So, bright and early this morning as I was sitting with my lap-top on my sofa researching ideas for upcoming educational programs I was hit with the thought that human trafficking was the direction I wanted to be focusing in on. Not only for one quick passing program, but for the long haul of my time-consuming, energy-taking, barely-rewarding awareness and activist lifestyle.
And now, here I am typing with one hand, which I might say I've become quite adept at due to all my years of practicing NAK (Nursing At the Keyboard), but I still am finding it difficult to talk about this subject. Why? Good question.
Some years ago, during my youthful but crazy days, I was acquaintances with a girl from the Bronx, who was about 17. We'll call her Nena. I met her through a friend of mine who was dating Nena's brother (I'll save that story for another time), and I really liked her, although I knew very little of her; she was genuinely sweet, yet strong and street smart. Although, Nena grew up in a dysfunctional Puerto Rican family, and was in and out of foster homes, I thought she had potential to get out of the life that was surrounding her, because she wasn't bitter and she was really kind. I was intrigued by her because at the age of 17, when many others girl's from her neighborhood were going nowhere, she lived with her boyfriend in a nice apartment (his source of income was questionable, but he was probably a drug dealer). Her boyfriend made no secret of hiding his other girlfriend, whom he put up in another equally as nice apartment a couple blocks down. Nena stayed with him because he provided an apartment and money for her.
Well, during this time, my friend who was dating Nena's brother, found out that Nena was "kidnapped". She informed me that somehow Nena contacted her and told her that she was brought, against her will, to a NJ motel on the border of New York city. She was forced to stay there act as a prostitue. "WHAT?!!!" I found it odd because she was able to call my girlfriend, so why couldn't she just leave? Why couldn't she call the police? Who "kidnapped" her? After that initial communication, my friend attempted contacting Nena, Nena's mother, Nena's brother, Nena's boyfriend. No one knew where she was, but it seemed as though no on really cared except for my girlfriend and I. But what did we do? Nothing. Besides telling her family, calling her every now and then to see if she was back, we did nothing. We didn't know what to do. I didn't understand or even know about human trafficking. My friend didn't have any other information, and I had even less than she did.
As a young girl, I did not lack intelligence, common sense, or street smarts. I lacked confidence, morality, guidance. I really did not know much about Nena. I met her a handful of times. But her face is engrained into my memory forever. Did she escape? Is she living a good life now? To this day, I still Google her name, but nothing comes up. I don't remember where her address was in the Bronx, nor do I know any way to contact her or her family. Where is Nena? I can only pray that she made it out of there.
I only know now that what happened to her is called human trafficking. So, this is where my story leads me. A suburban mom of 5, living in a quaint town, driving a mini-van to baseball practice...but with the worldly knowledge that one would not think, just by looking at me, that I possess. I am just one person, but one person can change the world. Anyway, I have five other people that are counting on me to guide them to their adult life, and my hope and goal is that they have confidence, morality, and plenty of guidance so that they will go on to make this world a better place.
I dedicate this first blog post to all the "Nenas" out there.