4 minute read
Growing up in poverty in the slums of Kumasi, Ghana, 18-year-old Abina longed for a better life.
Her pastor talked to her about job opportunities in other countries, and with his help, Abina signed up with an organization that promised great pay and benefits.
Staff helped her get a passport and a work visa; they bought her a one-way plane ticket and even advanced money so she could buy some clothes.
Abina was excited and full of hope for a better life. She thought she could even send money home to help her mother and younger brother.
Tragically, it was all a sham; the pastor was in on it, and Abina became a victim of human trafficking.
Her handler took her passport forcibly when she landed in Jordan, and she was required to work long hours without pay in a large household. They did provide her with a small area to sleep and meager rations to eat, but she was on-call 24 hours a day, expected to jump on demand.
Abina’s dream was shattered, and she was subjected to repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. When she complained, the matriarch of the house yelled at her, saying, “I paid for you; you do as I say.”
She was trapped in a living hell for four years. Without a passport or money, she had no means to return home. Eventually, her body gave out, she could no longer work, and she was emotionally spent and lay in bed.
Abina’s “employer” thought she was just being obstinate and defiant. When beating failed to motivate her, the employer, in collusion with a policeman friend, sent Abina to prison.
I recently had the opportunity of traveling to Ghana to interview women who were trafficked in Lebanon and Jordon. I met 40 women. Ten wanted to tell their stories, so other women could avoid being deceived and exploited.
These women were living in the compound of Families Mentoring Families, an NGO located in Kumasi, Ghana. I have provided executive coaching to the director for over six years. She knew my background in recording the lived experiences of people. The director wanted me to film the women and create an educational piece to raise awareness of trafficking in Ghana.
All the women had been rescued from bondage within the past 18 months and were readjusting to freedom. One woman escaped, walking hundreds of miles with her two children. The others were helped to freedom by an intervening organization.
Health professionals can incorporate the belief systems of their patients to help them contextualize, attribute, and heal
I was amazed at how calm and resolute the women were. I was further impressed by their positive attitudes and plans. Somehow these women were able to compartmentalize their experiences and start healing from the trauma of being held against their will, lack of medical care, malnutrition, long working hours, and in most cases, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse.
I discovered that all the women had a belief in God. Surprisingly, none blamed God for their circumstances; instead, these women turned to their God to help them cope during the hard times.
This experience reinforced to me the importance of honoring a patient’s belief system. In the case of the Ghanaian women, they focused on the blessings they attributed to God rather than the hardships they endured. Their positivity was humbling, palpable, and inspirational.
Unfortunately, some professionals have viewed spirituality as anathema to well-being, citing cases where religion and belief systems have been harmful.
Perhaps their examples have merit; however, the research is replete with articles emphasizing the importance of including a patient’s spiritual practices in psychotherapy.
Health professionals can incorporate the belief systems of their patients to help them contextualize, attribute, and heal. The religious traditions of the women I interviewed varied.
All used their faith to put their horrendous experiences into a larger perspective. The NGO is successfully supporting the women’s healing using their own belief systems as a basis.
There are likely trafficked Ghanaians who blame God for their circumstances, but, surprisingly, I didn’t meet any on that trip. I am grateful for what these women taught me about how to survive difficult circumstances and the importance of a core belief system in coping with difficult circumstances and healing from trauma.
These women taught me about how to survive difficult circumstances and the importance of a core belief system
Abina had to languish in that Jordanian prison for three months. She was subjected to abuse from other prisoners and the guards while there. She was never charged with a crime.
Abina was eventually discovered by a staff member of Operation Underground Railroad. They negotiated her release, likely paid a bribe, and brought her back to Ghana to live at the compound of Families Mentoring Families.
Despite the culpability of the priest in her trafficking, like the 39 other women I met, Abina’s faith in God did not waiver. She concluded that even a priest could be a bad guy and mused that her experiences were all part of “God’s plan for her” to give her experiences to help others.
Abina’s goal is to become a motivational speaker, and I have no doubt she will succeed.
Roland Nebeker says
Outstanding report, faith promoting to see how these wonderful women survived and are helping others
Matthew P. Martin says
These women are tremendous examples. Thank you Gerald for being a witness to their stories. Our belief systems can offer comfort, purpose, and connection to others, very important especially after tragedies.
Julia Furtak says
Thank you for sharing this amazing story. These women are a living example of the healing power of God when there’s faith and trust in Him.
Nicole Nebeker says
This is incredible! For me, having a core belief system is fundamental to my wellbeing and survival. It helps me get through tough times and allows me to feel gratitude for the good ones. Thank you for sharing!