“What these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.”
-Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
The girls in the Love146 Round Home had the time of their lives last week. The band Paramore, who have been supporters and advocates for Love146, invited the girls to be their VIP guests of honor at their concert in Manila.
This wasn’t just a concert. It was therapy. These are children who have been forgotten most of their lives. Only noticed by those who bought, used and sold them like commodities. They are children who have only known extreme poverty and have survived unimaginable horrors. In the very city that some of our girls were sold and exploited, they were honored and remembered in front of thousands. So empowering.
When the girls first heard about the event weeks ago, they couldn’t believe it. As the days drew closer to the concert, our Director of Aftercare said the girls were “over the moon with excitement.” The staff took the girls out shopping for new clothes for the occasion. Counselors even used a Paramore song (“We Are Broken”) in a therapy session with the girls. They were powerfully impacted as they shared what the lyrics meant to them and even more so when they were told that this is the song that Paramore dedicated to them on their tour last year.
Before the concert, the band held a private meet and greet for our girls. It was so powerful. I was blown away to watch as band members broke through language barriers with genuine care and compassion. Lots of hugs, laughter, giggles and tears. The band wrote life giving messages to the girls on their shirts, arms, etc, reminding them that they are loved, valued and beautiful.
When the concert began, the girls were ecstatic to see the number 146 everywhere, plastered on the band’s guitars, drums, guitar straps, etc. They instantly became the loudest fans in the place. They danced and sang with such joy, power and intensity. I feel like I am just beginning to understand what true celebration looks like. It looked like our girls that night.
At one point during the show, lead singer Hayley Williams dedicated a love song to our girls. The girls began to chant; “146!” “146!” My thoughts quickly travelled back to the young girl we met in that brothel years ago, known only by the number 146. If she could only see this now. Not only being remembered and honored by a band called Paramore, but honored in the lives of these resilient young girls. Girls who are now on a journey of recovery in a safe place because of her. Bittersweet moment.
Our girls felt like much more than a number that night. They were princesses at the ball. Our Director of Aftercare reports that the girls don’t want to wash their arms where the band wrote their messages of love and affirmation. As the permanent ink of the sharpie markers eventually does wear off, something else much more powerful will remain. The understanding that they are not forgotten. They are not alone. That they are valued. They are beautiful. That they are honored…simply because of who they are.