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Erika is only 17 years old, but in her short life, she has experienced many hardships. She was sold at the age of 12 into human trafficking. It was only the day before we arrived at the aftercare facility of Leche Y Miel she had been rescued. (blue shirt)
On the first training, (only her second day at the aftercare facility) she sat with her head down and her hands in her lap. It was evident she was in a state of shock. Her house mom, Katerine (red shirt), stayed by her side, listening to the training and working on the stones, softly speaking to Erika to help her learn the technique.
We were not aware of her story, but did notice she was not 'enthused' about learning how to create jewelry. We sat by her side, joked, smiled and chatted with her. Another one of our trainers stepped in also, trying to encourage her, while we were training the group. By the end of the second day, we really wondered if she wanted to learn the jewelry making.
The next morning our Pearls With Purpose team tried to each take turns spending extra time going over the process more slowly with her. Encouraging her to pick up the tools and to hold them properly, to use the correct technique to achieve the right designs. Katerine stayed there as well, supporting and helping the whole time.
By the end of the third training day, we were capturing laughter and smiles from Erika as well as a roughly finished "first piece". The “first piece” is always the biggest accomplishment as the women/girls begin to comprehend that they are creating and doing something with their hands that is beautiful and 'from them'. Erika's smile as she finished her first stone was PRICELESS.
When we went back in October the beaming smile on Erika's face was proof that she was an entirely different person. She proudly walked me through the workshop and eagerly showed me each of the stones that she personally has completed! It was amazing to see the growth and progress over just six short months. Her entire countenance was transformed. She glowed!