Jaren’s classmate recruited her to come to Cebu from a southern island with the promise that she could get a job to help her family. Jaren’s mother abandoned her and her two brothers when she was three years old, and her father had recently lost his job. After she finished her third year of high school, she worked as a house helper, hoping to alleviate the financial needs of her family, but the demands of her job caused her to drop out of school. The entire salary she earned each month was withheld by her employer as payment for food and rent. Jaren needed to find a job that paid.
When Jaren heard about the new job opportunity in Cebu, she was hopeful that she would finally earn a salary she could share with her family. She was thrilled when her classmate’s relatives sent them money to take a ferry to Cebu. At the time, Jaren did not know her friend’s “uncle” was actually a pimp. After disembarking from the ferry, they went directly to his house. Jaren was instructed to shower and get ready for duty, her naiveté only apparent to her classmate and pimp. This was the night she was robbed of her virginity.
Jaren worked in the red light district for six months, entertaining up to three customers a night. Her nightly salary ranged from $7-$24 depending on how much her pimp decided to keep for himself. Even after the first horrific night, she continued working because she felt she had no other alternative.
Without an opportunity to return to school or to earn a stable income, Jaren continued her work until she was 16 and met a boy who offered to take care of her. It didn’t take long before she discovered he was a drug addict and she knew she needed to escape the unsafe situation.
Jaren remembered the social worker who visited her while she was still active in the sex industry. She contacted the social worker and moved into a drop-in shelter where she was safe from abuse. However, the shelter did not offer long-term aftercare, so the same social worker referred Jaren to Solid Ground International.
By this time, Jaren was already in her second year as a midwifery student. She was able to graduate from her course in April 2014 and worked as a midwife for a nonprofit organization. More recently, she is working as a call center agent, which offers her a stable income.
As Jaren looks ahead, she is convinced that, despite every trial, God has never abandoned her, even during the bleakest times in her life. Indeed, the path ahead is brightly lit and she is bravely moving forward one day at a time
The stories are real, but the names of the residents have been changed to protect their identities.