PAMPANGA, PHILIPPINES, January 08, 2015
Peals of laughter broke out above the Christmas music as more than 100 guest moved through the first Christmas party hosted by IJM Pampanga. Young women rescued from sex trafficking joined their relatives, staff from aftercare shelters, IJM social workers and lawyers for the festive occasion—as they celebrated the season and how far they've come.
One IJM aftercare member explained why the party was such a treat: "It's a way to show very tangibly that we love them as they are."
Holidays can be hard for these survivors, because they are often living in shelters far away from family, so they were thankful that IJM staff invited their parents and relatives. Not all of these family members have been supportive or willing to participate in their children's therapy, but many showed up at the Christmas party.
"Family support is a big part of rehabilitation and reintegration," explains one IJM social worker, adding that the reconnections were encouraging to the IJM team as well as the girls.
The carnival-themed party was held the Saturday before Christmas, and all of the guests enjoyed games, prizes and a photo booth. A survivor who was there with her daughter said the Scrabble word game was her favorite. At one point a daring child ventured onto a stage to give an impromptu performance.
A chaperone from one aftercare shelter said the usual lines were blurred at the party; there was no distinction between a lawyer or a chaperone or a client or a parent, and there were no goals or objectives for the time together.
"You can see all the girls the way they smile," she said. "And some of them know each other, so this is one of the biggest privileges for them to be able to see their girlfriends."
The IJM team will continue to help each survivor work toward her personal goals and process the trauma that has long-lasting effects. "In a year, so much will change," the chaperone added, saying she was excited to see how much the girls would develop and grow in this new year.
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