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Jhea’s story

November 8th, 2015

When I was 11, I ran away from home, due to years of abuse in my household.  I initially stayed with my aunt but after a fight with my mother, I never saw her again.

I later went to my father’s house. He helped me with food and shelter even though he was drinking and gambling at that time.  In grade 5, I ran away from my father’s house because we had a fight.  I stayed with a friend whose family made me their house helper. I didn’t finish elementary school and started using marijuana and drinking.

When I was 16, a friend of a friend told me there was someone looking for a house helper.  Jen Coconut My friend and I got the job together. When we reached the house, she introduced me to my  perpetrator. After a couple of hours, she left me alone. My perpetrator showed me around  the house and then she locked me in a room. I was crying hard. I kept on crying and  screaming, saying please open the door. I stayed there one day with no food.

The next day she introduced me to a man. I fought her. The time came when she slapped  me and the man punched me in the stomach. I fell on the floor.

I didn’t get paid in the first month. In the second month, the customers gave me money and  I hid it. Usually $3-4. The other money was given to my perpetrator. On my body there were  many wounds. When there was contact with a customer, I cut myself.

I stayed there two years because of fear. My perpetrator threatened me and said she would do something to my family if I leave or say something to the police. One day I told her I would go to the mall, but I escaped.  My friend invited me to go to a beach outing with them. The beach outing was an outreach of an organization that wanted to help me in my situation.

I was referred to a recovery center where I stayed for almost two years.  I was able to heal and forgive my mother.

I heard about SGI from one of my co-residents. I asked my social worker to refer me to SGI.

I was thinking it is a safe place to stay and it is near to my school.  I’m here in SGI because I want to live independently and to grow more. Basically, I want to finish my studies. Now I’m a college student. I chose social work because I want to prove to myself that I can help other people, especially children. It is important because I think I will have achieved my goal if I help others to change themselves from being an addict to being a successful person.

I am strong. I believe I can be a professional someday with the help of SGI and God and myself. 


March 8th, 2015

Abandoned by her mother at the age of three, Corina struggled to complete elementary school. She lived with her father, but he became disabled after falling out of bed while intoxicated and could no longer work.

Girl2After elementary school, Corina worked to support herself.  Her mother re-entered her life and Corina  accompanied her to the local pier to sell goods when she was 12 years old. Tired, Corina ran away from her  mother to the streets.

Some workers from a local shelter for children found Corina and invited her to stay with them.  With their help she continued her education up until her last year of high school when she left the shelter for disciplinary reasons.

With few other options, Corina moved in with her mother.  She managed to complete her last year of high school by working in the school cafeteria, but she was quick to leave her mother’s house after graduation.

Corina stayed with her aunt in a small lodge she operated, unaware the lodge was being used for trafficking.  At the age of 16, Corina’s aunt convinced her to engage in sex work. For the next three years she recruited customers in the street and then brought them back to the lodge for sexual services in exchange for money.

One night when she was working in the lodge, a local undercover police officer, working in partnership with International Justice Mission, rescued Corina and three others, including one minor. Corina testified against her traffickers in court, and in November 2014 the owner of the lodge was sentenced to 40 years in prison and the two managers received life sentences.

After the rescue, Corina returned to the neighborhood where she grew up. She had little direction in life until her IJM social worker facilitated an opportunity for her to get a college scholarship to study social work.

However, without a family who could financially support her daily needs, struggle and hunger became familiar companions. Corina and her brother lived on $1.50 per day, racking up debt at neighborhood stores just to eat. Although determined and motivated, Corina wasn’t sure if she would finish college.

Once again, her IJM social worker intervened and referred her to Solid Ground International.  SGI has been providing a safe home for Corina to complete her college education and to launch herself into long-term, independent living.

Corina says, “When I am at SGI, I feel my dreams are brighter. I’m more focused and happy. I was able to change my perspective—my view of life.”

She graduates from college this month as a strong, brave, free woman who relentlessly pursues success and who is motivated to help others in difficult situations do the same.

Weekend Retreat

December 1, 2014

During this quarter the residents of our 2 homes in Cebu enjoyed a weekend retreat where they experienced renewal and refreshment! Many of the women suffer from feelings of mistrust and fear of developing intimate relationships due to past traumas. Our retreat provided the women with an opportunity to connect and bond with one another. At SGI we encourage wholeness and balance in life.

Quotes from our residents

“I’m grateful to SGI because this organization helped me by providing my needs like shelter and food. SGI helped me to know more about Jesus Christ. SGI helped me to develop my self-esteem. SGI taught me to socialize and mingle with other people, which I didn’t do before”.
Kara (College Student) 

Laila and Cherry SGI helps me a lot in my studies, especially in my condition. I don’t have a family support  system. I feel like I have a family at SGI. I feel I am loved and cared for by this institution. I  am thankful because God never leaves me and He gave me SGI as being part of my life. And  also to continue my journey and goals in life.
 Luz (College Student)   

I have learned to be disciplined when it comes to school. I have to manage my time well. I  learned how to be kind to one another, how to understand one another, and how to love  one another. I am learning to be independent. It’s still hard for me, but I have to do it.
 Marcie (High School Student)

Lesley’s Story

November 20, 2014

Lesley’s parents separated when she was two years old and she was left living with her mother in a slum area. Neither her jobless mother nor her father, a drug addict and alcoholic, could take care of her needs, so her grandparents took her to a nearby island to escape a life filled with  extreme poverty.Laila Bench (1)

Her grandparents worked as coconut and corn farmers, but resources were still scarce. By the time Lesley  reached high school at the age of 13, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to continue her education given  the dire economic situation of her elderly grandparents. Fortunately, one of her teachers, aware of the  situation, talked to the school principal who offered Lesley a chance to work in her home while also going  to school . Lesley grabbed the opportunity. Her new employer paid for school projects and exams and gave  her $7 a month for her work around the house, which included cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes.  Every day Lesley woke up at 4:00 a.m. and slept at 11:00 p.m. in order to have time to do the housework  and attend school. She was sick often.

The first three years of this arrangement went smoothly. The principal was not abiding by the child labor  laws of the Philippines, but Lesley was willing to do whatever she could to finish her high school  education. From time to time the principal’s husband, a seaman, came home between job assignments.  Toward the end of Lesley’s third year of high school, he gave Lesley extra money as a gift, which she  happily gave to her grandmother. She was not aware that she was being groomed.

One night while everyone else was asleep, the husband entered her room and forced himself on Lesley. He proceeded to do this two more times, telling Lesley that if she told anyone she would not be able to finish school. Tormented, Lesley kept the secret to herself.

Just as her last year of high school was about to begin, Lesley could not bare her secret anymore. Perhaps feeling uneasy, the husband told his wife that Lesley should leave their home. With no safe place to go, she told a teacher what had happened. The teacher encouraged Lesley to leave and invited her to stay in her home. Lesley moved in with her teacher with the hope of finishing high school, but it wasn’t long before the principal discovered what had happened. She visited Lesley in her teacher’s home and threatened her life. Desperate, Lesley went to stay with her grandparents and told them what happened. Her grandfather convinced her to file a case.

Lesley knew she would not have a peaceful life on the island since many people in the small community had become aware of the situation, so she decided to board a ferry to Cebu where she had family. With $4.50 in her pocket, she paid $3.70 for the ferry ticket. She had told two teachers she was leaving and one teacher took it upon himself to report the case to PLAN International Philippines. The teacher ran to the ferry before it left to inform Lesley that PLAN would assist her. She disembarked and stayed with PLAN for one week while the social worker made arrangements for Lesley in Cebu. Once in Cebu, she moved into a secure government shelter.

While in the government shelter, Lesley was able to complete high school and she was granted a local government scholarship. She chose to study BS in Hospitality Management, which she hopes will enable her to work abroad and support the education of her younger siblings after she graduates in March 2015. Also while in the shelter, a local nonprofit legal organization assisted Lesley in filing a case against her perpetrator, who is in hiding. When the principal received the news that Lesley had filed a case against her husband, she offered to pay Lesley $7,000 to drop the case. However, Lesley says, “The money is not enough to pay for the dignity he took from me.”

Lesley has continued her education despite numerous obstacles. Earlier this year she found herself homeless after being asked to leave a relative’s economically strained home. Shortly thereafter, she ran into a former co-resident from the government shelter who is also a current SGI resident and Lesley explained her situation and wrote a letter to SGI asking for help, which the resident delivered to SGI. The next day the SGI social worker contacted Lesley and they met at her mother’s home on the street to discuss her situation. Within one week Lesley had a new home at SGI.

In addition to safe housing, Lesley appreciates the spiritual support SGI provides. She says, “Through SGI I experienced the power of God. Before I didn’t give Him all my trust, but now I offer Him all my life and my everything. I realize that we are only given one life. We will treasure it to praise Him always.”

Jaren’s Story – Our first graduate

June 1, 2014

Jaren’s* classmate recruited her to come to Cebu from a southern island with the promise that she would be able to get a job to help her family. Jaren’s mother abandoned her and her two brothers when she was three years old, and her father had recently lost his job. After she finished her third year of high school, she worked as a house helper, hoping to alleviate the financial needs of her family, but the demands of her job caused her to drop out of school.  The entire salary she earned each month was withheld by her employer as payment for food and rent.  Jaren needed to find a job that paid.

When Jaren heard about the new job opportunity in Cebu, she was hopeful that she would finally earn a salary she could share with her family.  She was thrilled when her classmate’s relatives sent them money to take a ferry to Cebu. At the time, Jaren did not know her friend’s “uncle” was actually a pimp. After disembarking from the ferry, they went directly to his house. Jaren was instructed to shower and get ready for duty, her naiveté only apparent to her classmate and pimp.  This was the night she was robbed of her virginity.

Jaren worked in the red light district for six months, entertaining up to three1401689279TrafficVictim_JohannaPinning customers a night.  Her nightly salary ranged from $7-$24 depending on how much her pimp decided to keep for  himself.  Even after the first horrific night,she continued working because she felt she had no  other alternative.

Without an opportunity to return to school or to earn a stable income, Jaren continued her work  until she met a boy when she was 16 years old who offered to take care of her needs.  His family  owned a printing press, so she could work there and live with them.  At first Jaren was pleased  to have a place to stay outside of the brothel where she had previously lived. However,it didn’t  take long before she discovered her boyfriend was a drug addict, though by this time she was  pregnant with his child. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and began looking for options for  a stronger future for herself and her daughter.

Jaren remembered the social worker who visited her while she was still activein the sex  industry. She contacted the social worker and moved into a drop-inshelter where she was safe  from abuse.  However, the shelter did not offer long-term aftercare, so the same social worker  referred Jaren to Solid Ground International last year.

By this time, Jaren was already in her second year as a midwifery student, having received a college scholarship from an SGI partner organization, Red Window Project. She was able to graduate from her course this past April 2014 and looks forward to working as a midwife in a private clinic before applying for a government position.SGI gave Jaren a safe, supportive place to live as she finished her education and will continue to do so until she is able to live independently. As Jaren looks ahead, she is convinced that, despite every trial, God has never abandoned her, even during the bleakest times in her life. Indeed, the path ahead is brightly lit and she is bravely moving forward one day at a time.

* The story is real, but the name of the beneficiary has been channged to protect her identity.

Julita’s Story: Thriving in Freedom

CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – Julita* grew up in a boisterous, one-room home, the oldest of five children.

Her mother and father worked a small farm to supplement the salary her father earned working in the Philippines army. Though her parents struggled at times to make ends meet, they were determined to support their daughter’s education. Julita worked hard and graduated from high school. Eager to help support her family, she moved to Cebu City in search of work.

For two years, Julita worked two jobs. By day, she cleaned houses. At night, she worked at an internet café. Despite the long hours and her hard work, the pay was low and Julita was discouraged. “My body would grow so tired,” Julita recalls. “I could not stand it anymore.”

A local paper was advertising jobs at a spa. Eager for an opportunity to earn more money, Julita applied and was offered a job as a masseuse. But the job was not an opportunity – it was a trap. She was regularly sexually assaulted by the male customers, who could pay a little extra to rape Julita.

The owner of the spa preyed on girls like Julita – vulnerable young women who were desperate for money and lacked a support system. Like the patrons who frequented his spa, the owner started sexually assaulting Julita.

In 2007, less than a month after she arrived at the spa, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) staged an operation to rescue Julita and the other young women who were being sexually exploited – raped for profit. Five of the victims were underage. The NBI immediately called IJM to intervene in the legal case. This case was one of the first for IJM Cebu, established in 2006 to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The owner was arrested and charged with child abuse and qualified trafficking in persons – for profiting from the commercial sexual exploitation he promoted at his spa. At the beginning of the trial, the trafficking charge was inexplicably dropped. IJM appealed the downgraded charges and won, but the battle was just beginning.

Julita was free from the daily abuse she had endured in the spa, but she was deeply affected by the shame and effects of trauma. Though she was safe in a secure aftercare home, she slipped into a deep depression, struggling with thoughts of suicide. The spa owner began intimidating the girls he had once ruled over with impunity – including Julita. The owner successfully bribed another girl from the spa, who ran away from the aftercare home and started calling Julita to try and persuade her to do the same.

Julita resisted the pressure to run away or give up the case – and eventually the other young woman also returned to the safety of the aftercare home. At the recommendation of her IJM social workers, Julita moved to a new aftercare home. For her safety, she moved back and forth between homes, to block the suspect from contacting her and further intimidating her. Even in the midst of the turmoil moving between homes, Julita decided to testify in court against the perpetrator, to ensure the man would face consequences for his abusive actions.

Although the owner now faces charges of child abuse and qualified trafficking in persons – a crime carrying a sentence of 20 years to life in prison – he has filed numerous motions in court to stall the trial. IJM refuses to give up, urging the court to resolve the motions filed by the owner so Julita can take the stand – and receive justice she deserves.

Supported by IJM and the social workers in the aftercare home, Julita started to believe that she could start over – that the abuse did not define her. She regained her eagerness to learn, and she signed up for a skills training class at the shelter where she learned how to sew. Then she applied for and received a scholarship to earn a college degree. She enrolled in a two-year college course to study Hotel and Restaurant Management. When she received her diploma in March 2010, Julita’s mother traveled from their rural village, proud to witness her daughter’s success from the audience.

On her own initiative – and just three days after graduation – Julita found a job at a local hotel where she was hired to prepare the rooms. She was soon promoted to a position at the front desk. Julita encountered new challenges, including an employer who, at first, did not pay her the legal minimum wage. But Julita had confidence to stand up for herself. She proved herself a reliable worker and her salary and benefits both increased.

Today, Julita lives at a boarding house with other young women who are trafficking survivors. She sends part of her earnings home to her family. She speaks confidently when she answers the phones at the front desk of the hotel and greets guests with a smile.


Jhea’s story

November 8th, 2015 When I was 11, I ran away from home, due to years of abuse in my household....


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