What is heartache? A dictionary would tell you it’s emotional anguish or grief, typically caused by the loss or absence of someone loved.
LandMine Design will share, it is the loss of a beautiful, young hire formerly within the safety of our program who is currently missing.
Her name is Srey Pich. She is just 17 years old and stunning; she has the kind of smile that makes everything in the world seem okay. She would arrive to work each day in red lipstick and her best clothes. I always secretly wondered if she was trying to impress me, trying to identify with my known love of fashion. And I always loved that about her. We were so close; she always sat so near to me as I gave lessons, stroking the patterns on my dresses, looking at each painted fingernail, constantly showing physical affection, constantly displaying a deep desire to be loved, to be near to someone who would willingly love her back.
And today, she is missing. And the dictionary is right. It is anguish and grief. Her absence is our misery; her absence is our shattered heart.
And these are the dark sides of our story. The sides we perhaps try to hide, try to shelter from the goodness of those of you supporting this mission of prevention. Try to hide as to not fault ourselves, as to not stay awake at night repeatedly asking the questions of: What could we have done, why weren’t we there to stop her…?
I wish I could tie this story in a pretty bow for you. I wish I could finish with a happy ending sharing of her location, her return to our program, and her restoration. I wish I could even share with you where she is, if she is safe, or if I had any information of the nature in which she exited the village.
But I simply cannot, I cannot give you those answers.
And this is the reality of human slavery. This is the reality of working in the field of trafficking prevention. You fall asleep at night with questions; yet somehow you wake up each day finding the strength to continue fighting. You let the questions turn to fuel. You let the former friendships pour into the friendship of another woman who is just one step away from vanishing, just like our dear Srey Pich.
I share these words as to encourage an understanding over ignorance. Let us not be naive citizens of this world, but fighters – operating from our hearts for our fellow, deserving loved ones who are imprisoned.
27 million people are currently enslaved. It is my prayer each night that Srey Pich is not one of them, but I cannot tell you that.