Hong is barely still a teenager, and after years of abuse and exploitation, she’s starting to picture a bright future for the first time in a long time. She has dreams about education, career opportunities, and financial independence. For now, though, the future is coming slowly: Although she has been granted legal residence in the U.K., she’s still earning low wages working at a nail bar and living with a close friend who has two children. Hong realizes that until her English is much better, she won’t have many other job options. But she hopes to change that. “I don’t want to work in a nail bar forever,” she told me. She wants to become fluent in the language, go to college, and, eventually, provide help for people in need in the U.K.
“I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU ONE DAY,” HONG SAID TO ME. “I WANT TO WORK WITH A CHARITY LIKE YOU DO AND HELP PEOPLE.”
I was overjoyed to hear these words. This young person was so different from the shaking child I’d met in a flat a year earlier. Her trafficker has been arrested, and freedom is starting to catch up with her. With shaky feet, she’s trying out this new walk of life.
For now, freedom is coming quicker with a lot of support and encouragement. She deserves to be surrounded by people who believe in her, people who will help her hold up her dream when times are hard. “Your English is great,” I reminded her. “You’ve improved in leaps and bounds. You don’t have to work in a nail bar forever. Hopefully one day you’ll be my coworker.” I sincerely do think she would do a great job partnering with young people who arrive in the U.K. She’s such a kind, loyal, gentle soul. Those are important traits for people who serve young victims of trafficking.
DREAMS ARE LIKE ANY LIVING THING: WE HAVE TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM EVERY DAY, PAYING ATTENTION TO THEM SO THEY DON’T SHRINK UP.
So when Hong and I see each other, I talk a lot about the future — it just reminds us both that things are changing, things are possible. Just hold onto it. Hold onto those thoughts. Hold onto those dreams.