Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

My Reality

Image Courtesy of Stocksy United

I see the fear on her face as we walk towards each other.  It’s broad daylight.  I’m just walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business but she looks at me as if I was going to attack her at any minute.  She walks faster and clutches her handbag tightly.  Maybe she thinks I’m going to make a grab for it.

She moves closer to the wall, trying to put as much space between us as possible.  Her eyes dart back and forth, like a frightened prey and its predator.

Anger and pity fill me.  I’m angry because she assumes that I’m a criminal because of the color of my skin and pity because she’s a victim of her own twisted, racist preconceived notions.

I walk past her.  I don’t look back.  I don’t care to.  I continue walking and with each step, I try to let go of the anger.  It doesn’t do me any good to hold on to it.  But, the pity remains.  I pity her and others like her who live in ignorance.  Perhaps one of these days, this race problem will go away but even as I think it, the idea seems ludicrous.   It will never go away.  It’s something I will have to deal with until the day I die.  Sad, but that’s my reality.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Fear.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Simón’s Temptation

And he took the path to her house  In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. – Proverbs 7:8, 9

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“Man, you have to be crazy to go over there,” Felipe told Simón.

“Her husband’s out of town.”

“So what?  You shouldn’t be going with her.  She’s trouble.”

“No, she’s not!”

“Amigo, she’s married!  You shouldn’t be getting mixed up with her.”

“You’ve seen her, Felipe.  She’s hot.”

“Yes, and you can get burned.”

“Whatever, Man.  You’re just jealous.”

“I’d rather be a living jealous fool than an dead one.”

Simón looked daggers at him.  “Leave me alone, Man.  It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want.”

“Suit yourself, Bro.”  Felipe turned and walked away.

After he was done, Simón sat down on the steps, mulling over what his friend had said.  Maybe he was right.  He should know better than to be in this mess because he grew up in the church.  His grandmother would be bitterly disappointed because she raised him to do whatever the Bible taught.  He had been doing pretty well until he met Alisa.

They met at the track opposite his school.  After running a couple of laps, he sat down on the bench to take a breather and to drink some water when she joined him.  She was dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt and spandex leggings.  She looked amazing.  “You looked really good out there,” she said.

He flushed.  “Thank you.”

“Do you run here often?”

“Yes.”

“I run here too but I never noticed you before.  I guess until today, we were running at different times or days.  Do you live nearby?”

“No, but I go to that school,” he said, pointing to it.

“Sophomore?”

“No, senior.  I graduate in June.”

“What’s your name?”

“Simón.”

“Pleased to meet you, Simón.  I’m Alisa.”  She held out her hand.

He grasped it in a firm handshake, his eyes meeting hers.  His face felt very warm and he knew it had nothing to do with his running.

“So, have you decided which college or university you want to go to?”

“I have my mind set on Cornell.”

She smiled.  “Good choice.  I know a few people who go there.  I went to New York University.  Do you have a major?”

“Yes, Electrical Engineering.”

She looked impressed.  “Good for you.”

The sun was beginning to set.  He had to get going before his grandmother started wondering where he was.  “I have to go,” he said, apologetically.  He would have rather stayed and continued talking to her.

“Don’t let me keep you, then,” she said.

He put his water bottle in his knapsack.  He stood up and she did as well.  He towered over her.  “It was nice meeting you, Alisa.” He said, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.

“It was nice meeting you too, Simón.”

He knew he ought to walk away right then and there without a backward glance.  She was married.  His heart had sank when he saw the ring.  He should have known that a woman with her looks would be taken.  Every instinct told him to leave but he couldn’t seem to move.  “When can I see you again?”

She smiled.  “We can meet here tomorrow at the same time.”

“All right.  See you tomorrow.”  He turned and walked away.

The next day when he showed up to the track, she was there.  They met every afternoon after that until one afternoon she invited him back to her place.  He was hesitant.  Being out there in the open with her was one thing but being alone in her apartment was quite another.  “What about your husband?” he asked.

“He’s out of town.”

“I really shouldn’t…” he protested weakly.  She was wearing a summer dress with spaghetti straps and her hair fell in thick waves over her shoulder.  He wanted her so badly.  It was all he could think about these days.  And here was his opportunity.  It was within his grasp.  All he had to do was take hold of it…

“But you want to, don’t you?” she murmured.  “What we both want to do we can’t do out here.  Let’s go back to my place and enjoy each other.  It’s something we’ve both wanted since the day we met.  It’s no use denying it, Simón.  I can see it in your eyes and I know you can see it in mine.”  She took his hand and led him to her parked car.

She and her husband lived in an upscale low-rise building.  Their condo was on the fifth floor.  It was beautiful and spacious.   It was obvious that both of them had a big income.  He barely got time to admire the place before she took him to the spare bedroom where after closing the door, she started unbuttoning his shirt.  And as she dragged the shirt off, she bent her head and pressed her lips against his bare skin.  He stood there, his heart pounding and his chest heaving as he fought for air.  Soon they were both naked and she pushed him onto the bed.  He reached up and pulled her head down so that he could kiss her.

They made love there in the room and afterwards, he took the subway home.  They had other such trysts.  He hang around the library or somewhere until it got dark and then he would go to her place.  She buzzed him in and he took the elevator up.  Most of the time, hardly anyone was around which suited him fine.  No one knew about their affair, except Felipe who warned him that he was playing with trouble.  He sat there now, pondering whether or not he should end this now.  Then, his cell rang.  It was her.  “Are you on your way?” she asked.

He could say no and tell her right then that it was over.  “Yes, I’m on my way.”  He ended the call and got to his feet.  It was no use.  He was hooked.  He was in over his head and didn’t know how to get out of this.  And he wasn’t sure that he even wanted to although he knew that there was no future here.

He took a shortcut to the subway and had his head down so he didn’t notice the two guys approaching him until it was too late.  The first blow sent him flying on the hard sidewalk, knocking the wind out of him.  Then there were more blows and kicks, he tried to fend them off but he couldn’t and then he passed out…

When he regained consciousness, he was lying in a hospital bed.  He had gotten a severe beating but aside from a cracked rib and cuts and bruises, he was going to live.  He was the victim of a random attack by a couple of lowlifes.  Someone witnessed the attack and called the police.  He was lucky to be alive.  His grandmother and Felipe were there.  After she spoke to him, she went to speak to the doctor about when he could be discharged.

Alone with Felipe, he said, “I was on my way to see Alisa when they jumped me.”

“I’m glad that you’re okay, Man.  Sorry about earlier.”

“You were right, Felipe.  I should have listened to you.  I think that this happened to me for a reason.  It opened my eyes to what could have happened if her husband found out about us.  I could be worse off than lying here in a hospital bed.  Once I get out of here, I will call her and tell her that it’s over between us.”

Felipe grinned.  “Good.  Finally, you got some sense knocked into you.”

Simon smiled weakly.  “Somehow, I knew you’d say that.”

What happened to Simon was done out of evil but God used it open his eyes to the truth which set him free.

 

How Were They to Know?

caged-liz

Copyright Liz Young

 

She sat there, unable to move or speak.  Her face was covered, her hands were strapped.  She was helpless.  People passed by, stopped to gawk at her, remarked on how real the dummy inside the cage looked before walking away.  How were they to know that she was a victim of a sick, twisted mind?  How were they to know that for her it was a nightmare, being locked up like a caged animal at the whim of a depraved human being?

He stood there, savoring their macabre interest.

Her husband, the charming monster.  How were they to know?

99 Words

This was written as part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For more details, visit Here).  To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Drinking With Mom

As parents and stewards of God, it is our duty to provide for, care for and protect our children.  We are to impart wisdom and knowledge to them that will keep them safe and grounded in a world where they will encounter hardships, trials, temptations and challenges.  We are to teach, guide, counsel, encourage and support them.

Most mothers try to be positive examples for their children, teaching them right from wrong and to how to develop healthy habits.  They teach them how to be kind, loving and considerate toward others.  They help their teenagers with their studies and transition into young adulthood.  In fact, they do their best to raise their children to be upstanding citizens of society.  Unfortunately, this was not the case with Sahdev’s mother, Vahini who spent her time drinking with her son.

Alcoholism became Sahdev’s vice.  It consumed him to the point where he spent all of his earnings on alcohol and it his habit grew with such force that his mother was disturbed by it.  She began to wonder if a wife would temper his addiction so she set about looking for someone for him to marry.  She kept his drinking a secret while she arranged marriage between Sahdev and a young woman named Tanu, however, the bride soon discovered the family’s dark secret.  From the beginning of their marriage, she was victim of verbal abuse and brutal, drunken beatings.

Vahini’s hope that marriage would soften her son was squashed but, sadly, she didn’t support Tanu’s efforts to change Sahdev.  This was the opportunity to do what was right for her daughter-in-law and the grandchild that was on the way but Vahini sided with her son.  This only made his alcoholism grow worse, resulting in liver damage.  While Tanu braced herself for raising her child with a drunken father, her mother-in-law tried to find proper treatment for him but two months after his son was born, Sahdev died.

Instead of taking responsibility for her part in her son’s death, Vahini blamed Tanu. Tanu, now a widow with a child, received no comfort or support from her mother-in-law. When Vahini ordered Tanu to leave the house and she refused, she was beaten. Then, faced with raising a 2 month old child and no other options, the young mother returned to her parents’ home in the slums.  This was the last place she wanted to be but her parents comforted her and encouraged her to stay.

Things were tough for Tanu.  She found it hard to find a job to support her son and her family’s social caste limited her to jobs with long hours and low pay.  Thankfully, she wasn’t under any pressure.  Her father was a real trooper, very supportive.  He provided for her and his grandson by working as a daily wage laborer.  When the time came to put Aakar in school, the cost of his education was too much for the family.  And Tanu hadn’t found a good job.  She and her parents struggled to make do with what little they had. Aakar was enrolled in a free city school but the costs for his supplies were tremendous.   And there was the nagging thought that if anything were to happen to Tanu’s father, the family would have nothing at all.

Unless something was done, six year old Aakar would be forced to drop out of school. Help came when Tanu talked to her neighbors about their children’s education.  She learned that they were receiving help from Bridge of Hope, a Gospel for Asia sponsored program.  The program supported, educated, tutored, provided meals and medical care for children from needy families like hers.  Not wasting any time, Tanu enrolled Aakar at the centre.

Their lives changed when the staff not only provided for Aakar’s needs but showed compassion and kindness to him and hope sparked in Tanu.  She saw that there was a very great possibility that her son’s life would turn out very differently from his father’s.

“I can see that my child is improving in his studies and learning good habits through the Bridge of Hope center, ” Tanu said.  “I only wish that my child will grow up to be a good companion and never ever become addicted to alcohol or any kind of bad habits.”

Aakar is off to a really good start.  At Bridge of Hope, God is working through the staff members to give him a better future–one of hope.  Surrounded by people who love the Lord, Aakar stands a better chance of growing up to be a good man who loves the Lord and others.  He has a heavenly Father who loves him.  He never knew his own father whose life was a tragic one because of an evil influence.  Unlike his father, Aakar has a mother who wants what is best for him.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

Thank God for stepping in when things were looking dismal for Aakar and his family. Through Bridge of Hope, God has transformed their lives.  Tanu didn’t know it at the time but the best thing she did was moving back home with her parents.  It was while she was living there, that she experienced the love and mercy of God through a program which offered her son more than an education.  It offered him a chance to have a quality life.  Had she stayed at the home she once shared with her husband, life for her and Aakar would have been unbearable at the hands of her mother-in-law.  God brought them out of that toxic environment and into a place where their lives have changed for the better.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Tanu’s story has a happy ending but there are other mothers who are struggling to raise their children.  Faced with extreme poverty, their lives are filled with hopelessness.  And many children in Asia never experience what it’s like to have a normal childhood.  Instead, they are faced with situations and decisions that we can’t even imagine or have ever had to deal with.  Please pray that God will intervene in their lives as He did in Tanu’s. And you can help to Aakar and children like him by sponsoring a child.  If you are interested in doing so, click here.  Help to transform a family’s life.

Tanu and Aakar

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

Making History in Science

Notes to Women congratulate Victoria Kaspi for being the first woman to win the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s top Science award in its 25 year history.  This long overdue win is a reminder that gender inequality is prevalent in Canadian Academia.

Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council who hands out the prize, acknowledged that this was a very important moment.  “It signals to girls and young women that Science is exciting and it’s possible to achieve the highest honour.”

It is unfortunate that it has taken this long for a woman to win this prestigious prize but Dr. Pinto believes that the reason for this is women account for only 14 per cent of the scientists who receive funding from the Research Council at the full professor level and only 9 per cent when the life sciences are excluded.

Dr. Kaspi was born in Austin Texas.  She spent her earliest years in the United States and Israel before the family moved to Montreal, her mother’s hometown.  Growing up, Dr. Kaspi did not have a particular interest in space or Astronomy.  She loved hockey and had an avid interest in logic and mathematical puzzles.  Her love for Science came when she was a teenager and took her first course.  She studied Physics at McGill and it was at Princeton University where she became interested in the work of Astrophysicist, Joe Taylor who would later win the Nobel Prize.  Dr. Kaspi worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before eventually returning to McGill and Montreal where she feels most at home.

Life is busy for Dr. Kaspi who is raising three children with her husband, cardiologist David Langleben which leaves her little time to do much else.  As a result, she has to work late into the night when she is better able to concentrate on her research.  It would be a tremendous weight off the shoulders of female faculty members if the universities would do more to support them so that they don’t have to choose between their professional success and family life.  When it comes to her research, Dr. Kaspi needs more flexibility. “Research is not a 9-to-5 job.  You get inspired, you have an idea, you’re dying to solve it, and within the confines of all these constraints that are imposed on you, it’s hard.”  At 48, she considers herself lucky that she was not a victim of the overt sexual harassment as a young researcher but is aware of the gender issues on campus.

We share the sentiments of Christine Wilson, a McMaster University Astronomer and President of the Canadian Astronomical Society who praised the selection of Dr. Kaspi as this year’s gold medal winner. “The fact that she is the first woman ever to receive the Herzberg Medal is the icing on the cake for me.”

Let us hope that it will not take another 25 years for another woman to achieve this honour.

 

 

Source:  The Globe and Mail

Mary Seacole

I just finished reading a very long but interesting biography of Mary Seacole. When I mentioned her to my husband, he immediately knew who I was talking about. He’s from Jamaica where Mary was born. She was born on November 23, 1805 to a Scottish father and Jamaican mother. Her father was a soldier in the British Army and her mother was a free woman. Mrs. Seacole was a doctress, a healer who used traditional Caribbean and African herbal remedies. She ran Blundell Hall, a boarding house, considered one of the best hotels in Kingston. It was from watching and helping her mother, that Mary became interested in nursing.

Mary was proud of her Scottish ancestry and called herself a Creole. Legally, she was classified a mulatto, a multiracial person with limited political rights. She was also very proud of her black ancestry. “I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related—and I am proud of the relationship—to those poor mortals whom you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns.” Being the educated daughter of a Scottish officer and a free black woman with a respectable business would have afforded Mary a high position in Jamaican society.

Mary married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole, rumored to have been the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and his mistress, Emma, Lady Hamilton. Edwin was a merchant. The newly married couple moved to Black River where they opened a provisions store which failed to succeed. In the early 1840s, they returned to Blundell Hall.

During the years 1843 and 1844, disasters struck Mary and her family. They lost much of the boarding house in a fire on Kingston. Blundell Hall burned down and was replaced by the New Blundell Hall which was deemed “better than before.” She lost her husband and then her mother. Overcome with grief, Mary didn’t move for days. Then she composed herself and assumed the role of manager of her mother’s hotel and plunged herself into work, turning down many offers of marriage. She became a widely respected among the European military visitors to Jamaica who frequently stayed at Blundell Hall.

During the cholera epidemic of 1850 which killed 32,000 Jamaicans, she treated patients and blamed the outbreak to infection brought on a steamer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Shortly after she arrived in Cruces, Panama where her half-brother moved, cholera struck. Familiar with the disease and having treated those who had the infection, Mary moved into action, treating the first victim who survived. This did wonders for her reputation and many patients were brought to her as the infection spread. The epidemic raged, causing many casualties which filled Mary with exasperation with the victims, claiming that they “bowed down before the plague in slavish despair.” Towards the end, she too became sick but managed to pull through.

During the Crimean War, disease broke out and hundreds perished, mostly from cholera. Hundreds more died while waiting to be shipped out or on the voyage. It was during this time that Florence Nightingale was charged with the responsibility of forming a detachment of nurses to be sent to the hospital to save lives. After suitable candidates were selected following interviews, Florence left for Turkey. Mary tried to join the second group of nurses to the Crimea. She applied to the War Office and other government offices but arrangements for departure were already underway. She applied to the Crimean Fund, a fund raised by the public to support the wounded in Crimea for sponsorship to travel there but again, she was refused. Resolute, she decided to travel to Crimea using her own resources and to open a British Hotel.

On the ship Malta, Mary met a doctor who recently left Scutari, where Florence Nightingale was. He wrote Mary a letter of recommendation to Florence. Mary visited Florence at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, asking for a bed for the night as she planned to travel to Balaclava the following day to join Thomas Day, her Caribbean acquaintance. In her memoirs, Mary mentioned that Florence was very friendly. They found a bed for her and breakfast was sent to her in the morning.

As she had planned, Mary opened the British Hotel near Balaclava. Meals were served there and there was outside catering. It prospered. Meals and supplies were provided for the soldiers. One frequent visitor was Alexis Soyer, a French chef who advised her to concentrate on food and beverage service and not to have beds for visitors as the few either slept on board the ships in the harbor or in tents in the camps.

The Special Correspondent of The Times newspaper highly commended Mary’s work, citing, “Mrs. Seacole…doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow’s blessings.”

Florence Nightingale acknowledged favorable views of Mary to Soyer and Mary had told him how kindly Florence had given her board and lodging. When Soyer mentioned Mary’s inquiries of her, Florence responded pleasantly and with a smile that , “I should like to see her before she leaves, as I hear she has done a great deal of good for the poor soldiers.” Yet, Florence didn’t want her nurses to associate with Mary and in a letter to her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, she insinuated that Mary had kept a “bad house” in Crimea and was responsible for “much drunkenness and improper conduct”. This letter came at the time when Mary approached Sir Harry for the opportunity to assist in the Franco-Prussian War because of his involvement in the British National Society for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded.

In spite of this, Mary moved in royal circles. Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a nephew of Queen Victoria was one of Mary’s customers in Crimea when he was a young Lieutenant. Perhaps as a token of gratitude and appreciation, he carved a marble bust of her in 1871 which was exhibited in the Royal Academy summer exhibition a year later. Mary also became the personal masseuse to the Prince of Wales who suffered from white leg rheumatism.

Sadly, while she was well-known at the end of her life, Mary quickly faded from public memory and her work in Crimea was overshadowed by Florence Nightingale’s for many years. And there were controversies surrounding Mary. It has been argued that she is being promoted at the expense of Florence Nightingale. According to Professor Lynn McDonald, “…support for Seacole has been used to attack Nightingale’s reputation as a pioneer in public health and nursing.”

There are claims that her achievements have been exaggerated for political reasons and a plan to erect a statue of her at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, describing her as “pioneer nurse” has sparked some outrage. According to those who oppose, Mary has no connection with the institution whereas Florence Nightingale did. In Dr. Lang’s opinion, she “does not qualify as a mainstream figure in the history of nursing.”

Mary’s name appears in an appendix to the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum, as an example of a significant Victorian historical figure but teachers are not required to include her in their lessons. At the end of 2012, it was reported that she would be removed from the National Curriculum. This was opposed by Greg Jenner, the historical consultant to Horrible Histories. He believes that removing Mary from the curriculum would be a mistake in spite of the fact that her medical achievements have been exaggerated.

In January 2013, Operation Black Vote launched a petition to request that Education Secretary Michael Gove not drop Mary Seacole or Oloudah Equiano from the National Curriculum. Reverend Jesse Jackson and others wrote a letter to The Times, protesting the proposed removal of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. The campaign was a success as Michael Gove was forced to concede after receiving approximately 35,000 signatures.

Today, Mary Seacole is remembered in the Caribbean. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 1954, the headquarters of the Jamaican General Trained Nurses’ Association was christened “Mary Seacole House”. This was quickly followed by the naming of the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. A ward at the Kingston Public Hospital is named in her memory. In Britain, buildings and organization now commemorate her by name and near the bottom of Fleet Street in London a Seacole Lane existed until it was redeveloped in the 1980s.

Notes to Women celebrate this pioneer in healing and helping those who were sick. She may not have been a registered nurse and her achievements may have been exaggerated but what matters is that she had the heart for nursing. There are some in the nursing profession who not in it because it is their passion. Mary Seacole had the heart and the passion for nursing and she was a blessing to many of those whom she treated. We think that this phenomenal woman should be recognized for what she has done.

She is a role model for all of us.  She was proud of her heritage.  She defied racism and bigotry and she embarked on her calling to help others, not allowing rejection or any other obstacles to get in her way.  If you have a goal in life, make it happen.  Don’t dream.  Act.  Florence Nightingale was not the only light.  Like Mary Seacole, you can be light too wherever you are.

I must say that I don’t appreciate your friend’s kind wishes with respect to my complexion. If it had been as dark as a nigger’s, I should have been just as happy and useful, and as much respected by those whose respect I value: and as to his offer of bleaching me, I should, even if it were practicable, decline it without any thanks.

I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related to those poor mortals you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns. Having this bond, and knowing what slavery is, having seen with my eyes and heard with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors, is it surprising that I should be somewhat impatient of the airs of superiority which many Americans have endeavoured to assume over me.

I have always noticed what actors children are……….whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll soon contracted it…….before long it was very natural that I should seek to extend my practice, and so I found other patients in the cats and dogs around me.

Doubts and suspicions rose in my heart for the first and last time, thank Heaven. Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?

 

Mary Secole

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Seacole; http://www.biographyonline.net/humanitarian/quotes/mary-seacole.html