Dr. McMillin allowed the opportunity through the Faculty Development Grant to visit Nepal during the summer 2016. While there, she was able to do research regarding their anti-trafficking programs due to the increasing number of people involved in the human trafficking epidemic in the area.
Out of this experience emerged some amazing information that will allow her to connect with her students and the Justice Studies program in ways that can only be done through genuine involvement. As a team here at the Coeur d'Alene Center, we benefit from her travel and acquired knowledge every day and found this story particularly moving. Below is a letter written to our Social Sciences Division Chair, Christopher Riggs, recounting her travels. We found it appropriate to share her story for others to benefit from as well.
August 14, 2016
Christopher Riggs, Chair
Lewis Clark State College
Social Sciences Division
RE: Faculty Development Grant – Nepal Anti-Trafficking Programs
I was able to travel to Nepal for a two-week faculty development opportunity this summer to work with rescued victims of human trafficking.
The first place we visited in Nepal was a training salon called New Creation. An American woman who wanted to help Nepali women become self-sufficient created the salon. One of those Nepali women now owns the salon. She actively recruits women from the streets to become trained estheticians and support themselves. The owner stated that they frequently get calls from people asking if the employees perform sexual services. It is unfortunate that the salon employees have to spend any time fielding these types of calls.
We next visited a non-profit organization called Sisters. The Salvation Army sponsors this program. The program was created to rescue and train at-risk or abused young women in professional skills such as cooking, food service, cleaning, sewing, and/or jewelry making so that they can learn a marketable trade and support themselves.
The program has a working cafe on the first floor where the young women can practice their newfound skills, as well as a beauty salon where the young women can learn esthetician skills. In addition to these services, Sisters also provides temporary housing, primary education (a requirement of being accepted to the program), as well as basic life skills training, such as budgeting and personal hygiene to all of the girls.
In addition to basic education and technical skills, the Sisters program also provides scholarships to the young women who have done well academically, and have a proven hard work ethic. It is quite remarkable to see the transition these girls make from often treacherous childhoods to intelligent, professional, kind women.
Another program we visited was a non-profit called Shakti Samuha. This program was established and run by survivors of trafficking, to help improve Nepal’s anti-trafficking laws, as well as to improve Nepali citizens and official perceptions and prejudicial treatment of trafficked women. In 1996, India’s government raided a red-light district in India and rescued 500 girls. Of the 500 girls, 128 were Nepali citizens. The Nepali government refused to allow any of the Nepali girls back into Nepal, blaming them for their victimization, proclaiming that these girls would spread HIV/AIDS throughout the country. Several non-profit organizations throughout Nepal fought to bring the girls back into Nepal.
The Shakti Samuha program continues to fight for victims of trafficking, providing them with legal, employment, and counseling services, as well as shelter for up to a year.
We were fortunate to have several visits with the girls who were rescued from sexual abuse and human trafficking, and now live in a safe home. The victimizations of these young women and girls’ (ages 12 to 18) are heinous, including rape by a male relative, and a gang rape by a group of strangers. To add insult to injury, many of these girls are ostracized from their families because of their victimization. When the housemother took one of the young women back to her village for a visit, the young woman’s mother would not speak to, or come near her. The mother only stood some distance away and watched, while the young woman visited with her grandmother.
In the safe home, it is remarkable to see what proper affection and structure can do for these girls, as well as clean clothes, plenty of food, and an education. We taught the girls how to play Jenga and Twister. Their spirits were amazing: they cheered for each other and coached each other on how to be successful when their turn came. They laughed and snuggled with each other, and appeared to feel completely safe and cared for. Because very few Nepali families have automobiles, they cannot drive to church together. The house parents bring a retired Christian pastor to their home once a week for a Bible lesson, and praise and worship. To hear these young women’s voices raised to the heavens in gratitude is truly moving.
We also visited an orphanage called Ama Ghar that can house up to seventy-five children. The orphanage has become a refuge for children who lost their parents in the recent earthquake in Nepal (April 2015), or lost their parents through other means. This orphanage is essential in reducing opportunities for traffickers to capitalize on vulnerable children. Traffickers have even tried to establish orphanages in order to create a “warehouse” for shoppers to have more choices of victims. Fortunately, the screening system for establishing an orphanage is fairly robust to detect this type of deception.
The issues that bring people to sexual victimization in the United States are very similar to the issues in Nepal: poverty, lack of education, desperation, and evil people willing to capitalize on this. The plight of people in Nepal is much more desperate, however, than in the U.S. In the capital of Kathmandu, there was not one “Help Wanted” sign to be found. There is an abundance of tiny shops and street vendors with produce, many of whom go days without a customer.
This trip was a wonderful experience. Being able to meet people who have overcome tremendous trauma through love, faith, and a determination to survive was an absolute gift. Nepal is an amazing, beautiful, complex country with so much heart and generosity. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go enjoy this country and the incredible people. It will truly change your life.
Dr. H. McMillin, Nepal, Summer 2016
*Banner picture credit to Dan and Becky in Nepal blog; Artwork from a KISC student. The crest says Udhar Sena which means Salvation Army