From Romania With Love

We touched down in Bucharest on a sunny afternoon. The group was travel weary, but the bus ride to the apartment building where we are staying gave us an opportunity to bond over being tightly packed into our seats, literally chin dip in luggage. Our young Romanian hosts are composed; their confident demeanor is reassuring.  We trust we are in good hands each day as we traverse narrow streets with the occasional car whizzing past. Someone from behind shouts “Car!” Those of us who are trying to make our way around the cars parked halfway on the sidewalk dart out of harm’s way.

We’ve seen the beautiful faces of locals who have greeted us with generous hospitality. A street festival where artisans plied their trade was our first taste of what Bucharest has to offer. Weavers and blacksmiths, glass blowers and print makers along with many others engaged us in friendly conversation and forgave our inability to speak their language. How great is it that Europeans teach their children multiple languages, including English!

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We’ve also seen remnants of Communism above and below ground. Subway, tram, bus, and foot, these are our vehicles on land, but imagination is the vehicle that takes us where we really want to go, to a world where people are not bought and sold into slavery.

Today was our first debrief after visiting with children and young women who have been rescued from human trafficking. We played games and made crafts. We shared lunch and laughter. Today the children could just be children. We took with us sidewalk chalk, bubble wands, frisbees, soccer balls, and craft supplies, but what we took away from the experience was beyond measure. Our hearts were overflowing as we reflected on the day.

What we witnessed today was compassion, true, genuine compassion. Our hosts could choose to go about their lives with the knowledge that bad things are happening in the world, too overwhelmed by the enormity of transnational human trafficking to bother with trying to make even a dent in the problem. Instead they have dedicated their lives to helping victims become survivors.

The stories of how these children and young women have been sexually exploited are heart-wrenching. No person should ever be forced to endure what they have endured. They are gentle and courageous. They are worthy of protection from ever being violated again. This is the continuous challenge. Many are at risk, and there are few resources, none from the government, to assist with transitioning survivors into a permanent safe environment where they can heal and live fully independent lives.

Our group is diverse. Each of us, brave in our own way, is privileged to be here together (whether we realize it or not). Each of us brings something unique to the table. Our takeaways will be unique as well, but we are shaping each other’s perspective (whether we realize it or not). For me, this study abroad began with many difficult questions. Three weeks out of a lifetime surely won’t be enough to find all the answers. But it’s a start.IMG_1287

 

16 thoughts on “From Romania With Love

  1. Stunning what we do to our sisters, our children; stunning and heartbreaking. I am in awe of what you are doing and will follow as closely as possible. Hopefully there will be ways for us to share information with others and provide help where it is possible to do so on a more global scale at some point.

  2. This is a great thing you’re doing – and what a fantastic opportunity. It doesn’t get much more exotic than Romania! Hope you stocked up on garlic cloves, though.

  3. So moved by your work and efforts, Steph. I mentioned that a friend (parent of my son’s good friend) was very involved; Becca Johnson was just named International Program Director for Freedom International (http://www.rescuefreedom.org/). They do amazing work; you may be familiar with them. I’m in awe of the work you and Becca do! All the best as you help these women and girls. It is exhausting (I worked with sexually molested girls for years!) and hard to put down, before sleep. Wishing you safe travels, success in this important mission, and the peace of knowing that you are truly making a difference in this world. xox

    1. Dawn,
      My heart is heavy today. Your kind words have given me a much needed boost to complete this journey. Thanks also for the link. I will check into it. Time to sleep now. xoxo

      1. It’s heavy, heavy work, friend. I still can feel it, all these years later… the stories still run through my head. Deep breathes, conviction, venting and sharing, and then get up to do it another day… because you are making a difference! But you’re heart will never be entirely light again, but for such a meaningful cause. xxo

  4. As always, you make me proud to be your friend. You have piqued my curiosity–are there resources available here to facilitate a transition to a safe environment? Perhaps for the underaged, through fostering, but for adults?

    1. It means the world to me to have a friend like you. There, of course, is a short answer and a longer answer to your question.There are five shelters in all of Romania. Only one emergency shelter and no transitional housing, yet. The group we worked with yesterday has acquired some land with the hope to build a structure to house young women for a period of time that will give them an opportunity to gain some life skills that will help them to become self-sufficient. Like everything, it is a process. There are serious, dedicated people working on this complex problem.

    1. -Hugs- rightbackatcha, Meeks. I’ve learned so much already in just these first few days. Most of it from other students. The group is full of dynamic personalities.

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