“Is this for real?" the little red-headed boy responded as he looked down at the bag in his hand. He had just stepped off the bus onto Romanian soil, leaving behind his war-torn home of Ukraine. The bag held toiletries, band-aids, a towel, and other essential items. But his eyes went to the toy.
"I left all my toys and they are in my bombed-out house. I never thought I would get a toy again," the boy told Beni, our European Director.
He was one of nearly 200 children we've been able to support who arrived in the last week in Northern Romania. Their parents sent them across the border, with the aid of the Romanian government, child protective services, and some NGOs when they said they couldn't stand to watch them die in front of them. (UPDATE: As of March 13, there are now over 500 children who have arrived and more are coming).
Our team received the first call to expect the children last week, just before the first 164 arrived on a bus. Beni greeted them when they stopped off the bus with those bags our team put together with supplies provided this year by our friends at Convoy of Hope. We are so happy to provide them with a smiling, welcoming face in the midst of the fear these children must have been feeling. But this is only the beginning.
What happens now?
Two busloads of children have arrived and more are coming. The community has stepped up in incredible ways. Churches we’ve worked with are reaching out and serving, sharing what little they have with those in need. The children are being housed temporarily in schools and sports complexes. The community scrambled to get beds for them to sleep in, and has provided food, water, and supplies. The hope is that foster families will step forward to support these children and we want to be there to help every step of the way.
Right now, these are the urgent needs:
Bedding and laundry detergent as they don't have enough to change the beds
Socks and pajamas
Food, water, vitamins
What does this have to do with human trafficking?
We know from experience that migrants are at-risk for trafficking. We showed up at the border when the war began last year to help police and border patrol implement protocols to keep Ukrainians safe. They do not speak the language, are desperate to get somewhere safe, and are looking for help with basic needs. This is a prime target for a trafficker. UNICEF warned as early as March 2022 that children fleeing the war in Ukraine are at extreme risk of trafficking and exploitation.
“According to a recent analysis conducted by UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking (ICAT), 28% of identified victims of trafficking globally are children,” they said in a press release after the war began. “In the context of Ukraine, UNICEF child protection experts believe that children would likely account for an even higher proportion of potential trafficking victims given that children and women represent nearly all of the refugees who have fled the country so far.“
That’s why we must meet these critical needs. If we don’t, traffickers will step up and offer food, jobs, and travel. That’s why we must educate refugees traveling through Romania on how to protect themselves! We are talking to these children and all involved in their care about trafficking, educating them on what to look out for. We are developing simple resources in their language.
What can you do right now?
For just $25, you can provide socks and pajamas to one refugee child. You can help a traumatized child feel warm, safe, and cared for. You can be a part of the stability these children so desperately need to remain safe and protected and begin to heal.
Give $25 (1 child), $50 (2 children), $75 (3 children), $100 (4 children), or more today.
Be the key to preventing trafficking in the lives of refugee children.