bags and boarded the 747 flight that carried our lives across the vast Atlantic ocean.
The short pale boy was a beggar. Homeless children beggars are as common in Moldova as mosquitoes are in Florida. However, it was an unusual sight to the American eye, and I found myself anxiously wanting to help. With my hands trembling from the frigid air, I reached into my plaid coat pocket and pulled out twenty five lei- equivalent to an American five dollar bill. Nervous and unsure of his next move, I handed it to the boy.
After settling in for a few days, I learned that my mother had been volunteering her counseling services while awaiting our late arrival. She was accompanied with a friend, Gabriella, whom she became close with in her time there. The two of them sat me down and professed that they were working with some victims of human trafficking- the trading and selling of women as sex slaves. I can still depict the tone of Gabriella’s voice anxiously asking, “Can you help us?”
I spent two whole weeks in Chisinau, Moldova that spring break. Undoubtedly, I returned home a new person. The poor beggar boy seemed to be no immediate danger. Though I later understood that the average Moldovan doctor earns a salary of 200 lei per month; therefore, the money I handed him seemed a small fortune. Giving him money was not the smartest way to help and encouraged him to follow us up the apartment stairs, banging at our front door for all hours of the night.
For the rest of the trip, I spent my days working with the Human Trafficking Foundation, researching and listening to girls my age about their experiences as sex slaves. I discovered their deepest desire was to possess a sliver of hope to have a successful, happy life. So, I strive to bring that to them and show them that their sliver of hope is waiting. As I keep up with my research on human trafficking, the foundation informed me that last year, approximately 25,000 women were trafficked in and out of Moldova and used for sex or forced labor.
I brought the lessons I learned in Moldova home with me to South Florida by continuing to educate my peers about the women who experience obstacles every day that we as Americans could not imagine in a lifetime. The more knowledge we have of a country and lifestyle that seems so diverse from our own, the more hope we give those women to look forward too. Anyone can help. Not a day goes by that I don’t return from my seemingly simple life and pray for a miracle for those girls.
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