An invisible, growing monster roams the streets, preying on millions of innocent victims in the United States and overseas. This monster is child slavery, and it is woven into the very fabric of our daily lives. Because it touches every aspect of our lives, however, it can be addressed and solved.
In Facing the Monster, author Carol Hart Metzker calls attention to the plight of t he world's children who live a life of modern slaver y. She tells how an unexpected encounter with a n eleven-year-old girl led her into the dark world of human trafficking, forced sex trade, and child slavery. Metzker's quest to find hope, to help end slavery, and to aid survivors took her as far as children's shelters in remote villages in India and as close as a special home just miles from her front door in Pennsylvania.
Facing the Monster narrates the stories of rescued child slaves and paints a poignant picture of the plight of hidden victims worldwide. Metzker's inspiring chronicle reveals the monstrous truths about child slavery, provides an action plan to become an agent of change, and presents solutions to end it. It shows how one person's actions can change the lives of many and that everyone can take a step to fight child slavery.
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Facing the MONSTERHow One Person Can Fight Child Slavery
By CAROL HART METZKER
iUniverseCopyright © 2012 Carol Hart Metzker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThree Questions
At parties, sometimes I consider lying. Usually, evasion seems a better way to go. The truth about my travels to India and pastimes when at home can be awkward small talk at best and shocking table conversation at worst. When I end up in conversation with people whose conscience and curiosity enable candid, soulful interaction, however, three questions usually emerge about my quest and projects to help survivors of child slavery:
What is the life of a child slave like?
How does a rescue work?
How can we help end slavery and aid survivors as they heal?
After nearly a decade of asking those same questions and seeking answers through books, trips to far-flung corners of the globe, and conversations with experts and survivors, I paint verbal pictures of Mahabala, Supriya, and Asha. Each of their stories—that of a boy who escaped slavery, a woman who participated in raids and rescues, and a girl who was learning to thrive in freedom—provide an answer to one of those commonly heard questions.
Mahabala had an irrepressible spirit. During a trip to a children's shelter in India, I felt his energy on the opposite side of our table. He seemed constantly in motion. Even when he was somewhat still he was making funny faces.
He was almost the shortest of his thirty-two new brothers, but he stuck out from the crowd because of his mischievous movements and expressions. When the taller boys lined up for a serious moment before mealtime, Mahabala the clown, with a green balloon hanging from his mouth, popped out from behind them. His dark brown eyes, nearly black hair cut very short, ears that slightly stuck out, and an impish grin that revealed teeth still growing in left me stifling laughter.
Running around the brick courtyard of his new home, his antics with bubbles gave no impression of his dark history. It was most likely his irrepressible spirit that had granted him a new existence. Mahabala had escaped slavery—ungodly hours of work at a hotel and beatings—on his own two feet. He ran away from a violent slaveholder and the hotel where he cleaned,served, and performed any task requested by patrons—for no pay. Mahabala had been a slave—not a sweatshop laborer, not a figure of speech—but a worker who was unpaid, unable to leave, and subjected to violence or threat of violence to himself or someone he loved.
Nowhere near adolescence, the little Indian orphan was given a second chance at life. Selfless, compassionate workers at this residential rehabilitation and education center and at other similar residential programs took care of Mahabala and youths like him: children who had survived human trafficking and slavery.
When I sat across the table from Mahabala, it was the end of 2010. Nearly one year to the day later, I had returned to India and was exploring another remote area of the country. There, my stockpile of stories—some horrifying and some hopeful—grew larger after traveling with Supriya, a director of an antislavery organization, and visiting an extraordinary campus where a girl named Asha was recovering.
Supriya told my traveling companions and me about her work as we rode in the back of a car and scooped scrumptious spicy noodles, using potato chips as spoons, from a big, shared box lunch. We were traveling in the poorest state in India, one whose poverty was nearly the intensity of sub-Saharan African nations. A toll collector in a booth along a rare, paved highway had just given us change in cookies because he had no cash. "Only here would that happen!" Supriya said, rolling with laughter.
Her tone became serious as she described a recent raid and rescue. Tension mounted as the slow bureaucratic process stretched on and on, like a rubber band seeking its limits. Starting at nine in the morning, she had spent several hours wading through red tape and a few more waiting for warrants. With each passing minute, odds increased that the timing and location of the secret raid would be leaked and the rescue would be foiled. If owners of the carpet factory and holders of the slaves who worked the looms were alerted, the slaves would be transferred to another location. They would be gone again.
Warrants finally secured, Supriya, police, and other government and nongovernment personnel entered a compound surrounded by seven-foot-high walls. In just minutes, they searched a large building but found no children, contrary to a tip-off deemed to be reliable. They ran to search the grounds. When they got to the very back of the compound, they found slaveholders hurling boys over the wall. Police who had rushed behind the property found additional slaveholders waiting to catch the boys as they were hurtled over the barrier.
Eleven boys were rescued, the small woman in blue jeans and sneakers informed us. Three had already been thrown bodily over the wall; eight were found before being tossed like objects. Eleven boys rescued—that was a good day's work.
It was Supriya who also led me to a newly established center for girls rescued from sex slavery. One day during our visit to the campus, I dashed back into the kitchen for a late morning cup of chai (tea). Asha, an older child, beckoned me to the screenless open window. Her voice and face were animated, and I discovered the subject of her excitement. Across the back of her hand crept a bedraggled gray mouse with twitching nose and whiskers. Barely bigger than her knuckle, the mouse paused to take a bite of food she offered and then clutched the skin of her finger with its tiny front paws. When it made a dash for the windowsill and tried to scurry away, Asha gently scooped it back into her hand.
She had found the creature on the ground and rescued it from the prying eyes of the center's cat and dog. Her thrill over the mouse with matted fur and scrawny tail was complete, and she hovered over it like a new mother.
As I exited the kitchen, Asha put her hand close to my face, proudly displaying her new pet. It crawled a little too close for my comfort, and a mild screech and a burst of laughter flew from my mouth.
Finishing my chai in the garden, I wondered if Asha's affinity for the tiny gray mouse was based on her own past experiences. Did she see a part of herself in the creature—once fearful and helpless against larger, more powerful animals and in need of rescue, food, and affection? What losses had she experienced during enslavement? Was she providing her mouse with the necessities she had once craved: home, sustenance, dignity, liberty, and assurance of life?
Later that day I encountered Asha again. She displayed a small cardboard box, the new home and bed of her adored mouse, and a smile that seemed to fill her whole face. The pleasure found in her pet—a creature to love, to nurture, and to call her own—was unmatched. Sometimes the smallest, humblest lives are light in a world of shadow.
Reflecting on her delight, I saw answers to how even one person can help survivors. Contributing the most basic provisions—food, a roof, care, a safe space where healing can happen and children can learn to live in freedom—are antidotes to the darkest evil on earth. We do not need to be the actual ones to cook the meal or give a hug—impractical solutions when survivors are recovering in faraway or secret locations; we simply need to support the caregivers who are already there. To prevent future victims we need to start taking steps to create a world in which we learn to pursue happiness without robbing anyone of liberty or life.
During my quest, each time I heard a story with a happy ending I breathed a sigh of relief. Each time I observed a survivor of slavery, my mind was deeply affected. Each experience during my journey created a new wrinkle of concern or laugh line of joy, a weight on my shoulders, or the lightening of my soul.
Mahabala, Supriya, and Asha left indelible marks on my mind; they helped shift my opinion about villains, heroes, and justice and expanded my knowledge about human rights and rehabilitation. My entire life had changed immeasurably, however, since 2004 when I met Mark, a world traveler and humanitarian, and Maina, a little girl whose shining eyes and smile had served as a beacon. They led me to an unexpected path, to the most unlikely vacation spot imaginable, and into a world of odd dreams, disturbing discoveries, and encounters with people whose voices had been silenced. They prodded me to seek solutions and to learn a thing or two about leadership. They also led me to a new understanding of human purpose and to new heights of insight, action, and hope.
Chapter TwoMark and Maina, 2004
Walking to the front of a bus while bumping along back roads of India was no easy task. Big potholes in the hardened dirt and cracked concrete created a noisy, jolting ride that bounced our band of international travelers up and down and jostled us side to side. So we stayed in our seats.
Except for one. Hanging on to seatbacks, one man worked his way to the front of the bus. He began to address my fellow travelers and me, a group of tourists and volunteers who were spending a vacation visiting humanitarian projects between sightseeing jaunts—the magnificent Taj Mahal and a sublime bird sanctuary.
"Our visit today is to an ashram—a center, this one for children," he announced.
Not recalling the stop on our tour, I checked the itinerary. "Project visit" was all it stated. I shrugged, almost accustomed to the constant changes in schedules and seemingly complete disregard for appointment times that began the moment we arrived in Delhi. I supposed I would figure out where we were going and what we were doing when we got there, wherever "there" was.
Mark Little, the Englishman who valiantly made it to the front of the bus, described services for recovering children—medical and psychological treatment, education, vocational training, and returning home. I half-listened and jotted a few notes in my journal, distracted by exotic scenery outside the bus window: tropical plants, passing motorcycles that carried families of four, carts pulled by animals.
The road narrowed, eventually forcing the bus to stop. My fellow passengers and I disembarked on a lane that was now completely blocked by our behemoth bus. No matter, it seemed. By this time there were no other vehicles, not even a cart.
We walked the length of a long, tall wall, homing in on the sounds of children singing and clapping. We bent forward as we entered a campus through an open metal gate. Little girls decorated us with necklaces of marigolds and blessed us with red thumbprints of vermilion on our foreheads. Once adorned, we joined in a dance with the children.
Our laughing and smiling international band gathered with local humanitarian workers, teachers, and two teenage boys under a thatched-roof pavilion. A woman introduced the young men. "This is Huro, and this is Shivji," she said. "They lived here at the ashram for six months when they were younger."
Their harrowing experience began when six-year-old cousins Huro and Shivji were playing by a stream and a car pulled up beside them. A man got out and offered them candy, a rare treat for boys who lived in a desperately poor rural village. Huro and Shivji accepted the sweets and the man's invitation for more. Deceived and whisked into the back of the car, the young boys were forced into the world of slavery.
Hundreds of miles from home Huro and Shivji were separated. Each was locked in a dark room with a carpet loom. Abused, given only a tiny amount of beans and rice, and provided with a tin cup for a toilet, each boy wove carpets for eighteen hours a day, never leaving his room.
From a village without modern communication, the uneducated, poverty-stricken parents were nearly helpless to find their sons. Without money, a car, or other resources they had no way to search for or publicize the loss of the boys. They were unable to fight corrupt officials who—in return for money—turned a blind eye to children's slave labor.
Never giving up hope, the parents appealed for help from local representatives of an international organization that rescued children in captivity. Five years later, humanitarian workers rescued Huro and Shivji, reunited them with their parents, and then brought them to the ashram to heal.
My half-listening was over. I scrawled notes in a tablet at a furious pace. My attention was now captive, my focus centered, every ounce of my brain's capacity fully tuned to the boys' story. I scribbled down the stages of recovery and the process of aiding a former child slave relearning to play and live in freedom. I scratched out notes about the significance of reading and writing—a marvelous game learned by children at the ashram and passed along to other children when they returned home—skills that help inoculate families against further enslavement. I observed Huro's deep-set eyes and dark expressions—he was now a young man studying to become a teacher.
A layer of dust and sweat from my hands coated my pen and camera. As the sun began to set, I slung my camera over my shoulder and strolled away from the group. I gazed at my surroundings. Boys played on monkey bars in front of a dormitory. Palms thrived around a low, concrete structure that held latrines. Huro and Shivji continued talking to members of our team under the thatched-roof gazebo. Away from the others, I allowed the scenery to absorb my thoughts ... until something in the corner of my eye caught my attention. Young girls in matching red-and-white-checked outfits, under the watchful eye of a motherly figure, stood in rows and watched my every movement.
I wandered over to them as though pulled gently by an invisible string. The woman—their teacher and caregiver—greeted me. She interpreted my hello for the girls and noticed that one of the smaller girls and I were looking at each other, smiling, connecting without saying a word.
"This is Maina," she said. Two weeks earlier, the eleven-year-old girl had been rescued from the circus, where she had been enslaved, the woman explained.
"Would she like to see a photo of herself?" I asked the teacher.
She translated. Maina's nod followed. I pulled the camera off my shoulder and held it to my eye. I snapped one last photo in the dimming daylight, and the automatic flash kicked into action. Before checking the photo myself, I turned the camera so Maina could see her image in the tiny screen. She grinned up at me as one of my fellow travelers nudged my elbow to herd me back to our bus.
It was there for a moment; its likeness was captured in pixels for eternity. Maina's beautiful smile, a result of her rescue and current safety, showed no trace of her previous trauma. It was illuminating. I rode the rays of her smile back to the ashram's gate.
Shock and disbelief, however, took hold as we retraced our steps down the lane. I began to shiver, and on the dark bus ride back to our quarters, I sobbed. Surely this experience was not real. Was it possible I had misunderstood? Could the ashram's sign, "No More Tools in Tiny Hands," be a prop, a trick, a fake? Where had Mark Little taken us? Did my history books lie or lead me astray by omission? Hadn't Quakers and other people of faith who conducted the American Underground Railroad—covert connections of escape routes and safe houses to help nineteenth-century slaves to freedom—ended this abomination?
How had such a dirty secret—a conspiracy of deceivers, thieves, sellers, buyers, users, abusers, and consumers—remained hidden from me for so long? My brain and heart searched for an answer that would bring peace and reassurance, but the truth remained solid and unwavering. Child slavery had never been abolished. It was alive and well. Human trafficking—a conduit for bringing people into slavery—slithered stealthily in shadow ... strong, powerful, and hungry for victims.
At my tenth consecutive hour of tears, I vowed that I would do something to help Maina and millions of children like her. But how does one person stop or even put a dent in slavery?
Chapter ThreeGoing Down
In the elevator of life, most people like to ride up. I'm told that the penthouse—the residence at the top floor of a building—is the best. The terrace on the roof has the most expansive view and it is closest to the sun. On the ride to the sky, people crowd into the small space and chatter as they ascend.
Conversely, few people choose to take a trip to the deepest levels of a multifloor basement. They don't go unless there is a compelling reason or force. Even on the sunniest day, it's dark underground. When the button gets pushed for a subterranean destination, sometimes the descent can seem solitary, silent, and lonesome.
Excerpted from Facing the MONSTER by CAROL HART METZKER Copyright © 2012 by Carol Hart Metzker. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Prologue—Ceal and Jake, 1991....................1
Chapter 1—Three Questions....................7
Chapter 2—Mark and Maina, 2004....................13
Chapter 3—Going Down....................18
Chapter 4—The Unknown Horizon....................20
Chapter 5—Slavery 101, 2006....................29
Chapter 6—The Vintage Dress....................33
Chapter 7—Traveling Companions....................37
Chapter 8—Surviving Crime....................41
Chapter 10—Food for Thought....................51
Chapter 11—The Fall....................56
Chapter 12—Longing for Home....................58
Chapter 14—Outside My Front Door....................67
Chapter 15—Hanging by a Thread....................73
Chapter 16—A Circle of Friends....................77
Chapter 17—On the Road....................81
Chapter 18—Beginning Anew....................84
Chapter 20—New Directions....................94
Chapter 21—Monsters at Night....................98
Chapter 22—Growing Concerns....................101
Chapter 23—Where No Man Can Go....................104
Chapter 25—A Pound of Prevention....................111
Chapter 26—Finding Hope....................114
Chapter 27—Going Home....................118
Appendix—Solutions for Facing and Fighting Child Slavery....................125
About the Author....................137