Give this holiday season to the Hope Bags campaign
Melissa Snow is a Program Specialist on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Sex Trafficking Team. Prior to joining us Melissa worked with survivors of sex trafficking as a victim service provider.
I know just how important a Hope Bag is to a child survivor of sex trafficking. In my former role as a victim service provider, I watched survivors of child sex trafficking fluctuate from panic to relief when receiving just a few simple comforts and the support of someone who cares.
When I met one survivor, just 15 years old, she was sitting on a hotel room bed in the clothes her trafficker had made her wear. Three months earlier she had packed a suitcase to go to the beach with a man she thought was her boyfriend. She had never been to the beach before. When I met her, she didn’t know what that man — now her trafficker — had done with the suitcase. They never made it to the beach.
I handed the girl a bag of items and told her these were some things just for her. As she slowly opened the bag and started removing the items she asked, “Is this all for me?”
When she got to a pair of sweatpants with a big heart on the side a hesitant smile spread across her face. She told me she loved to draw hearts. She jumped up and ran into the bathroom to change. When she came out she had on the full sweat suit, new socks and had used the make-up remover to take off the fake eyelashes and make-up her trafficker made her wear to appear older. As she sat back down in front of me, the little girl had reemerged.
A few months later, I drove to pick up the same girl; we were going on that long awaited trip to the beach. As she hopped in the car I noticed she was wearing the sweatpants with the heart on the side.
“When I put them on it reminds me that someone cares,” she said.
Recovery is an important step, but it’s the first of many. We can make that first step easier by making sure these survivors have the basic items they deserve. Making a Hope Bag available to every recovered child is a lofty goal, but I believe these kids are worth it. If we know that offering this Hope Bag can make a difference, then it’s worth our every effort.
Please consider making a donation to our Hope Bags campaign this holiday season. There are many girls, like the one above, who are in need of basic items and the reminder that somebody cares. Just $45 will help us provide this to survivors of child sex trafficking across the country. Donate at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hope-bags