As many of you know, I have been given the opportunity to work for Forest Hill Church and help connect the church body to anti-trafficking efforts on both a local and global level. I recently returned home from a trip to Haiti to learn more about what the sex trade looks like there and how the church can get involved to help.
I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but true to my nature I said yes without hesitation. A month later I was on a plane to Haiti with a small team from Forest Hill Church. The trip had been planned well in advance and the agenda was set; I was a last minute addition.
As I have come to quickly realize whenever I am doing something I feel God has called me to, there is a level of flexibility and trust that has to be present. I attempt to remind myself of this when we land in Port-au-Prince, and I literally do not know what my plan is. I had been brought along to look into the sex trade in Haiti, and more specifically within a certain village called Minoterie. Forest Hill Church has a partnership with an amazing organization called Mission of Hope, and through this relationship we focus our efforts on this one particular village.
There are roughly 10,000 people living in Minoterie, and so much about it reminds me of east Africa. It’s strange to be only a 4-hour plane ride away, and yet see such depth of poverty. Don’t be mistaken, however, Haiti is absolutely gorgeous! Unfortunately many do not know what this country has to offer, and even most of the people seem unable to grasp their full potential.
It was in this setting that I began to learn more about Minoterie and specifically what sex trafficking looks like here. The village itself is widely known for prostitution, drawing people from all over Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As with each country, this issue presents itself differently yet the bottom line never changes. These women do not want to be sexually exploited, yet for survival they have no other choice.
Walking around the village, I began to ask questions and take notes. Why is prostitution so prevalent in Minoterie? What is the average age of these women? Who are the customers? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this???
All of these questions stopped when our translator brought us to the entrance of a brothel. Suddenly nothing mattered except getting inside and being with the women who worked there. I am still not sure exactly how it happened, but after a few words spoken between our translator and the brothel owner we were allowed to go in.
To the left was a grey concrete building where alcohol was served to paying customers. To the right was a smaller, light pink building with several doors lining the front. Each door led to a stall where these women lived, and worked.
While everyone was taking it all in, I saw one girl peek her head out of her “room.” I went straight to her with my new friend/translator and she let us inside. I have been into brothels before, but never into one of the girls’ private rooms. The space inside was very limited with a single mattress taking up most of the room.
Sitting down on the bed with Leila*, I began to hear her story and see into her world.
Over the past few years I have had the privilege to listen and learn from women like Leila. Their stories are sewn onto my heart and I can’t help but feel the weight and responsibility of them. I have taken a piece of Leila with me, and I hope that we can ALL do her justice in some small way.
*name changed to protect her identity