How It All Started...
I've had several people over the last week or two that have felt a little out of the loop on all of this moving-to-Argentina craziness. At least three people have approached me to ask what we're doing... and why... and how in the world it all got started! Not to mention those in Latin America who want to know why we're headed over to their part of the world.
So for all of you who maybe want to know a few more details but aren't sure how to ask: I'm going to share those details (FAQs, if you will) right here! Nothing uncomfortable at all (except maybe that we're going to talk about exploitation, trafficking and prostitution...?).
So here's the deal:
In short, we are going down to Argentina to start the very first faith-based, long term aftercare center for victims [survivors] of sex trafficking and prostitution in their capital city. We would eventually love for it to be entirely locally-run, and there are a lot of questions as to what it will look like (and while we have an idea of what we want it to be, we are open to adjusting what we think we want to what the needs are in Argentina). We aren't going at this alone- we've built a network of other organizations all over the world and a few in Argentina that we will be walking alongside.
That's the basic version. Here are some of the details:
It's a buzzword lately, gaining global media attention and a lot of confusion.
We found out about it about a decade ago, and have since been researching, volunteering, taking classes, asking questions, and otherwise doing everything we can to learn more about the problem and how we can end it entirely. We met survivors in the US, met with abolitionists around the globe, counted toothbrushes for nonprofits, and have done everything we can to be around this movement. We've also been researching what trafficking and exploitation look like in different parts of the world. What we found out was that there are three main hubs of sex trafficking in Latin America, and of those three, one has a significantly smaller number of accessible abolitionist organizations:
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
We delved a little deeper into why that would be, and realized that while there are people who are concerned about the problem (and more every day), and survivors who are doing what they can to get laws changed, etc., there is an acute lack of care for those exiting prostitution and sexual exploitation.
In fact, in our many trips to Argentina, we found no faith-based, non-governmental organizations providing long-term care and survivor advocacy in the entire country. And with half a million people being trafficked in, around, and through the capital city, the five government-funded shelters who will accept human trafficking survivors (edit: as of this month, the government has added one) are just not enough. Not to mention the lack of activism based on cartel threats and corrupt government officials.
The reason for this desert of anti-trafficking organizations is complex, but that does not change the fact that it is a severely underserved part of the world with regards to abolition.
That is not okay with us. We can't look away from a problem like that. There are people- children!- who are being abused, exploited, and even killed for the greed of others. It has to stop.
Every time we visit Argentina, our contacts there tell us that if our aftercare center was open, they would have girls to send us. On our last trip, in May 2017, we were told that there was a 14-year old girl in prostitution that needs a place to go- to be safe and really escape the life she is living. We assured them that we are doing everything we can to raise funds and educate ourselves in order to open the most effective center we can.
Still, I can't say we don't think about that girl every day and wish we could open sooner.
Nonetheless, we want to be part of the solution and not the problem, so we've been planning for what feels like an eternity, and we now know that what is needed for the fight against trafficking in Argentina is long term care and advocacy; so our plan includes things like life skills (budgeting, resumes, homemaking), classes (English, business, college or high school enrollment), other skills training (gardening, sewing, equestrian therapy), as well as a safe place to relax, renew, and learn to live outside of the sex industry.
We are always looking for more information, more ideas, and more people from whom we can learn, and while the details may change according to what is needed specifically in Argentina or at a specific time, our goal remains the same: to end human trafficking in Argentina. We can all work together, across the globe, to put a stop to injustice in our lifetime.