Yes! The day had come. Angel had reclaimed her wings and she was beginning to regain her freedom again.
Last Monday, Angel was placed in a protective shelter, where three other trafficking victims lived. I accompanied her with another TAMPEP worker to her new home. I was crazy excited- it was amazing to be able to see her story from the beginning to where she was now. More importantly, she was even more excited! She was ready to start over.
So here’s how it happened:
I was at the computer trying to figure out something in Word that was in Italian, when Sonia (a TAMPEP worker) peered over the computer monitor.
“Leslie…” Literally to me that’s what it was-dot dot dot. It was all Italian…none of which I could piece together. (Did they think I learned Italian overnight?) I stared blankly at her and then we both started laughing. I pulled her in front of the screen and pulled up the trusty Free Translation site. (I love this! It’s bad grammar, but it gets the job done).She typed in her question, and when I read the English translation, I shouted a big “Yes!” She was asking me if I could accompany her in taking Angel to her new shelter. Dude! Yea! I love anytime I can talk to Angel.
The next day, I was ready- you would’ve thought I was getting a new home or something. I walked into waiting area, and she was sitting in one of the chairs. She stood up and grabbed her bag when she saw me. “Ciao!” she said. As I greeted her back, I jokingly grabbed her bag and asked, “What’s in here?” She looked at it and said, “Some small small clothes I have.” That’s when the seriousness of this hit me- she escaped from her madam, she’s been living in a shelter… she wouldn’t have a lot of belongings.
When Sonya came, we started out to her new home. Throughout the car ride, I kept poking her and asking, “Are you excited? She just laughed and kept saying, “Yes, yes, yes!” When we got to the shelter, Angel became noticeably subdued. No more joking and singing around- this was for real. I can’t imagine what was going through her mind or how she felt, but I would imagine its like being in the witness protection program. Instead of having seen a crime, imagine a serious crime was committed against you…and while they were finding the person who hurt you, you had to be hidden- taken away from where you were living, taken from the few people you’d gotten to know. Now imagine all of this in a foreign country- in a language you can barely speak or understand. If this were me, I would have lost my mind or worst. Angel had every understandable right to draw into herself right then. We leaned against the car, waiting for Sonya to buy a parking pass.
“What are you thinking Angel?” She looked away-
“Too many things…”
“Why do you want to do this?” I asked her
She smiled to herself, thinking. “I want to have a good life- I don’t want to be doing that type of work anymore. I want to live a good life.”
I could have crawled into my book bag.
Before coming to Italy, I’d been up to my neck trying to choose what medical school to attend in the fall, what loan to apply to…where would I live- all of this mental exhaustion just to choose what would give me a “better life.” For Angel, her mental anguish was how do I escape from this woman making me do this?…Do I go back to Nigeria?… I can’t understand this language…What shelter will I be assigned to?
I could choose any school I wanted and still be ok, but if she didn’t choose to run when she did or come to TAMPEP, her life might have been very different.
The shelter was beautiful (For protection, I cant describe more than that), and so was her room. She sat on her bed and looked around her. One of the shelter leaders came in and began explaining how things ran, when meals were, and who the other girls were…all in Italian. Angel would just nod her head, saying, “Si, Si.” Wanting to be sure she understood, I asked her, “Do you really understand?” She laughed and shook her head no. Seeing this, the shelter leader, myself, Angel, and Sonya found ourselves somewhere between Italian and English, trying to communicate with each other. As we continued trying to talk, I could see tears begin to fill her eyes. When it was time to leave, they fell…hard. She crumpled within herself and wept.
What do you say? – “Its ok”…”Oh, don’t worry!” No, you can’t possibly say those things to her. I moved beside her and gave her a long hug. If I could, I would have moved my stuff in to stay with her…but I can’t…no one can. Angel has to start this journey, some of which will be alone. I stood up and looked back at her as I walked out. The door closed and that was it.
A big part of me was happy- she gets a chance like this.
But the other part of me was sad as I began pondering what would happen over the time she would be there. I prayed she would get her wings to fly…to have her life again… I prayed she would see goodness again and know that she was truly loved, beyond what she could imagine. I prayed for new beginnings and that she would be a light for another girl in this situation.
God, I pray this to be so…
Posted By Leslie Ibeanusi
Posted Jun 21st, 2007