Tala arrived in the United States more than 10 years ago from the Philippines after being contacted by Filipino recruiting agency. A teacher in her native country, she came to Maryland after being promised a teaching job with a good salary, health benefits, and the opportunity to send money home to her family. Little did she know she become a victim of labor trafficking.
Tragically, shortly after her arrival, Tala’s traffickers took her documents, withheld her wages, severely limited her movements, and forced her to work around the clock at a daycare center that partnered with her captors. She worked with children during the day and performed whatever other tasks her traffickers deemed necessary after school hours. Despite working far more hours than what was outlined in her contract, she was never paid for her work and was denied medical care when she needed it.
After several months of forced labor at the hands of her traffickers, she bravely escaped by running away and was taken in by an emergency shelter, which connected her to Catholic Charities’ Trafficking Victims Assistance Program (TVAP). Finally in a safe space, Tala’s case manager referred her to Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services who assisted her in applying for the T-Visa, a form of immigration relief that would allow her to remain and work in the United States. As part of Catholic Charities’ holistic approach to assisting those in need, her case manager helped her find affordable housing, connected her to the Filipino community to build her network of social support, and referred her to Catholic Charities’ medical, dental, and mental health services.
Because of Tala’s determination, courage, hard work, and help from Catholic Charities, she was able to heal from the trauma she endured. In 2016, Tala received the T-Visa which enabled her husband and two children, ages 12 and 15, to join her in Washington D.C. She currently works as a classroom aide and is studying to become a certified teacher. She is passionate about educating children and improving her skills as a teacher.
To help with her healing, her case manager connected her with TVAP’s support group for women, which she attends as often as she can. Tala has built strong friendships with other women in the group and openly discusses her history, current challenges, and successes with safe, welcoming community. Her experience as a trafficking survivor has served as a beacon of hope to group members who have recently escaped their own traffickers.
Every year, millions of people living in the United States are affected by crime. April 19- 25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to raise awareness of victims’ rights and services, and stand with our families, neighbors, friends, and colleagues whose lives have been forever altered by crime. This year’s theme- Seek Justice. Ensure Victim’s Rights. Inspire Hope. -celebrates progress achieved, while honoring victims.
Catholic Charities’ Trafficking Victims Assistance Program (TVAP) provides comprehensive, strength-based services for children and adult survivors of human trafficking so they can heal, get the justice they deserve, and lead safe and empowered lives. To learn more about TVAP, or for information on the signs of human trafficking visit https://www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/tvap/. If you or someone you know needs help call Catholic Charities TVAP at 202.481.1414
Keep an eye out for our second blog celebrating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week this Friday!