Resilience generally means the ability to bounce back or recover from trauma or difficulties. In the physical sense, resilience is the ability of a material to resume its shape, after being deformed. For the children in our care at the Love146 safe homes in the Philippines, resilience means more than that.
My first experience with this phrase is deeply etched in my mind: A young girl shared that she had met a group of people — people she thought were her friends. When things began to change, she wasn’t aware what was happening until it was too late. She said, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” These “friends” became her traffickers. They identified her vulnerability and need for connection, and they skillfully exploited it.
Whenever we were with the children in public places, people would ask, “Who are all these children? Are they siblings?” I would say, they are cousins or they are playmates, or just ignored the question. Now I have determined that Love146 children will be called “scholars” instead of “clients” as they would be called in all the other safe homes or shelters in the Philippines. The children’s eyes lit up when they heard the word “scholar.” And as I explained why “scholar” is an appropriate term for them, I thought I saw great self-worth dawning upon their faces.
Our Rapid Responses help youth understand how a perpetrator uses manipulation, tricks, and force to take advantage of them. We talk about how easy it is to be taken advantage of. How everyone has things they need, things they struggle with, and how someone could use these things to build trust for the sole purpose of exploitation. This may be the first time that he or she is told: “It is not OK that someone treated you this way.” It may be the first time they hear: “It is not your fault.” Or that: “You are valuable and important.”
We believe the best people to protect children from pimps and traffickers are children themselves. It’s what guides our steps towards providing prevention education in schools. It’s what motivates us to empower children with practical ways to prevent sexual exploitation in their lives and in the lives of their friends.
Amanda’s past of exploitation began at just eight years old. She was trafficked through various cities and sold on the streets and the internet. Rescued at 14, she moved from institution to institution, each time leaving and returning to work in the bar because they didn’t send her to school. Rescued again, she came into our care.