Out of the Ashes

A trafficking survivor aims to ensure others are protected

Imagine being kidnapped right off the street in broad daylight and waking up on a train bound for a foreign country. That’s what happened to *Sabina when she was just 11 years old. And she couldn’t imagine any beauty along the journey of coming out of the ashes.

Her father had sent her to the market near her village in rural Bangladesh to get cooking oil to prepare some curry for the family’s evening meal. As she walked toward town on the eerily empty dirt road, someone grabbed her from behind and covered her nose and mouth with a handkerchief. That’s the last thing she remembered until she was jolted awake in a rattling, enclosed boxcar on a train.

There were nine other terrified young girls in the train car with her; one of them told her a man was taking them to Kolkata, India to work.

Eventually, she escaped from captivity, aided by a Bengali family who put her on a train to another city. But her nightmare turned worse when she was thrown in jail by a border guard who was supposed to help her. She spent 21 months in jail before a women’s legal association helped free her.

“When I finally came back to my home at the age of 14, I was very happy to be united with my family,” recounted Sabina, who is now 34 and a mother of four daughters. “My family was also very happy, but my community could not accept me as before. They humiliated me with their words. Day after day I was held in an invisible prison because of my neighbors’ and relatives’ attitudes.”

In the aftermath of her traumatic experience, young Sabina became depressed and discouraged and felt defined by her ashes. “I did not like talk with my neighbors. I felt ashamed to talk, to show my face,” she said.

Sabina spent the next five years working in a garment factory and sent her income home to help support her younger siblings. She dreamed of a better life, but in her culture, trafficking victims are stigmatized and shunned.

“I could not marry because of my past, so when I was 19, I went to live with a 45-year-old married man,” she explained. Sabina had her four daughters with this man, but he too abandoned her, and she found herself alone with her girls and facing desperate circumstances. “I had no job, no place to live, and no food to eat. I slept on my neighbor’s balcony with my daughters. I collected firewood and sold it in the market to earn money.”

But things began to change for Sabina in 2019, when World Concern began working in her village.

“My heart filled with joy when they told us that they transform the lives of poor and marginalized people with the love of Christ,” exclaimed a hopeful Sabina.

She attended community trainings where she learned she was not alone, and that her experience had a name: human trafficking. She learned her situation, her ashes, was an international crime and that she was a victim of that horrific crime.

“I learned how the traffickers are working and what are their means and purposes. The training session encourages us to share our knowledge with our neighbors so that we can save a life from deep sorrow. I loved that training and feel encouraged to share my experiences. Now I am sharing my experiences without any hesitation with my group members,” said Sabina, who has become a powerful voice for protection in her community. “I hope I can share my experiences so that everybody can be aware of trafficking and can contact district legal advocacy groups if needed.”

Because of these trainings, Sabina’s daughters know how to avoid danger and stay safe. And out of the ashes of her experience, a beacon of light shines in this village as an entire generation learns vital information and skills to protect themselves and their children.

You can help protect children from becoming victims of trafficking through vital awareness trainings like the ones in Sabina’s village by participating in the 2022 Virtual Free Them 5k. Sign up today and run, walk, bike, or hike on Saturday, May 7, or whenever you choose, and help free children like young Sabina from trafficking and keep them safe.

Sign up today, or donate online at www.freethem5k.org.

*Name has been changed to protect her identity.

Published by

Cathy Herholdt

Cathy Herholdt is World Concern's Senior Communications Director. With a background in journalism, Cathy honed her writing skills as a newspaper editor and now enjoys sharing the inspiring stories of those World Concern serves. She has served with World Concern since 2010.

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