At 16, Lilly was trafficked into China to work on a rubber plantation. Today she volunteers to raise awareness about the risks of human trafficking.
It’s difficult for me to simply write about Lilly as a trafficking survivor because having met her, I know that certainly isn’t what defines her.
Lilly is the mother of a cheeky little girl. She is a neighbour to the people who pop in as they are passing by. She is a volunteer, who raises awareness about trafficking and improving child health. She is a friend to many.
Yet Lilly has lived through something that few of us could imagine. For 10 years she worked under exploitative conditions, verbally and physically threatened, without receiving proper pay, and with no chance of escape.
Lilly told me that she was only 16 when she was trafficked to work in a rubber plantation on the Myanmar-China border. Like many others, she was lured there under false pretences – promised a teaching job with a good salary. And again like many others, her motivation was providing for her impoverished family – particularly since her father had just passed away.
I won’t do Lilly the injustice of trying to imagine what it would be like to go through something like this, for it’s impossible for any of us to truly understand. But what I can speak to is the value of the volunteer work that Lilly has been doing since being able to return home.
When I met Lilly earlier this year, in her home town in Myanmar, she was chatting with World Vision staff ahead of a state festival that was to be held the following day to mark a national holiday.
World Vision and the local police were getting ready to co-host a stall at the festival to raise awareness about the risks of human trafficking and to educate people about safe migration practices. Lilly was one of the many volunteers who would be helping teach school children how to protect themselves and their families from exploitation, if they decided to travel away from home to work.
Lilly’s motivation is the same as what drives many of us to fight for injustice and to stand up for the oppressed – hope.
Lilly’s hope is that every person she talks to is one more person who will be saved from human trafficking.
And my hope is that every person who hears Lilly’s story is one more person who will choose to buy more ethically certified products, so they’re not purchasing goods made under exploitative conditions.
On Abolitionist Sunday, churches around Australia will take action against trafficking and slavery. Register your church today. If you’re in Melbourne, you can attend a public Abolitionist Sunday event at St Paul’s Cathedral – Corner Flinders Lane and Swanston Street, Melbourne – at 2:30pm on Sunday 23 November.
Learn more about Lilly’s story by watching this video.