The Truth About "Mail Order Brides"

Written by Abriel Schieffelers

At Oasis, we’re passionate not only about helping people, but also about changing the stereotypes and misconceptions that people have about certain groups of people. We seek to raise awareness in a way that does justice to the complexity of individual stories. 

As you know about our previous posts about human trafficking, there’s a danger in simplifying narratives and breaking people down into “good guys” and “bad guys” The same is true for the phenomenon of “mail order brides,” or what is more accurately called “trans-national marriage migration.” 

We’ve all heard stories, seen documentaries, or witnessed older, white men with young Asian or Eastern European men. Back in the day, these men would often literally “order” these women by mail or online. Today, it’s a little more complex. Many of these couples do meet online, often through dating websites instead of mail-order bride agencies. Some couples meet while the man is visiting Thailand or Russia (or whatever other country). 

And of course, this is not simply a phenomenon of American/European men and Asian/Eastern European women. Recently, there’s been a rise in older European and American women seeking out younger African or South American men. You can read more about that here.

The majority of women the Welkom Project works with are Thai women who have migrated to Belgium for marriage. Some of them come from well-educated backgrounds, while some of them only have a primary school education. Some of them worked in the sex industry in Thailand, others worked at office jobs. Some of them have children back home in Thailand, others don’t. For all of these women, they saw Belgium as a fresh start in their lives. 

All of the women we work with have made difficult decisions at this point in their lives. Some have prioritized sending money home to their families over staying in Thailand with their children. Others have simply sacrificed the comfort of home for the strangeness of a new life. These women also face different realities once moving to Belgium — some of them settle in to a happy marriage and are able to navigate life in a new culture and language. Others experience violence in their marriages and find themselves isolated in a strange country. As Oasis, we far too often see men who simply want to marry a Thai woman she will cook and clean for him, or even work for him while he stays at home. If she doesn’t meet these requirements, he will turn to abuse and violence to get his way. In the worst cases, we have seen Belgian men exploit their wives by forcing them to work in erotic massage parlors and take all their earnings. 

So why would these women move to Belgium in the first place? And why would they stay in the marriage once it turns abusive? There are so many factors at play here — and it’s important to understand the interplay of these factors to understand why it is so appealing for women to migrate for marriage, and so difficult for them to leave when it gets bad. 

One huge factor is economic - and often the unequal power relations between the women and men mirror those of global inequalities. Thai women believe that they will be economically stable once they marry a foreigner, and that they’ll be able to support their children and family by sending money back. 

Another factor is the idealistic view of life in Europe or America Thai women often have. They believe that they’ll be able to travel, have fancy handbags and clothes, and experience a luxurious and happy life once they migrate. In reality, however, many of the men who marry Thai women are living off disability checks or barely making ends meet, but will lie to their girlfriends to convince them to move to Europe with them. 

Finally, Thai women migrate for love. Often, these marriages have a transactional element, but there is some element of love and mutual respect in the relationship. At Oasis, we have heard many women tell us that truly love their husbands and that they believed their partner loved them and would never hurt them before they moved to Europe. 

After years of working with Thai marriage migrants, we at Oasis believe that the primary reason these women don’t leave abusive relationships is their precarious immigration status. There are, of course, cultural taboos regarding divorce, but the strongest motivator is knowing they will be kicked out of the country if they have been married to their Belgian partner for less than five years. Many women hope to “stick it out” for the five years and then divorce their partner and find a better life. In addition to the usual elements that keep women in abusive relationships, immigration status is a huge factor in why women are slow to leave dangerous marriages. 

Trans-national marriage migration is a complex issue due to the ever-present global and gender inequalities that make it easy for women to become victims of violence and exploitation. If you'd like to learn more about trans-national marriage migration, pick up the book "Global Woman" by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild or the documentary "Love on Delivery" by Sine Plambech and Janus Metz. 

There's still so much more to learn about trans-national marriage migration, the experiences of women who leave behind their families for a new life in Europe, and the challenges they face in their new relationships. At Oasis, we understand that each woman’s situation is different, so we tailor our services to their unique needs. We're committed to hearing their stories, empowering them to flourish in their new home, and raising awareness about this issue, and we'll continue to share with you what we're learning. 

Basilique et Menthe: on vous présente notre nouvelle entreprise sociale

Depuis quelques mois nous planifions notre nouvelle entreprise sociale.  Nous cherchons constamment de nouvelles manières d’aider nos bénéficiaires à devenir autonome, soit par le travail, soit grâce à des formations. Beaucoup parmi elles aiment déjà cuisiner et partager leur culture avec d’autres- donc ceci nous semblait être le projet parfait pour elles.  Nous l’avons appelé « Basilique et Menthe”, faisant allusion à  l’unique mélange de femmes Thaïlandaises et Nord Africaines avec qui nous travaillons, qui ont été victimes de violence et d’exploitation.  La basilique est l’ingrédient clef dans la cuisine Thai, tout comme la menthe l’est dans la cuisine Nord Africaine.

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Nous avons créé « Basilique et Menthe » avec certains buts en tête :

La Flexibilité

Dans le passé, nous avons créé un café et également un bar à café mobile. Nous avons acquit de l’expérience dans ce domaine. Mais nous nous rendons bien compte de l’énorme engagement que ça représente, lorsqu’on associe un bâtiment à une entreprise sociale. Nous voulions que cette initiative en particulier,  représente le plus faible risque possible, avec une flexibilité qui s’adapte aux besoins de nos bénéficiaires et notre public cible. (Le café et notre bar à café mobile continuent à fonctionner avec grand succès)

Stabilité Financier

Tous nos projets fonctionnent entièrement grâce aux dons généreux que nous recevons et à nos propres efforts pour récolter des fonds. Nous voulions que notre entreprise sociale puisse être profitable, non seulement pour que nos bénéficiaires puissent subvenir aux besoins de leurs familles, mais aussi pour que nous puissions continuer à faire notre travail, aidant les plus vulnérables en Belgique.

Plus que la nourriture

Notre but ne se limite pas à offrir une expérience culinaire excellente.  On souhaite y ajouter quelque chose au delà de ce qu’on pourrait trouver au restaurant du quartier. Nous voulons vous donnez un avant-gout de la culture de nos bénéficiaires, une expérience communautaire et une célébration de leur autonomie.

Quand vous visitez un de nos « pop-up restaurants » ou que vous utilisez notre service traiteur pour un événement , vous recevez non seulement un bon repas, et passez une bonne soirée,  mais vous participez également à une action beaucoup plus grande, qui change des vies! 

La Communauté

Tous ce que nous faisons à Oasis est basé sur l’idée de construire une communauté. C’est pour cela que notre équipe et nos bénévoles sont complètement « hands-on ». Nous faisons les courses, cuisinons, et nettoyons côte à côte avec nos bénéficiaires. Tous ce que nous faisons est basé sur l’effort d’équipe, donc personne n’est délaissé. 

Si vous souhaitez vous joindre à notre équipe d’événements, veuillez nous envoyer un email à l’adresse suivante : abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org

Nous venons d’organiser notre premier « pop-up restaurant » : The Elephant in the Room, ainsi que quelques soirées comme traiteur. Nous sommes bien sure, encore à nos premiers pas d’essai, découvrant ce qui fonctionne et ce qui ne fonctionne pas. 

C’est un chemin passionnant et nous  sommes optimistes pour ce que l’avenir nous réserve dans cette nouvelle initiative.  Vous pouvez « aimer » notre page Facebook pour se tenir au courant de nos événements. 

N’hésitez pas à nous contacter soit par email (abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org) soit sur notre page Facebook, si vous souhaitez organiser un événement avec notre service traiteur, ou accueillir un “pop-up restaurant” à votre travail ou chez vous.  

 

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Basil + Mint: Presenting Our New Social Enterprise

The past few months we’ve been busy planning for our new social enterprise. We’re always looking for new ways to help empower our beneficiaries through work or building skills. Many of them already love cooking and sharing their cultures with others - so this seemed to be the perfect fit! We called it Basil + Mint because of the unique blend of Thai and North African women we work with who have experienced violence or exploitation. Basil is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine, as is mint in North African cuisine.

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We dreamed up Basil + Mint with a few goals in mind:

1. Flexibility — in the past, we’ve started both a cafe and a mobile coffee bar. We have experience in this industry, but we also know how big a commitment it is to have a brick-and-mortar building attached to a social enterprise. We wanted this particular initiative to be as low-risk as possible and with the flexibility to adapt to the needs of our beneficiaries and target audiences. (The cafe and mobile coffee bar we started are still thriving! Check them out here and here.) 

 

2. Financial sustainability — all of our projects are run completely on the generous donations of others and our own fundraising efforts. We wanted our social enterprise to be profitable not only so our beneficiaries can provide for their families from it, but also so we can continue to do our work helping vulnerable people in Belgium.

 

3. More than food — our goal is not just to offer an excellent culinary experience, but something beyond what you can find in your neighborhood restaurant. We want to bring a taste of our beneficiaries’ cultures, a communal experience, and a celebration of empowerment. Whenever you visit one of our pop-up restaurants or hire us to cater an events, you get more than a meal, you get to be a part of something bigger than yourself. 

 

4. Community — everything we do at Oasis is centered around the idea of building community. That’s why our staff and volunteers are completely hands-on: we shop, cook, and clean alongside our beneficiaries. Everything we do is a team effort, so no one is left behind. If you want to become part of our event team, please e-mail abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org

 

We’ve just hosted our first pop-up restaurant, The Elephant in the Room, and have catered for a handful of events. We are definitely still in a “trial run” phase and are figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It’s an exciting journey and we’re optimistic about what the future holds for this new initiative! You can like our page on Facebook to keep up with our events.

Please feel free to contact us at abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org or on our Facebook page about event catering or hosting a pop-up restaurant at your business or home. 

 Thai dancing at "The Elephant in the Room" pop-up restaurant

Thai dancing at "The Elephant in the Room" pop-up restaurant

 Catering Algerian food for lunch at the American Women's Club of Brussels

Catering Algerian food for lunch at the American Women's Club of Brussels

Meditation, Cooking, and Empowering Women

This post was written by Evie Markham

The transition from the university lecture theatre to interning with Oasis Belgium was a interesting and rewarding process. It is not until now when I reflect upon my time at Oasis Belgium that I have realised how much I have learnt. I am also able to acknowledge how much more difficult and complex the issues that Oasis Belgium work with are, as well as how important the work is.

In my three months here, it never felt like going to ‘work’ because every day was so different. The work ranged from visiting massage parlours around Belgium, accompanying ladies to social services and court cases, to giving a talk at a school about human trafficking and gender-based violence. Working at Oasis Belgium isn’t a 9-5 job, you have to really want to do it and I think it takes a passionate and driven person to stay positive and motivated, which describes the team at Oasis Belgium.

We drive sometimes over an hour to massage parlours to deliver communicational materials, newsletters in Thai written by one of the volunteers, and recently Christmas bags full of sweets and chocolates that were also made by one of the volunteers. It really is a team effort. Sometimes they don’t answer the door, sometimes they’re busy but sometimes we can enter the parlour and chat to them. If they let us enter or not, we will leave the materials so they know that were are there for them, if they need us.

On my first day I met A who had come to Belgium for marriage, but was now in an abusive relationship and wanted to get away. She wanted to stay in Belgium but without papers and with a young daughter, she made the difficult decision to return to her home country. We accompanied her to meeting with the IOM (International Organisation for Migration) and in my time here she returned to her home country. We have stayed in contact with her and continue to support her journey despite being on the other side of the world. The dedication of the team is something that never failed to amaze me, always going above and beyond.

Being an ‘intern’ often evokes images of lots of making tea and photocopying paper but my internship at Oasis involved much more than this. I feel like I’ve had responsibility, that I am trusted and that my opinion is valid and worth listening to. I was encouraged from the start to use my initiative and I don’t think I had the confidence to use it in the working environment before. This is definitely a personal skill that has developed whilst interning with Oasis Belgium. The wellbeing of staff and volunteers is something that is also taken seriously which is so important when working in the situations that Oasis do. In my time here I attended a meditation class and group counselling session and I was always encouraged to talk about the experiences we had.

Thank you to everyone from the volunteers, full-time staff and everyone I met in my three months at Oasis Belgium. I will now return to university for the last two semesters of my degree with enthusiasm, motivation and a deeper understanding of the complexities of working with often marginalised and vulnerable populations.

A Year of Celebration, Grief, and Hope

This post was written by Abriel Schieffelers

As we begin the holiday season and look back on Oasis Belgium's 10th year, our team recently took time to process the past year and remember all the stories of transformation and hope we've encountered, but also the stories of loss and pain. As with everything else in life, it’s hard to see day-by-day the difference we’re making, but when we look back on months and years, it’s incredible to see how much growth we’ve witnessed. 

We grieve…

In September, the Welkom Project said goodbye to a woman we had worked with for a long time to help get out of a difficult situation. In the beginning of the year she was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and fought bravely until the end. We are grateful for the time we got to know her and we were touched by her gratitude towards our team in her final days.

We celebrate…

This year, we witnessed the growth of the Buurtbar project. It's now reaching more elderly people than ever before, partnering people with common interests together, and has been featured in local newspapers.

One moment of celebration for the Welkom Project this year involved a young mother returning home to South East Asia after she was caught in a violent relationship here in Belgium. After deliberating for a long time whether to try to stay here or go home, she made the decision to return home and has since found a job. We’re thankful that she was able to exit this abusive relationship, get the help she needed while still here in Belgium, and that her and her child are now safe and reunited with their family. 

We hope...

One woman the Welkom Project met this year returned to her abusive partner. While we know that the decision to stay or leave is always in the individuals hands, we are saddened by the statistics that tell us the abuse is unlikely to stop. However, we are hopeful that in the future she will be able to make the difficult decision to walk away from the relationship — for herself and for her young children. We have hope that she will find community, meaningful work, and safety in the near future. 

There are still so many women in Belgium in situations of exploitation. Many women from Asian countries move to Belgium hoping for a good relationship and a lucrative job but are met with disappointment, horrible work conditions, and abusive spouses. Our Welkom Project meets these women where they are — in house brothels, over a cup of coffee, at the social services, and in the courts — and makes sure that have everything they need to be able to envision a better future. 

There are many lonely elderly people in Belgium, living without loving touch, conversation, and human interaction in nursing and assisted living homes. The Buurtbar brings community into these lonely places, providing high quality tea and desserts as well as providing fun, conversation, and activities.

Many children in Belgium live in families that are struggling to make ends meet - especially families without papers who are unable to find stable income. The Brussels Project partners with a nearby school in an impoverished part of Brussels to provide Christmas presents for parents to give to their children.  

This Christmas, we’re asking you to partner with Oasis Belgium through our 9 Campaign. Simply giving 9€ a month can make the difference between loneliness and community, exploitation and safety, fear and hope. What are you willing to give up this year to stand with us?

Please stand with us by joining the 9 campaign. For 9€ a month, you’ll receive a thank-you note from our team. For 18€ a month, you’ll receive a hand-made gift from our partner organization KoffieKlap. For 27€ a month, you’ll receive one free ticket to our 11th Anniversary Gala in 2018 (date TBD).

Happy holidays from the Oasis Belgium team!

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6 Practical Ways to Say "No" to Violence Against Women

This post was written by Abriel Schieffelers, Communications & Training Manager for Oasis Belgium.

November 25th is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Here at Oasis, we’re especially excited about the United Nation’s “Orange the World” campaign to raise awareness and funds to combat violence against women. The color orange symbolizes “a brighter world without violence” - something we at Oasis wholeheartedly agree with!

According to the UN, on the basis of data from 2005 to 2016 from 87 countries, “19 percent of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey.” There are many forms of gender-based violence, including partner abuse, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage. Unfortunately, we live in a society that often sees these abuses as the norm. These practices are embedded in patriarchal ideas of the power roles between men and women, and won’t end until we begin to communally resist these gendered structures. One statistic we always share with new volunteers is that it takes on average 7 attempts for a woman to finally leave an abusive relationship. It's only with the long-term care and practical assistance of a dedicated support system that battered women are finally able to free themselves of a violent relationship. Our team at Oasis wants to provide that support system to women who need it, but we can't do it alone.

Here’s some ways you can join us from November 25th to December 10th (Human Rights Day) and beyond to shine a light on gender-based violence.

  1. Take part in our human trafficking training on November 30th | Human trafficking is experienced by men, women, and children worldwide, but affects a disproportionate amount of women through sex trafficking. Here at Oasis, we work with many women who have experienced some sort of trafficking or labor exploitation. At our training, we’ll talk about a global perspective on trafficking, what we can do to be conscious consumers of global goods, and consider how we can all take part in a world-wide effort against exploitation. Contact us here to reserve your spot. 
  2. Join "the 9 campaign” | There’s no better place to begin advocacy with than at home. Through giving only €9 a month, you can play an active role in fighting gender-based violence here in Belgium. All of the donations we receive go directly to our project and are used in practical ways, for example to produce and print educational materials in Thai and English on how to stay safe in an abusive relationship or to provide us with gas money to take women to appointments. Join the campaign here.
  3. Educate yourself | Documentaries like “Half the Sky” and “A Path Appears” by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn provide a glimpse into different forms of gender-based violence around the world. The award-winning journalists travel around the globe to meet activists working on the ground to change communities and to hear stories of women who have overcome. If you are more of a book person, check out the books the documentaries were based on here and here
  4. Attend our clothes swap on December 8th | Buying secondhand clothing not only reduces your carbon footprint, but it’s a great way of challenging the consumer culture we live in that perpetuates unjust labor practices, particularly in the textile industry. Women are working around the world in slave-like conditions in factories that make your favorite brands. In addition to working many hours for little pay in dangerous conditions, women are often subject to sexual assault and harassment in their workplaces. The proceeds from our clothes swap will go directly towards our project empowering women to live lives free from violence and exploitation. For more information, please see our Facebook page or email Elaine at elaine.irvine@eursc.edu
  5. Volunteer | Our partners at KoffieKlap in Antwerp are looking for volunteers for their cafe, which gives women valuable job skills after they have exited situations of exploitation. Our Welkom Project is always looking for volunteers in the Brussels area to plan events, visit women we support, or fundraise. If you have time and a desire to get involved, we will find a place for you! 
  6. Join the conversation | Gender-based violence exists in every society, and it’s time to start conversations about it in our circles of influence. If you are part of a faith community, consider making it a priority to create safe spaces for women to report situations of harassment or violence. We recommend this resource to churches as a good starting point, and this resource for educating primary school children about healthy relationships. 

No Refuge Left

Written by Phil Lane, director of Oasis Belgium.

Every single refuge bed in Brussels is taken. All 1067 places for women who have been beaten, insulted, raped and humiliated are full. There is a waiting list. Think about that. If you are a woman in Brussels who has been assaulted, you have to put your name down on a list and stand in line before there is anywhere for you to stay. When we helped a woman put her name down yesterday, the waiting list was two weeks long.

Why, they ask, do women go back to their abusive partners? Often this question is asked with exasperation, as if these women are stupid, and if they refuse to help themselves. Aside from the fear, and the belief that if they make one wrong move they could be killed, or their children could be killed (a fear which is well grounded in fact), and the destruction of their self esteem so that women are so often caught up in a web of lies that makes them believe this is what love really looks like, aside from all that, many women return to their abusive partner because there is simply nowhere else to go. The waiting list is two weeks long. Where do you spend those two weeks? The authorities say that if it is a severe emergency then there are reserve beds or they can sleep in the hospital. What is this, a war? Do women have to be nearly dead before they receive any assistance as equal human beings, worthy of respect?

Today, we will go with a woman who has come to us for help and look for apartments. She has been granted money to help with rent if she can find somewhere for herself and her children. In the meantime she is staying in a flat that we have temporarily found. We will continue to call the refuges and we will continue to advocate for her so that she gets the money she is entitled to. Meanwhile, how many women in the city and across the country, and in your country are out in the cold, making the slow, dreadful steps back into violence because there is no other choice? How vulnerable does that make her to traffickers and exploiters as they come to offer a way out?

This month Oasis India and Oasis Belgium will be running an event called In The Long Run. Together we will run from Kolkata to Mumbai, holding awareness raising events and raising money for our work against human trafficking and in preventing violence against women and care for its survivors. Please donate, we can’t do this work without your money.

You can donate through the In the Long Run giving page or through our website.

You can also help by ordering a t-shirt or tote bag.

Thank you!

What it Really Means to be Against Human Trafficking

Written by Abriel Schieffelers

When I tell people what I do, I usually try to leave out the words “human trafficking.” It’s a phrase that’s gained quite a bit of traction in recent years, and brings with it images of Liam Neeson gunning his way around Europe in an attempt to bring his daughter home from the traffickers who snatched her off the streets of Paris. 

The popular imagination sees human trafficking as a result of evil men holding guns who force their (usually female) victims into submission through force and drugs. And they see people who work with victims of human trafficking as rescuers, who bust into brothels to carry away the innocent victims and arrest the pimps. Just like so many things in life, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Human trafficking is a result of global inequalities that have set vulnerable people within the easy grasp of exploitation carried out by those who often have experienced those same inequalities. The unseen oppressors are governments that continue to exploit under-developed countries. The people who buy items made through the modern equivalent of slave labor. The man down the street who buys sex from the Asian massage parlor.  

When we engage with issues of human trafficking we often do so in a way that negates the complexity of the issue. We prefer to have clean cut narratives involving a loss of innocence, rescue, and restoration. We can’t imagine a child trafficked for sex returning to their old brothel. We barely notice the thousands and millions of people in bonded slavery, creating goods and resources they are unable to profit from. We ignore the stories of women who have chosen sex work and ask for the government to protect them instead of arresting them. There is complexity because there is humanity. 

And at the root of these myths and misunderstandings is this truth: human trafficking is a symptom of greater issues. Unless these expansive issues are dealt with at a systemic level, it will continue to operate out of necessity. What are some of these underlying causes? Gender inequality, economic inequality, consumer culture, rape and pornography culture, and the list goes on and on. To educate yourself about human trafficking is to educate yourself on the many ways our global society has failed to care for the most vulnerable. 

It’s easy to get on board with anti-human trafficking campaigns when we think of it in terms of of aggressive men kidnapping young women and keeping them in chains. It’s more difficult when it demands personal responsibility - making the shift to fair-trade chocolate and coffee, examining supply chains in your favorite clothing company, or speaking up for the rights of undocumented people. 

When I tell people about what I do, I talk about economic migration, trauma, structural inequalities, and gender-based violence. I believe we do justice to survivors of human trafficking when we talk about their stories in complex and meaningful ways, instead of pulling on dramatic threads of their stories to create consumer content. I believe that we bestow dignity on people when, instead of jumping to clean cut narratives, we take time to understand and learn. 

If you'd like to learn more about human trafficking, Oasis Belgium is hosting a free training on Nov. 30th at our office in Brussels. Please contact us to reserve a spot at abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org - we'd love to see you there!

An Inside Look at an Oasis Internship

Oasis Belgium hosts interns for periods of three month up to one year with The Welkom Project and Brussels Project. Our next open internship period begins January 2018. To request an application, please email abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org

Abisola

My name is Abisola Adefioye and I am currently an intern at Oasis Belgium. I live in South London and came to work with Oasis as a part of my degree at the University of East Anglia, where I study Geography & International Development.

I am currently two weeks into my placement as an intern at Oasis Belgium, and though it has ups and downs, I am so glad to have the opportunity to undertake this. When I first started, I definitely felt as though I was thrown into the ‘deep-end’, as on my second day, I visited 5 brothels with Teak and Lisa (other AMAZING members of the team). I was scared and very apprehensive but once we got there, sat down and actually spoke with the women, I realised that there was nothing to be scared of. Meeting C, for example – she was very normal and tried her best to make me feel comfortable, despite the language barrier between us, my ridiculous fear of her chihuahua, and her frustration at her situation. Before we left, she hugged me and told me she wished she had dimples like mine.

My advice to anyone who wants to intern at Oasis is that it is imperative to remember that these women are actual people. In the face of their situation, some of them are still able to smile and laugh with us.

One down-side of the placement is the emotional facet. I did find that once I had met the women and listened to their stories, I felt like I had taken on their baggage and couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I’d gone home. It was as though I had picked something up and couldn’t put it down.

One thing that helps with this feeling is going back each day and working with the team to see what we can do to help through sensible, well thought out action plans and regular visits with the ladies. Though some women are in incredibly difficult situations, there is a wonderful group of people at Oasis who genuinely care for them, pray for them and are working (essentially 24/7!) to make sure that they are safe and have their basic needs met.

If you want to do something that truly impacts lives, I would definitely recommend being an intern at Oasis Belgium.

 

Sophia

Tomorrow will be my last day interning at Oasis Belgium, and I must say I am very sad to be leaving! After 6 weeks of working with the team, I truly feel a part of the Oasis family. It has been an enlightening experience to learn about and participate in Oasis’ projects which support vulnerable people from diverse backgrounds who are living in Belgium. One common goal of these projects is that they are helping individuals and their families regain happy and healthy lives.

An aspect of our work that I have particularly enjoyed is that every day is different and exciting. Some days we spend in the office, and others we go out in the field to visit cases in every corner of Belgium. Sometimes we spend time with them in their homes, or we support them in court, embassies, or wherever they may need help. This way it is possible to get experience in a range of settings. Working with the cases who have difficult pasts has been specifically interesting for my degree in psychology.

The work Oasis does really makes a difference in the lives of the people they work with, which is something you can feel on a day-to-day basis. Because of our close contact with the cases, it is not unlikely to hear a million thank-yous for visiting them that day, to receive a heart-warming hug, or simply to see the comfort and relief in their faces. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet these people and to learn from their experiences.

I wish all the best to future interns and volunteers, and am confident they will have an equally fruitful experience at Oasis.

Running as Advocacy | In the Long Run

Today's guest post is from Aisling Bennet, who works with Oasis UK and is a proud advocate against human trafficking through the medium of long-distance running. For more information about In the Long Run, please visit ITLR.org 

I have always enjoyed running, and so when I found out about ITLR, I thought it would be a good personal challenge that also raises awareness about Human Trafficking - an issue that sadly affects over 35 million people worldwide.

In March 2015 I took part in my first ITLR event in South Africa and the experience was like no other. Not only did we get to travel across South Africa and work alongside some amazing organisations, we met incredible people and shared information and advice about Human Trafficking and actually made a difference!

I know it probably sounds like a bizarre thing. How can running 10km a day for 14 days have an impact on human trafficking? But in South Africa we proved it can. After the team visited a local school and met with students and staff to raise awareness, the head teacher contacted the helpline we gave him and reported some concerning behaviour of men in the community. This phone call helped authorities to identify and arrest the men for the trafficking and abuse of over 400 girls.

I often get asked why I want to do these runs and this is always the story I tell. It is the reason I push through with my training when all I want to do is stop. I think of those 400 girls but also of the millions more at risk, and I keep on running!

If you are thinking about joining the team in India – do it! You will get to experience India in a completely unique way with a group of fabulous people, and more importantly, you could help save someone from a lifetime of servitude.