It is always an adjustment landing in a new country. I have memories of waiting at a small Namibian airport in the middle of nowhere for someone to pick me up, hoping desperately that they were indeed just late. I also remember getting onto a local Costa Rican bus at the airport and suddenly forgetting all my Spanish, as well as getting stuck at the Zimbabwe/Zambia border with a friend because we did not bring enough money for a visa. Feeling disoriented in a different country can be scary sometimes.
This past week Jay and I arrived in Sweden. Despite the fact that most people here speak English very well and the public transportation system is incredible easy, it was still a shock to the system. Signs in Swedish danced before our eyes, along with Swedish announcements and people speaking a variety of languages that we tried to distinguish. But in the midst of all of this, one thought came to mind:
How scary is a new country for victims of international trafficking?
One person we spoke with this week said that many of the international victims they help don’t even know how to read their own language, let alone Swedish. Even if they tried to escape once they got here, where would they go? Everything requires money, even a bus ticket, the public bathroom, or a phone call. They are afraid of the police, because the police in their home countries are often part of the trafficking chain. It’s all a big, fear-filled tangle, and traffickers take advantage of it.
I am grateful that I have the gift of freedom, money in my pocket, supportive family back home, my husband beside me, the ability to speak English, and people who have welcomed us into their homes. I am grateful for the opportunity to shed light on the darkness in this world, for the amazing people we are meeting on the front lines, and for the support of our community back in Canada.
We have been amazed at what is being done in Sweden to deal with this issue, including posters like this in some stations and bathroom stalls, in an attempt to reach out to victims:
It has been a crazy week, with 16 hour days and little sleep. This weekend we get a much needed break before we continue our journey. We are learning so much, and can’t wait to put it all together in a film that we can share with you all. Commercial sexual exploitation is so evil yet so common, and I hope that what we are learning here will result in a compelling film that will truly make a difference.