An hour after being picked up at the airport me and the group of women I’m traveling with were in our small bus riding the bumpy roads to Puresa Humanitarian.
Puresa Humanitarian was created by Giselle Meza ( you can read more about her and it here).
The organization rescues girls who are victims of sex trafficking. It helps them recover, physically, psychologically and emotionally. It gives them a place to live and if they are old enough, a place to work.
It also goes into neighboring communities educating families about sex trafficking to try to prevent it.
We climbed the stairs to the roof which was set up with blankets on the floor and a pink and yellow canopy over our heads. We were given marigold head wreaths and the children stuck bindi’s on our third eye. Then the children greeted us with songs and dancing.
Then we sat on the ground, soft with blankets, and the children came to us with handfuls of glitter and sprinkled it over us. We all laughed as they threw the glitter in our hair. It stuck to our bare arms, legs, and faces. (I’m still finding traces of it in my hair, on my bed and the floor of my hotel room as I write this.)
Before eating a homemade lunch, Giselle told us her story of how she was stalked as a 14 year old in Oregon where her mother and she had just moved from South America. The woman lured her to New York the brought her to London where she was imprisoned and forced into the sex trade.
Giselle miraculously escaped and came back to the United States. For years she never told anyone about what happened to her. Because of her trauma she just barely finishing high school. But when she graduated a modeling agent approached her and she became a model, traveling around the world with her work.
It was during that time that she found girls who were experiencing the same thing she had. That’s when she started Puresa Humanitarian.
After lunch someone brought out the nail polish and we sat around painting each others nails. (for the first time in my life I have my toe nails painted) We planted some tomatoes and peppers in the box gardens and then had our hands and feet decorated with henna.
I couldn’t get over how loving the girls were after the experiences they’d had. Some of them, who grew up in the brothels had watched their mothers die. Others were sold into the sex trade at very young ages. Often by their own parents.
One girl came up to me, took my hand and kissed it. I kissed her hand back and we sat holding each others hands for a while. Another girls approached me shyly then scraped some of the glitter from the blanket where I sat and tossed it over me giggling. These were girls who the year before, when the first came to Puresa were too afraid and withdrawn to be around other people.
Giselle said that they give the children the necessary physical and psychological help they need but also give them lots of love. And that love shines through.
There was nothing institutional about our visit to Puresa. It felt like we were being welcomed in the home of the children and women who care for them. It was warm and inviting. And there was an ease about the children that comes with feeling safe. The affection between them is visible, holding each others hands, dancing and hugging each other like the closest of families.
As much as I hear the stories, it’s hard for me to grasp that the girls who were sitting next to me and tossing glitter in my hair experienced the horrific things that happened to them. I cried when Giselle told us her story, but there was so much love and good will at Puresa, I found it as hopeful as it is awful.