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After Aftercare

Caring for child survivors of sexual trafficking is multi-faceted. In the initial days, we deal with things like acute medical needs, family services, and legal procedures. But slowly life  takes on a rhythm, trust is built, and the deeper wounds are cared for. Trauma for sexually  exploited children runs deep, and it is not something that any aftercare program can ever fully address. Aside from the necessary mental, emotional, and spiritual AfterAftercarehealing, a good aftercare program has to think about a child’s future.

For the lucky girls in our center, loving parents are waiting at the end of the program to help them rebuild their lives and make plans for their futures. For others, there are no families to go home to, and “after aftercare” looms a life in which they are primarily going to be responsible for themselves. Finishing high school and going to college is sadly not always an option either because some are so far behind that they cannot catch up (we have teens who never went to school before coming to us), or because the years of drug abuse and trauma have decreased their mental capacity so much that they cannot possibly be successful academically. For these girls in particular, helping them come up with a long term plan is critical. Job training and resume building has to start before they girls leave the center, or they are vulnerable to falling right back into the life they were taken out of.

We are fortunate to have combined forces with fantastic organization on Bali called Flux Lifeground that conducts a 2 year program with majors in visual art (photography, graphic design, and film), food art, performing arts (dance and music) and urban gardening. Teens spend their first semester exploring the different majors before selecting one to focus on. By the end of the program they have worked on their skills, explored their fields in a local context, prepared a resume, and perhaps even completed an internship. The best part about it is that mentoring is built into the program, so even as our girls leave us they continue to have mentoring relationships as they grow professionally. One of our first girls to go through the program won a national teen cooking competition and has continued with the program even after leaving the aftercare center. We are all cheering her on as she gets ready to graduate and work in a career that brings her so much pride.

As I watch our girls develop, I am so thankful that in Bali there is a tribe of people dedicated to them. There are multiple organizations contributing their skills and programs, donors giving money for the running of the center, professionals offering their services, concerned citizens and tourists praying and advocating for a better chance. My hope for our girls is that they live lives full of authentic loving relationships with others and with their Creator. My hope for Bali is that aftercare centers are no longer necessary.

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