Valya* is not the most successful young woman in the history of the House of Opportunity.
Hers is a story of trial and error, about making choices and facing the possible consequences, a story about stubbornness and perseverance in an attempt to save one human’s destiny; to save Valya from getting lost among the statistics of young people who failed to escape exploitation at the hands of human traffickers.
Valya came from a medium-sized town in the countryside but she grew up in institutions. Her mother died when she was very young. Her father used to beat her and use her for begging when she was very young and eventually she was sent to a children’s home.
When she turned 18, a family invited her to live in their home. Even though she was receiving support and had a place to live, Valya just did not feel right there. At that time she found out about House of Opportunity programme from the young residents of an observed home in Ruse and whom Valya knew from the institutions she had grown up in. After a conversation with the manager of House of Opportunity, she was accepted in the programme.
The team at the House of Opportunity spent a great deal of effort encouraging Valya to finish her education but she failed all her exams. Inconsistency turned out to be a major problem for her in retaining work. In two years she changed seven jobs but she worked during the whole period of her stay in the House.
At the House of Opportunity Valya found not only support from the team, but also a safe family environment, where she was able to experiment and work to achieve her dreams, which were modest – a home and a family.
A month before Valya completed her time in the House of Opportunity Programme the team invited a specialist officer of the Border Police to tell the residents about the schemes and traps laid out for them by traffickers. He explained that offers of placements and employment from companies abroad need to be very carefully examined. He also gave them an international free-phone number that they could call if they needed to.
During that meeting, for the first time, Valya shared that her father is actually a trafficker who sends people to different countries, and, instead of delivering them a job, he takes their money and leaves them alone in the foreign country. The policeman confirmed that he knew Valya’s father, having been involved in his capture. He has been convicted and has spent some time in prison.
Several days after the meeting with the policeman and on the verge of her independence, her father’s sister contacted Valya. Her aunt offered her transport to the Czech Republic, accommodation and work. The two had not seen each other for years. When the team of House of Opportunity asked Valya where she was going to work, she told some of the members of the staff that she was going to work in a factory, and others that she was going to work in the fields. Then the team realized that she was not really aware of where she was going or what she was getting involved in.
The team tried to convince her that she was at high risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking, but she did not want to hear a word. Despite the advice, she was determined to go.
Having made up her mind, Valya asked the House of Opportunity team for one last favour – to contact FSCI’s team in Sofia and ask them to let her spend the night in a House of Opportunity in the capital because the bus to the Czech Republic was leaving early the next morning. They agreed, but they had an idea. They called their colleagues in Sofia, discussed the situation and decided to do everything possible to stop Valya going abroad.
The team in Sofia met Valya at the bus station, settled her at the local House of Opportunity and spent almost all night talking to Valya about her trip to the Czech Republic. At first Valya was angry with the team and didn’t want to listen, refusing to accept the likelihood of what lay in wait for her, but finally calmed down. The next morning, having considered the team’s counsel Valya decided not to go to the Czech Republic and returned to Ruse.
Thanks to the dedication and compassion of our team, we believe that Valya was saved from becoming another victim of human trafficking. Valya is still in Ruse, close to the House of Opportunity and the support it offers, but is working and living independently. And while living in this simple way might mean little for some, for Valya this means a lot and is perhaps the best thing that could have happened to her.
* Her real name is changed for the safety of the social service user