The United Nations has declared July 30th to be the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Most people do not realize that this is still a modern-day problem around the world. And yet the statistics are troubling.
More than 30 million men, women and children are held as slaves and used for forced labour, sexual exploitation, child soldiers and debt bondage. Each year 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade with the average cost of a slave around the world being $90. More devastating to realize is that an estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse or torture. These numbers alone make it no surprise that human trafficking is the fastest growing organized crime activity in the world today.[i]
However, many are standing up and doing their part. One such organization is NASHI.
NASHI is a registered charity supported completely by volunteers that is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It is an organization that opposes human trafficking by raising awareness through education. Their focus right now is in Ukraine for young girls who are at risk of being trafficked. Sister Marianne Hladun, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies learnt about NASHI in 2006 through a PSAC regional womens committee in Saskatoon. She met the President, Savelia, who explained that everything began when she was a tour guide in Ukraine. Savelia had observed girls being loaded into trucks for delivery to slave markets in Turkey. ‘’Everything began with this’’ she explained to Marianne. And with that, Sister Hladun decided to get involved.
In Ukraine human trafficking is run by the mafia. Everything is dangerous and secret. Sister Hladun learnt that a large source of the problem is the orphanages. With no families to look out for them, these children are vulnerable to being pulled from the orphanages and sold. Girls are being sexually abused and when it’s time to leave the orphanage these 16 to 18 years old are being sold. It was easy because no one was looking for these girls. Marianne and NASHI realized that there was another large problem. In the world of human trafficking, a lot of people are interested in younger girls; namely aged between 10 and 14 years old.
They discovered that a network of priests has safe houses to help the girls rescued from trafficking. But they needed homes for the girls before they became victims where they could become independent.
Marianne came back to Canada and started fundraising to help buy a building for the orphaned girls. Through these efforts, today there is Maple Leaf House; a place where up to 20 girls can feel nurtured and safe and can get an education and learn life skills.
A lot of the girls they rescue have sisters. A few years ago, on Christmas, there were 11 girls and 10 of them were sisters. The one who was alone was sad because she had no sister but they all said ‘’It’s okay because we are all sisters’’. For the first time in a while, they have a real home, but it takes a while for the girls to believe it.
Before arriving at Maple Leaf House, they didn’t understand why a twin bed was so big. Some girls hide food because they are worried that they won’t be fed the next day. At night, many of the girls are hiding because they are worried that someone will take them or abuse them. They are worried because they don’t want to go back to the orphanage. If they make a mistake, they sometimes will cry and say ‘Please don’t send me back”. But the people at NASHI reassure them: ‘’It’s your forever home. You can do anything here.’’
The girls are living a normal life: going to school, having friends over, having a room with their own bed and birthday parties. In the village, they don’t really ask questions about the girls, they are a part of the community.
It’s been 15 years since Marianne first became involved with NASHI. A few years ago NASHI did a fundraising challenge: if enough money was raised, Mike Sargent, UCTE’s RVP Transition, will dye his beard purple and shave it all. The challenge was accepted and UCTE put the money together. ‘’It’s for the kids’’ Mike Sargent said.
The fundraiser began with the selling perogies for a meal and it stayed.
On this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, please think about what you can do to help. No one deserves this kind of life. A special thank you to Sister Marianne Hlaldun and organizations like NASHI who try to make this world a better place.
To learn more about NASHI and its perogies fundraisers, watch the documentary One Perogy At A Time.