This spring, I visited Vanessa’s* to share Sunday lunch and a rite-of-passage tradition for her toddler. She received me in her stepmother’s home, one of two living relatives in her life. I cut her toddler’s hair for the first time – the hair he entered this world with – which now designates me as his godmother. Afterwards, we shared a simple meal of rice and steamed vegetables with mayonnaise. After the meal, Vanessa asked me to cross the patio and see the room she rents for herself and her two young boys.
The room featured bare concrete floors but a wooden dresser and bed set, given to her by our executive director, when Vanessa found the courage to move out and leave her abusive partner. On the bed, shared by the three, was a shiny square pillow that her older son received in the children’s program. Vanessa tells me, laughing, that the boys love the pillow so much that they take turns sleeping with it.
Above the bed hang tissue paper puff balls that an intern taught her to make. Aside from her sons’ artwork, it is the only decoration in the room. On the small dining table is the set of cutlery she received when she began to work full-time in SutiSana. She continues to wash each fork and knife and carefully store it back in the original box.
And then I look at Vanessa herself, who left prostitution for good last year and was recently baptized. She doesn’t seem to know what to comment on, for what she has is not much to show off, nor anything to be ashamed of. We give each other a knowing smile, and walk out into the patio again.
You can read more of Vanessa’s story here.
*Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
By: Michelle Clark