from joburg to swaziland…

When I got an email from my Dad this morning scolding me to update my blog… I realized how long it’d been! Sorry for the absence – here’s my feeble attempt to put on paper what I’ve been learning the last week in South Africa (I only have a few minutes in this internet cafe).I flew into Joburg and was immediately shuttled to a church service which blew my socks off. Black and whites singing and praising together – it was a day of celebration in the church, encouraging South Africans to have more of an involvement in politics, and the worship songs ran between all 11 of South Africa’s official languages. It was beautiful.Monday was spent meeting with IOM (the migration office) and New Life Centre (an NGO in the rough part of Joburg that does outreach in areas of high trafficking). The concept of Human Trafficking is something that is not new to South Africa – but the legislation involved around the protection of the people, and the vocabulary necessary to start identifying situations, is new. The most common destination within South Africa for migrants is Joburg – people come from Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, etc.When I asked IOM about the connection between the vulnerability of Zimbabweans and trafficking to South Africa, I was informed that there is no need to “traffic” women and children from Zimbabwe because they are bringing themselves to Joburg – where traffickers are then picking them up and exploiting them. If a person comes on their own accord, the question to ask is if they are a trafficked victim.The root causes repeat themselves for this issue – poverty being first and foremost. I’m gaining a new respect to supporting global NGO’s when I realize that the distribution of wealth is really what can put an end to all of this – or at least make a dent. Secondly, the promise of a “better life” or the “golden dream” seems to be what drives people to Joburg – quite like those trafficked to Hollywood who are promised the glitz and glamor.2010 is a huge topic of conversation (the World Cup South Africa). Some NGO’s claim that more girls are being trafficked in “preparation” for this, while others seem to think the problem is not growing, but only gaining more recognition.Trafficking in South Africa is most often from other African States, Thailand or Russia. The Zimbabwe crisis is resulting in many unidentified or registered migrants who end up in Joburg where there is a large community of Zimbabwean refugees.I joined New Life Centre on their outreach on Tuesday – a group of 9 ex-prostitutes that now live on barely living wages to be able to share their knowledge and experience to help women come out of prostitution. We visited 3 bars, where they held Aids/HIV awareness seminars. It was humbling to see how hard this work is as they attempted to educate drunk men surrounding the brothels on safe sex.Luke flew in on Wednesday and Thursday morning we took off for White River to meet with an organization called Amazing Grace. I met with their manager, Daniel, who shared my passion for uniting people globally to combat this issue. We talked about what South Africa needs from their government to combat the issue (better border control, less corruption, penalties for the traffickers, etc.). The last couple of days Amazing Grace has been conducting a seminar that I sat in on a bit of – it was wonderful to meet the handful of people in South Africa passionate about making a difference on this issue.We visited Kruger National Park over the weekend and LOVED it. 16 hours of driving (our butts hurt) but so so so worth it… it’s 36,000 square kilometers of complete wildlife. It was a trip. Elephants walking in front of our car (which is quite tiny and easily crushable), giraffe encounters, entire families of monkeys putting on a show for us in a tree, spotting a leopard taking a nap in the woods… all very surreal, and beautiful.We’re headed to Swaziland today to explore a bit (we tossed around the idea of Mozambique and were quickly turned off from it when we met a local that enlightened us to the fact that cops love to take advantage of tourists). So, Swaziland it is. Then back to Joburg, then off to Cape Town for some true vacation time.So, things are going well. Sorry for the messy blog – hopefully it’s better than nothing (Dad) :).Lots of love!!!!!!

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