“How is it that we still smile when the pressure comes?

How is it we stand firm when they think we should run?

How is it that we retain our integrity?

How is it through this maze that we keep the clarity?

How is it that through pain we retain compassion?”

(Lemn Sissay)

When you work with victims of trafficking, you have bad days and good days. Good days are when you listen to stories of hope, breakthrough and survival against all odds. Good days are when you know that the work that you did, made the journey of our survivors slightly easier. We celebrate when we rescue them and cheer them when they open their businesses and make their first profit. In many ways, their journey ends up becoming our journey and when they fail or give up on the journey, we are just as affected. Those are our bad days. Bad days are when victims reject the help you give or give up on the process and completely shut you out. Bad days are when you have to close a file because there is nothing else you can do yet the person is not at the right place.

When we plan for intervention in most cases, you work on the assumption that you will have a willing victim. The assumption is that the victim will be motivated throughout the process. A lot of the work that we do is pegged on how victims respond to the services we give. Most of the work involves a step-by-step process and when one step fails, sometimes it is almost impossible to go through the next.  When an intervention does not work as we expected, it is quite easy to doubt ourselves. It is easy to want to give up especially when we have invested so much on an individual and had high hopes. I like that we don’t have a one size fits all process at HAART for victims of trafficking. Each case is dealt with depending on the needs of the victim, this means that we really get involved in the process of recovery and when it does not work out, there are a lot of questions to answer. Sometimes, it is a time for us to learn a new way of doing things but in most cases you learn that when you are working with people you cannot control their reactions.

Over the years, I have learned that personal motivation from an individual is extremely important in their process of healing. I have learned that when everything fails, this motivation is the fire that pushes someone to go an extra mile.  You need someone that can go an extra mile when you are dealing with a process like recovery, which can be long and extremely difficult. This is why I am strong advocate for psychosocial support because it is part of the process that can trigger a victim to be motivated or just find passion to want to recover. However, sometimes even this fails. Sometimes, you are forced to accept that you are helpless and you cannot do anything.

I am learning that accepting that you are faced with a challenge beyond your capacity is not admitting failure. I am also learning that this process is not entirely dependent on us and therefore we have to allow survivors to take responsibility for their process of recovery. This is not easy. However, to be able to survive the journey, we have to identify when it is time to move on. We have to believe that there will be a better day because that is the only way to still smile when the pressure is on.

By Sophie Otiende