Peace After the Storm
By Pamela J. Karg*
NEW YORK, July 24, 2008—Gayane** was tired of living virtually hand-to-mouth. After her drug-addicted husband abandoned her and their son for his own vices, Gayane didn't know what to do or where to turn. Though back living in her father's house, the situation was less than ideal. He was an alcoholic and it was no environment in which to raise her son.
Taking Steps for Change
She had to work to get some money to escape this cycle of abuse. But 10- to 12-hour work days were not conducive to raising her son. She was determined to make a change for the better.
As a first step, Gayane put her son in a boarding school, in essence an orphanage, to ensure his physical and educational needs were met. Then, she went to work.
At first, Gayane worked in her small Armenian village. Friends and neighbors kept telling her about people who emigrated to Dubai, made lots of money and returned to Armenia to create a better life. Gayane was sure this was the solution to her problems. She was convinced a year or two working in Dubai would enable her to get the money she needed to get a house for her and her son and give them the security they needed.
Not What She Envisioned
Once in Dubai, however, it didn't take long for Gayane to fall prey to professionals who find, coerce and exploit people. Gayane didn't get the café job she envisioned. Rather, she was stripped of her documents, trapped into prostitution and threatened physically and emotionally if she didn't make enough money that was supposed to buy her back her documents - and her freedom.
She was thrown into the migration jail in Dubai because she lacked any appropriate documentation that would give her legal status in this Middle Eastern Country. Gayane was eventually deported back to her native Armenia.
Border police in Armenia took one look at her and knew she needed assistance because of training they had received from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). They immediately referred her to UMCOR's shelter for people who had been trafficked.
Help and Security
Gayane received medical examinations and treatment, as well as badly needed psychological counseling by UMCOR's skilled doctors and psychologists. Gayane eventually felt ready to reintegrate back into the general community. However, there was no way she could live with the abuse suffered under her drunken father's roof. Gayane needed a new place to live so she could get her son out of the orphanage and build a life for him.
Through the UMCOR's partner and local NGO, Democracy Today, Gayane was able to overcome this last obstacle. Through a generous donation Democracy Today had received from Armenian-American Emmy- and Tony-award winning actress and comedienne Andrea Martin, Democracy Today bought a modest house for Gayane and her son. The single mother also received legal assistance to apply for and receive a small government stipend enabling Gayane to take care of the basic needs of her son and herself.
Nearly four years after trying to create a better life for her only child, Gayane finally got it. Mother and son are finally reunited under one roof. No more coercion, threats and running. No more separations and tears. Rather, Gayane and her son have become rich with familial love, personal dignity, peace of mind and a great sense of relief after being rescued from an unimaginable tumble into a life of human trafficking.
UMCOR in Armenia
UMCOR has been working in Armenia since 1994 through its non-governmental organization (UMCOR NGO). The Anti-Human Trafficking Project has a variety of components that both prevent people from being trafficked and helps those who have suffered from it.
UMCOR assists persons who have been trafficked with a safe environment and reintegration back into society. UMCOR also provides medical services, psychosocial support, and legal counseling. A vocational training program helps those at risk for trafficking to learn needed job skills so they are less likely to seek employment outside of Armenia and therefore less likely to be trafficked.
In addition to providing support to survivors, UMCOR combats further human trafficking by training border guards and police how to detect and assist populations at-risk for trafficking, operating a telephone hotline for people to get more information, and conducting public education and outreach activities.
*Karg is a United Methodist Volunteer in Mission serving in Armenia
**Not her real name