As Sipho* got ready for work, he prayed and asked God to help him. It was exhausting and difficult work. But most things that are meaningful are difficult and he loved being a part of something bigger than he was. He asked God to encourage him, to energise him and to give him promptings and supernatural insight to be able to scan through all the hundreds of passengers that streamed through the transit hub daily. Some of them were returning to loved ones, some had just closed a big deal, some were coming on holiday. But some had been lured into the country on false pretences. And those were the ones he was called to help.
He arrived at work excited for the new day, and took his post, walking up and down the queues of people. He was looking for things amiss; people who looked really agitated and anxious, people who looked impoverished, certain sexes, certain ages, certain nationalities, and as he walked he asked God to show him the ones that needed help. A few hours into the morning he spotted her. She was standing alone, nervously handling her passport. He could see she had never travelled before. He approached her and kindly asked her to come to the interview booth.
As he gently questioned her, her story unravelled. She had been introduced to a ‘friend’ on Facebook a few months ago. This ‘friend’ was married to a South African and he had bought her a ticket to come to visit in South Africa. We had seen this trick a hundred of times and knew of countless traffickers using this same strategy; they would befriend vulnerable naïve women who wanted to see the world, or who wanted lucrative jobs in another country and would communicate via Facebook for a few months. Long enough to earn their trust, long enough to convince them that they had their best interests at heart. Then they would make the offer; a holiday, a job, a marriage. Sipho looked at her as she sat across the table from him, his questioning and research had made him certain she was one of the ones. He saw the hope, the dreams that drove her and he felt awful that he had to be the one to burst her bubble. But he also knew the truth, he knew what happened to girls like Ahn. He knew she would be met at the station expecting an elated friend, only to find a harsh, cold driver. As she drove past the looming city her stomach would be in knots and she would just feel something was wrong. When she was taken to a room in a house of women, depressed and lifeless, she would know something was wrong. But she would also know that she was alone. In a foreign country, where she had no money and didn’t speak the language. Sipho imagined her realising what was happening to her, then desperately trying to find a way of escape.
Sipho explained to her what was happening, what she was in for, what the next years of life held for her if she continued with these people that she didn’t know. And as he explained it to her, her face showed the tidal wave of feelings she was going through. Disbelief, anger, horror, then finally relief. How close had she been to that life? What if he hadn’t been there? What if he hadn’t seen her? How could people do that to one another? She had seen the worst of the human condition, but she had also seen Sipho’s kindness.. there was some good in the world after all.
As Sipho left that day, tired, emotionally spent, he smiled. He thanked God for enabling him to be a part of her story, for being able to send her home, equipped to navigate foreign employment correctly, without putting herself at risk.
*Not the real name