The typical “human trafficking” tale is simple: a villain lures a girl with promises of a good job, but she ends up trapped and sold. We’ve all heard some version of that story – but we’ve never heard it from a woman at The Well.
The real-life stories are never simple. Instead of being tricked by a trafficker, girls meet tricksters like peer pressure, teenage romance, or illicit drugs. They’re often trapped by abuse, economic hardship, or a mental illness.
Most women at The Well are young single moms who ended up working “at night” to support their kids. These women are a key reason we focus on holistic family recovery, from keeping nursing babies next to mom to offering parenting classes and support.
We want you to understand what we do and why, but we also want to keep women’s’ stories private. This essay is a fictionalized day in the life of a young mother who is new to The Well.
Kay wakes with her daughter Noy asleep next to her, tangled hair all over her face.
“Baby, wake up!” She nudges Noy half-heartedly, then considers rolling over for more sleep. Then she remembers her attendance contract.
“I can’t be late.” she thinks. She’s tired of failing. This time, she’s going to make it – she will get up early and she will not party on weeknights.
“You can do this,” she whispers.
“Wake up.” Now her voice is stern, with an edge that Noy knows well. The little girl drags her feet to the shower. Her school uniform, ironed and ready, waits on a chair.
They arrive at school and Noy realizes she was supposed to wear her scouting uniform today. She begins to cry, and they run the half-block home for the right uniform. Noy makes it back on time, but Kay is late to work.
She signs in with a tight feeling in her shoulders and goes to Bible study. Someone reads the verses as little breezes move the curtains. A sparrow walks across the tile, and her spirit begins to settle. She looks up shyly at the other women.
Her second hour is a mom’s class. Ann, a volunteer at The Well, talks about teaching manners to your children. Kay already teaches Noy to be polite, just as her grandma taught her, so it’s easy to let her mind wander. She worries over money problems.
At lunch time, her grandma calls. She takes care of Kay’s 9-year-old son back home, and Kay is due to send money. Grandma knows she won’t get paid until Friday, but she still yells about the delay. She tells Kay she is no good, and that she needs to get a job like her cousin has. Her family is building a new house with all the money she sends.
“Grandma, I will send you money on Friday, I promise,” Kay says. Her grandma ends the call without a goodbye.
“I’m trying so hard and she doesn’t believe me. Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I should just go get drunk with the money,” Kay thinks. She pushes the rice across her plate.
The afternoon is slow. Women upstairs are making peanut butter to sell, and the smell makes her hungry. She wishes she’d eaten her lunch. Downstairs, The Well is rebuilding a cafe. She sees the construction workers in their long-sleeved T-shirts and it reminds her of husband. His eyes used to light up when he saw her.
She wishes she could go back to life before he left her. She sighs and remembers how it was – just show up at job sites for work and party any night; no need to keep a schedule or plan the right school uniform. She could run away and do that again.
But she sighs again. She doesn’t want to run. She wants to take care of her daughter and send money home for her son. She wants things to be better for herself and for them. That’s why she is here.
“Kay, focus!” Pi Bee’s voice brings her back. The earrings she is making are complicated and she doesn’t quite have it right.
“You can do this,” she whispers. She writes her name carefully on the tag as she finishes the set: “Kay, 25 years old.”
At the end of the day, she picks Noy up at the Center’s aftercare program, and they stop for noodle soup on the way home. Noy’s eyes droop as she does her homework, and Kay double-checks that the right school uniform for tomorrow is ironed.
“You can do this,” she says to herself as flicks off the light and lies down next to Noy. “You can.”
Would you like to hear more?
Over the next few weeks we’ll explore the social and economic realities women like Kay deal with every day, and how we believe we can bring about real transformation for these women and their families. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when we post the next one.