Buklod-Laya (United and Free)
Survivors’ Group Launched
Last May, the survivors and advocates who were graduates from the shelter launched “Buklod-Laya” (United and Free) and set a new vision of “a safe and open group towards empowerment and freedom from slavery and exploitation (isang ligtas at bukas na samahan tungo sa pagpapalakas at pagpapalaya mula sa pang-aapi at pang-aabuso).”
Their mission is difficult but not impossible: “to be free and to free others (maging malaya at palayain ang iba).” Gaining freedom is not a one-time event. It is a life-long process of growth and learning. After being rescued from abuse and returned to their families, they still face the same vulnerabilities and sometimes the abuses that forced them to leave in the first place.
“We are like sisters who help each other even after reintegration,” says Ivy, the new president-elect. She was rescued from her trafficker at 15 years old and won the landmark case of attempted trafficking in the Philippines. “Now I accompany other girls when facing their perpetrators in the courts. I know the fears and intimidation they bravely face out there,” she says.
Amongst the core values that they aspire include care and support (aruga at tulungan), unity and teamwork (pagkakaisa at suportahan), trust in each other (tiwala sa isa’t isa) and nurturing relationships (pakikipag-kapwa).
One of the Membership Committee officers, Gracia, wants to help her fellow survivors. “I was inspired by our psychologist at the COH who encourages us to believe in our strength,” she says, and she plans to study to be a psychologist too.
One of the sources of resiliency, the group decided to have a spiritual growth and fellowship committee. Chloe graduated from the shelter many years ago and has become an active servant in her local church. Now, she is encouraging her sisters to seek their own care groups that are safe and comforting (ligtas at may kalinga) and foster faith in God (pananampalataya).
Elaine is a budding first-year student of Information Technology. “When I have free time, I always come back here at the center to share my talents in painting. It is fulfilling to mentor other girls who underwent the same experiences,” she says.
She works with Cassie to teach the other girls advocacy and leadership. “I am mentoring fellow girls through sports and encouraging them to speak out as advocates,” she says. The leadership values we want to inculcate include sacrifice (malasakit), no blame or judgment (walang sisihan at paghuhusga) and appreciation (pagkilala).
The final piece of the puzzle to foster learning and growth (pag-aaral at pag-unlad) is the Education Committee, headed by Sitti, who graduated as an English teacher. She was an under-aged Muslim girl bound to work abroad as a domestic worker but was offloaded at the airport when authorities checked her travel documents.