Human trafficking is globally pervasive, economically motivated, and emotionally overwhelming. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are nearly 40 million victims worldwide, more than half of whom are women and girls. Despite increasing efforts and a global movement to raise awareness about the atrocities of human trafficking, many people remain unaware that modern day slavery persists in alarming numbers.
In the Philippines, children are lured into domestic servitude and the cybersex trade by human traffickers, who deceive them into believing that they will have a better life. Many victims come from rural, mountain villages and are intrigued by the promise of a well-paid job in the city. They believe they are leaving their impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money, but instead become entangled in a nightmare.
"A Path Toward Healing" aims to advocate for and alongside these survivors, amplifying their voices and documenting their healing. In creating this body of work, my hope was to listen and offer the survivors attention — not just because it provides insight into their daily struggles, but also because they need to feel acknowledged in a society that stigmatizes them.
The response to this project was overwhelmingly positive. Despite the terrible traumas that these survivors endured and their fear of repercussions, many were eager to take part in this project. The survivors explained that they don’t want to be forgotten — they want everyone to know what happened to them. Being able to tell their own story and take control of the narrative was incredibly powerful and perhaps helped them to come to term with their experiences.
The images in this series were taken at the Manila International Airport Halfway Processing Shelter, where victims await psychological intervention and child welfare assessments, and the Center of Hope long-term living facility, which offers advocacy support, psychological services, legal protections, child welfare case management, education, life skills, and group wellness actives such as art, karate, and tennis.