Read, Weep, Pray, then ACT!
Judy Molosky, CSJ
Want to know about how to start a non-profit supporting women and children? Ask Judy Vaughan, CSJ in Los Angeles! In 1996 Judy launched Alexandria House with the generous help of the Immaculate Heart Community of L.A., Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and many supportive friends. Who knew that her efforts would develop into becoming a sanctuary for survivors of human trafficking along with being a transitional residence for women and children? But soon after opening, the women and their stories arrived. Tzighe Mesfun tells her story, “Running to Freedom,” below. It is one of 17 poignant entries from the book, A Home between Homes, Stories of Spirit, Courage, & Hope, by the Women of Alexandria House. Read it, weep and pray for Tzighe! Then get energized and ACT to support survivors of human trafficking. You can begin by ordering the $20 book at: https://www.alexandriahouse.org/book
Running to Freedom
By Tzighe Mesfun
In my county of Eritrea, a man told me that he had a niece who lived in America. She had two children, and she needed someone to take care of them. The niece told me, “For three years, I will give you #300 a month. After three years, you can go back to your country.
In Eritrea there is not much money and not much food. At that time I had one daughter. Her daddy was dead. She wanted to go to high school, and I needed money for books, uniforms and things like that. When the woman offered me $300 a month, I was happy and said, “Yes, I’ll go.” I asked my sister to take care of my daughter.
After I was in America for three days, my boss told me that Los Angeles has lots of big earthquakes and I should give her my passport, documents, jewelry, and everything else I had so she could keep it all safe. After one week, I asked to call my daughter, and she said no. In my country, church is very important. I wanted to go to church, but she said no, and told me not to go outside. Every day I cried, every night I cried. I was sick and she wouldn’t give me any medicine or take me to the doctor.
I said, “Send me back to my country.”
She said, “No, you have to stay for three years.”
After two more months, I asked to phone my daughter. She said no. I cried. She said, “Why do you cry? Stop it. Don’t cry in front of me.”
She had a big house. I worked in the garden after the children went to school and she and her husband went to work. They wouldn’t let me sit at the table. I had to eat after them. I didn’t get paid. I was sick all the time. I said, “Please, I want to call a doctor.” She always said no, it was too expensive. I wanted to leave, but she showed me people being murdered on TV and told me that was what America was like. It was not safe outside.
I finished the three years. I said, “Now I want to go back to my country.”
She said, “No. No one will give you a plane ticket.”
I asked to call my daughter.
She said no.
I had not talked to my daughter once in three years.
The whole night I did not sleep. One time months before this, I had tried to kill myself. I had filled a cup with bleach to drink, but the son woke in the middle of the night and came to use the bathroom. He smelled the bleach and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was cleaning. He told me to stop, and I poured out the bleach. Now, I felt the same way—I didn’t care if I died, so at five in the morning, I opened the front door and ran outside.
I didn’t know where to go. I had no money. I had only the house phone number and address. I ran for almost an hour, until I found a big park. I sat there from six in the morning until six at night.
Across from the park was a big church. A woman came out of the church with a seven-year-old girl and a baby. While the girl played, the woman sat next to me with the baby. She saw that I was crying. I didn’t speak much English, but I made a sign with my hand that showed her I was hungry. She asked what language I spoke. I told her Arabic, Italian, Ethiopian and Eritrean.
She walked around a little bit and asked some boys playing soccer what language they spoke. A young boy about fourteen or fifteen said, “I am from Israel and speak Arabic.” I talked to him and told him everything. He told the woman, whose name was Vanessa.
Vanessa asked me if I was scared to go to the police.
I said, “No, take me.”
But first she called her husband. He said that since it was so late, she should bring me home. “She has to eat. Take her to the police station tomorrow morning.” I agreed. Because I was wearing a traditional gown, Vanessa took me to a store and bought me clothes, shoes and even underwear. She gave me food and a place to shower, and I slept at her house.
The next day, Vanessa asked a friend what she should do. Her friend gave her information about CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking). Vanessa called CAST and they said to bring me in. “I’m going to take you somewhere to help you.” She told me. “You don’t have a passport or any ID. You have nothing, so you have to go.” She brought me to CAST, but since CAST didn’t have a shelter,(at the time) I stayed at Vanessa’s house for the next two years.
Finally, CAST brought me to Alexandria House and found a lawyer for immigration and my case. After I came to Alexandria House, I was happy. My favorite name is Alexandria House. Before I could not read and write. They sent me to school. I stayed for almost two years. It is almost six years since I left Alexandria House. I have a job in housekeeping at the UCLA Santa Monica Hospital. My off days, I go to visit Vanessa, and her son calls me mommy. Because my sister did not hear from me, she arranged a marriage for my daughter. My daughter is now 28 and has three sons. Every Friday, I call her.
2021 Update: Tzighe currently lives in permanent supportive housing and is an active member of CAST’s Survivor’s Advisory Caucus and Alexandria House alumnae.
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Category: Monthly Reflections