Huánuco is surrounded by mountains, as far as the eye can see. In fact, all of Peru is one seemingly endless expanse of mountains. No matter how high you go, it seems there is always another mountain that stretches up higher still just ahead of you. But the weirdest thing is that often you can’t even see that tallest mountain until you’ve climbed another mountain first; each mountain obscures the view of the others.
Wow, the parallels of this landscape with my own life are just as endless as those Andean ranges. My life these last few weeks in Huánuco, Peru has been nothing short of sweet and abounding in opportunities to learn. However, it hasn’t always been the kind of learning I expected to have.
I’m working in the office of Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), a nonprofit that operates in cities throughout Peru. The Huánuco office focuses on fighting Child and Teen Sex Trafficking, and, man, is Huánuco a hub for such activity. Disguised behind a quaint, river-side city with one of the best climates in all of Peru hides an ugly secret. Huánuco is known as the primary point of kidnapping and distributing victims, mostly young girls, for sex trafficking in Peru.
Here, kidnapping usually occurs through false advertisements of job opportunities/interviews. Preying on the poverty and desperation of families in the community, jobs are offered in other cities or in “restaurants” and young girls apply to help. Captivity can also occur in a less subtle way, by drivers of motos, the primary form of transportation in the town. These men lock young girls inside their taxi, sometimes sedating them, and take them as prisoners. Young girls here can’t even rest secure that a trip to the store or to school won’t end in tragedy for them. Even I upon first arriving was instructed on how to kick out the door of a moto if necessary.
Not yet being a lawyer, and, frankly, not yet being fluent in Spanish has somewhat limited my capacity to be helpful here in the ways I wish to be. However, my hosts have been gracious in including me in as much as possible. As a part of my work with Paz y Esperanza I’m helping them prepare for a two-day event to be held at the end of June. The event is called a “Diplomada”, which is the equivalent of a certification course for local professionals, including attorneys, and government authorities. This course will train and teach on the issues of human sex trafficking and ways to detect and prevent it in within the scope of each profession. Each event is a day-long class, one day to be held here in Huánuco, and the other day to be held in a neighboring town, Tingo Maria. (Tingo Maria is the last stop on the trafficking route before girls from other, more isolated regions of the Amazonian areas, are brought to Huánuco to be sold.)
In my spare-time in the office I’ve been reading through the case files of clients just to hear their stories and to understand how the legal process works here and what it is doing for these victims. Honestly, what I’ve found is heart-breaking and discouraging to say the least. Most cases at Paz y Esperanza involve girls age seven to fourteen-years-old and have been pending for upwards of six years, but that is because resources for these victims are only just now being created, created by people like those in the office I work for. In Huánuco, awareness is everything and, though the process of transformation is painfully slow, there is hope and there is progress.
As I walk toward the end of this part of my summer, I realize that I’m only just finishing my first mountain. Now, suddenly, I can see all the mountains towering around me, and I know just how hard this career journey will be, fighting for the oppressed and forgotten. So many “too lates” or “problems I can’t fix” sit on my path, and I have to wrestle with that, but I trust that the God who has delegated to me such a tough path will also delegate to me the strength and grace sufficient for it.
Because the greatest thing about mountains are the views that come when you reach the peak. Regardless of how high you are, and how high you have left to climb, stopping to see the success behind you is exhilarating and it matters. The successes matter. They matter to God and they matter to the one who was helped. Thank God that people all over the world are willing to climb mountains every day for people they don’t know and have yet to meet. Peru may have some of the tallest mountains I’ve ever seen, but at the top of even the tallest mountains I can see the lights of a few scattered homes, a beacon of peace and hope, a sign of people who are willing to live where it’s hard.
This post was written by Center for Global Justice student intern Desinee Easley. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.