Gratefully our work in human trafficking is often filled with success stories. In some cases, however, we are reminded of the deep difficulty of this work and inescapable heartache from time to time. Sinath’s story has left us there, in the trenches of heartache, and we share with you to shine a light on the reality of this work and to honor the persevering hearts of our staff.
Sinath* came to the SHE Rescue Home when she was just 9 years old. She often lived on the streets, which ultimately led to her sexual exploitation. After 1 year in our care, she confided in her counselor that her family had also sexually exploited her, and often took her to visit her “boyfriends.” These “boyfriends” were western men staying in local guesthouses who paid her family.
Our goal is to safely reintegrate girls back into their families when possible, however, every case is different and complex and family reintegration is not always a viable option. Sinath’s* mother sadly expressed no interest in ever having Sinath* return to live with her, and given the severity of the situation with Sinath’s* family deliberately exploiting her for profit, reintegration with her family was not an option.
Our staff began pursuing foster care opportunities in hopes of locating a loving and safe family for her. Through the help of a partner agency, a foster family for Sinath* was found and her reintegration process began. Unfortunately, after a few visits with the family they decided they would not foster her. We did our best to protect Sinath*, however, this rejection weighed on her greatly and we began to witness its impact in her behavior. To compound on this difficult rejection, Sinath’s* grandmother passed away unexpectedly just months later, and her family neglected to inform her of her death causing SInath* to miss the funeral and feel further rejected by her own family.
The months following this shock and rejection Sinath’s* behavior began to completely deteriorate. She often ran away and withdrew completely refusing to speak to her counselor. As her situation grew in severity, we began facilitating visits with her mother, as long as a social worker was present, in an effort to begin healing the strained relationship. This renewed relationship seemed to be improving her behavior. We also brought in a specialist in order to assist her with her coping mechanisms and how to deal with emotions, and enrolled her in a vocational training program with one of our partner organizations. Given her history of running away, in order to ensure her placement in the vocational program a contract was drawn up between our home, the partner organization, the government, Sinath’s* mother, and Sinath*. This contract stated that if Sinath* ran away during the course of her vocational training, all services from the SHE home and the partner organization would stop and Sinath* would be placed in the care of the government.
On July 31st 2017, Sinath* ran away.
This runaway occurred when she and the other students broke for lunch at the vocation program. She was last seen with other students heading to the market in order to purchase food. Her social worker was contacted right away and informed that Sinath* could not be found. From there, her social worker contacted the appropriate governmental authorities as well as Sinath’s* mother to inform them she was missing. Her mother was asked to call the social worker if Sinath* came to see her. As per our agreement with the government, the partner organization, and her mother, Sinath* will now be in the care of the government if she is found.
As of August 2017 Sinath* is still missing and her mother has refused to respond to contact from Sinath’s* social worker and counselor. Heartbreakingly, we will be closing her case.
We’re devastated, and we’re reminded to cling to our frequent declaration that, “to succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one.” A reminder that these are not simply words, but our heartbeat for this work, and as one heart for the cause of justice, we boldly declare that we will not succumb.
We are grateful for you, our supporters, who walk with us, support this work, and lean in with us through the successes and heartaches. From all of us, thank you.
We’re stronger together. And we’re all hoping Sinath* is safe and will be found soon.