WASHINGTON (CNS) — At age 9, growing up in Cameroon, Evelyn Chumbow had dreams of coming to the United States, thinking she’d live like the characters in TV shows such as “The Cosbys” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which she believed depicted life here.
When a relative offered her the opportunity to come to the U.S. through an arrangement with a family in her hometown, she was ready to embark on that life.
“I was just excited,” she said. “I could never think that I’d come to the U.S. and become a victim of modern-day slavery or end up in foster care.”
But that’s exactly what happened and that’s the experience she talked about June 26 to participants of a daylong human trafficking conference hosted on Capitol Hill by the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.
Participants, who lobbied U.S. lawmakers after the conference for tougher legislation to combat the problem, learned about its complexities and its global dimensions:
— An estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved.
— Of those, 24.9 million are in forced labor (including sex trafficking).
— 15.4 million are in a forced marriage.
Chumbow, who was 11 when she became a victim of forced labor, fit many of the characteristics of trafficking victims: 25% of those trafficked are children and over 70% of those trafficked are women and girls. Chumbow thought she was coming to the United States to be adopted by a family.
Instead, she was in a group of girls brought in under one passport and then sent off to become a domestic worker in a house in Maryland, where, at age 11, she cooked and cleaned and took care of other children, receiving no salary. The relative who had made the arrangement, she later found out, had sold her for $1,000 to the household where she suffered a variety of abuses.
Unknowingly, she had been brought to the country illegally and didn’t know where to go and what to do about her situation. Eventually, she escaped, helped law enforcement convict her abuser and embarked on a long journey of healing, which now involves educating the public about human trafficking.
To read the full story by Rhina Guidos on Catholic News Service: Click HereTags: District of Columbia Baptist Convention, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, USCCB