Written by Kerri Taylor, Executive Director of Unbound Now Houston.

I was privileged to join Unbound Now at the Ukrainian/Polish border for the last ten days of May.

I say privileged because as a representative of Unbound Now, I got to make a contribution in meeting the needs of the Ukrainian and Polish people at this significant moment in history through our knowledge and experience in the fight against human trafficking. Privileged, because I was able to see for myself how the model Unbound Now has pioneered with prayers, sweat and tears for the last decade to fight human trafficking in our own communities can be replicated in Europe. With necessary cultural modifications and local tweaks, it will work and bear fruit in Europe!! Most privileged, though, because I met amazing people.

Like Agata: This woman has been working as an anti-human trafficking advocate in Poland for years, hoping and praying for support to come while providing dedicated, bold, effective training and advocacy with meager resources and no staff.

A Ukrainian Pastor: his congregation consists solely of displaced Ukrainian refugees. He told his congregation, “We are not refugees. We are displaced missionaries disbursed to share the hope of the gospel across Europe.” His precious, new congregants volunteered to be translators as we initiate our work in emergency shelters to empower women and children during their stay. With their help, Unbound Now hosts support groups where refugees can process their trauma, share the lessons they’ve learned and the resources they’ve found, giving one another vision for a new start. Because of these congregants’ gracious availability, we are able to empower and equip these refugees by providing education about how to stay safe while traveling even though traffickers lurk everywhere, preying upon the obvious needs of the migrants who are mostly women and children. These refugees need jobs, they need shelter, they need food, they need transportation, and they are traumatized by the unprovoked war that forced them to abandon their homes, their men and their frail and elderly in order to ensure a temporary safety for the next generation. Organized syndicates appear to be everywhere, waiting to exploit these vulnerable people.

Nurse practitioners volunteering just inside the Ukrainian border, rendering aid to masses of people as they traipse across the border to get to safety.

Intelligent, faithful Unbound Now Interns who have paid their own way or gathered support funds to spend 6 weeks of their summer spreading awareness about migrants’ vulnerabilities to be trafficked. They are planting seeds in the fertile soil of Eastern/Central Europe for a work that begins with unglamorous, creative, selfless tasks that set up those who come after for success. They offer the first support group, the first professional training, the first awareness event, the first outreach to orphans, the first pancake, so to speak. Most importantly, they offer the first fruits of Unbound Now’s labor of love in Central Europe. We will all stand on their shoulders in the years to come. I was privileged to train them in trauma-informed language and response, and to provide high-quality professional trainings to service providers and to refugees themselves.

Ukrainian women who traveled with their nursing babies, their children and adolescents, providing the constant care that will become their children’s example of resilience and their hope for the future.

The Polish people, doors open, window boxes planted with yellow and blue flowers honoring the Ukrainian flag, and unselfish welcome. Early in the crisis, Polish mothers lined up to drop off their strollers at the train stations overflowing with desperate refugees, knowing the Ukrainian mothers who fled needed them more than they did at the moment. Yes, I cried when I heard that, because I remember how much I needed my stroller when my children were little.

The situation is ever-changing, but it seems that the crisis phase, or what some call the “hero phase” of this mass migration is over, but what about the orphans in this region? We have only to look at what happened to orphans when the Soviet Union fell to know that these children are extremely vulnerable to traffickers. Organized crime was present then, luring, recruiting, and grooming these orphans for the sex trade, trafficking them in Western Europe. And, as fewer Ukrainian refugees are coming into Poland, many are deciding to try and go back to reunite with their loved ones, and to begin again in Ukraine, or maybe just to gain closure – see what their homes/towns look like now that the battles have left their city. We believe many of these people will need to migrate out again in a situation referred to as “rebound migration”.

These travelers remain very vulnerable on both the journey in and the journey out, necessitating ongoing education about travel precautions and safe practices as vulnerable people make this precarious journey. We also anticipate increased vulnerabilities as refugees plant themselves in Poland or head for other countries in Europe, Canada, or the United States. They still have obvious needs, which makes them a target for traffickers.

Unbound Now remains on the ground, in the fight, and preparing for the next phase.


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