When Yati came to Eden, she entered our trauma counseling program. She painfully unpacked her trauma and felt her heart beginning to heal. As she began to dream about her future again, the plight of women who were still trapped weighed on her. She was now numbered in the 2% of victims who are ever rescued... yet she knew so many more remained trapped in the horror she had escaped.*
She knew she had to do something.
So Yati wrote a song of advocacy and freedom. She bravely took this song back into the same kind of red light districts she had run from not so long ago. Alongside Eden's weekly Outreach team, she encouraged enslaved women with her personal story of hope.
Each week, she sat in dark brothels with broken young women and shared how she had bravely escaped. She told of her newfound freedom. Her immense empathy filled the room when she told them about the joy of dreaming again... a joy she knew they could not fully imagine yet. Yati's vulnerability and bravery showed these women that they could change their story and claim the hope of a new beginning. They, too, could sing a song of freedom.
The Song of Freedom collection features a delicate bird pendant as a symbol of flying out of danger and into the safety of a new beginning.
Yati's dream is that whenever you wear this collection, you are reminded to hope and dream with us as we work to create a world where all are free.
One of the women we met on Outreach one night was Li Fen.
The first time we met her was on a Christmas Outreach in a red light district. She was sitting on a couch, alone, in a small, low-set house. In mid-winter, she was dressed in lingerie and a coat, shivering as she waited for customers. We sat down next to her and began a conversation so different from her usual exchanges, offered a Committed pendant necklace, and asked about her life.
Within minutes, she began her story. Li Fen was living a normal, rural life when a distant relative passed through. Over dinner, this cousin made an enticing offer: she knew a friend looking for girls like Li Fen. It sounded like a golden opportunity — a good job with excellent pay in the city. It would be enough for a good start plus savings for the future. The accommodation was free and she would even give an advance to Li Fen’s family as a gesture of goodwill.
Days later, Li Fen arrived in a different world. Instead of the bamboo thatch of the village, concrete walls rose three, four or even more stories above her. Grey-brown dogs yawned and yelped on the potholed sidewalks, staring emptily through her as she followed through a padlocked metal gate and up steep, murky stairs to her new home. Inside, she was shooed past a grotesque jury of eyes under sweat-laced foreheads, turning briefly upwards from their phone screens to assess the new arrival.
She didn’t know why she was there or what was happening to her. Later, when she entered the Eden program and we conducted her entrance interview, we discovered that she did not know what sex was, or why she was given medicine to stop her from having a baby, or how babies are even made. She did not understand why men streamed in and out of her room, again and again, day after day, using her body in a way she could not comprehend or even begin to try to explain to us.
When we met her, she was fourteen years old. She was guarded by her cousin and clearly terrified. We split our attention, distracting the cousin in one conversation while another team member spoke with her, gave her a hug, and secretly passed her our phone number, “in case you need help.” We sat there a little longer and gave her a Committed pendant necklace. Then we left, prayed, and moved on to the next place.
A week later the phone rang. Li Fen had stolen a phone from a client and staked everything on escaping to Eden. We made plans to receive her and started rushing to prepare. She had packed a bag and planned to run that day.
We waited, but she didn’t arrive. Her pimp had discovered her plan and taken everything she owned.
However, her mind was made up and she had a new hope and a place to run to... if she could just get out.
Just after midnight, she bravely refused a request from a customer, cunningly hoping that he would drag her by the wrist into the hallway, demanding his money back. It worked, and as he shouted abuse and called her worthless, she heard hope instead of his curses. While the pimp tried to appease the customer, she ran away from captivity completely barefoot with only the clothes on her back.
This time, she made it out.
She hid behind the wheel of a semi-truck parked nearby and called us, desperate for help. Two Eden staff arranged to meet her at a set location and so, without any money, she flagged down a taxi and came to us. It was extremely scary for Li Fen. Yet again, she was placing her life in the hands of others, unsure if she could trust us at first, but somehow feeling that this was different.
In her entry interview, she told us that all she wanted to do was return home. She stayed with us a week before moving to another Eden site closer to home, where she continued to receive counseling and support through the rocky journey back to normalcy. Not every young woman enters the jewelry program at Eden. For some, like Li Fen, the best thing we can do is to provide counseling and help them return home safely.
Li Fen was the inspiration for the Miraculous Freedom Necklace. This delicate pendant necklace features a cube as a motif for light breaking into darkness, and of hope breaking out of captivity. The slightly open cube design is suggestive of the cross shape that would appear if the necklace could open up, a symbol of hope even in the deepest darkness.
Most of us will never experience the depth of trauma that Li Fen endured, but all of us know the deep longing for a breakthrough… for freedom from whatever holds us captive. As you wear this piece, our hope is that you will use your own stories of hope to encourage others, just as the hands of those who made these pieces have been set free by hope.
*United Nations Office for Drugs & Crime, 2016