By Jan Barker, Hope St Director
The first time I came face-to-face with the reality of human trafficking risks was in 2011 in Moldova. The risks to girls, especially those graduating from orphanages and living in poverty, was huge. It was estimated at the time that 90% of girls graduating from Moldovan orphanages would sell their bodies or be trafficked.
In 2017 I visited Sasha and Veronika in Moldova, a couple who ran the Moldova Lifegate home, rescuing teenage girls from the streets. Due to strict Moldova childcare laws and difficulties finding suitable personnel, the home was winding up. Veronika took me to see the painting hanging above her bed, given to her by one of the girls they had worked with who was now in university. A painting of a butterfly.
Veronika took the butterfly painting off the wall so I could take a photograph of it. That’s when I saw what the young woman had written on the back. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
This was one of those moments for me. An impacting, never to be forgotten moment. The total realisation that a life had been irreversibly changed, and changed for the good, changed to be beautiful, because of the love of many.
This young woman had been spending her nights on the freezing streets, giving herself to strangers just to have a roof over her head for the night, at high risk of being trafficked. Now she was studying at university. All because of the love poured out for her and other at-risk girls.
This love came, first and foremost, from Veronika and Sasha, their family and their community. They had seen the need, they had stepped out and taken this girl into their own home to love and counsel. This love also came in a second form – from New Zealand donors who supported the Moldova Lifegate program.
There was no strength and dignity in this girl’s life on the streets, and she had no hope for her future. But through her beautiful butterfly painting and verse, she had expressed how she, just like a butterfly, was transforming, reaching out towards her full potential, clothed with strength and dignity, laughing at the days to come.
We have chosen to use this butterfly painting as a symbol for Hope St’s Fight Modern Slavery appeal, as this is the hope we have at Hope St for all the children and youth our international partners are working with. A hope that all these children will have strength and dignity and laugh at the days to come.
To support our Fight Modern Slavery appeal, click here.