“I’ve only known how to survive. Now I’m ready to learn how to live.”
Nourma, a human trafficking survivor, shared these words during a talk presented by Campus Ministry and the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Harper Ballroom.
Nourma grew up in Indonesia with her mother, father and younger brother.
“I was born a Muslim[…]my family was very religious and practical,” Nourma said.
Nourma’s father died when she was 13, devastating her. After high school she worked to help her family, moving among her relatives’ houses.
When Nourma was about 18, her uncle, a diplomat, promised her a job as a nanny in New York. The paperwork told her she would work five days a week for $1,800 per month.
When her uncle told her he could not pay that much, he promised to pay for English and culinary classes.
When Nourma arrived in New York, her situation was nothing like she was promised. She worked 14 hours per day for her uncle, seven days a week, and received only $300 per year. Her uncle forced her to work for other families, verbally abused and threatened her.
Despite the circumstances Nourma lived under, her faith remained strong.
“I never stopped praying to God,” she said. “[I prayed] ‘Just give me the strength to fight this.’ … Faith helped me survive.”
After enduring four years of modern-day slavery, Nourma finally ran away from her uncle’s home and fled to the protection of neighbors, who ensured she had a place to live where her uncle could not find her.
Nourma eventually came in contact with Safe Horizon, a victim service nonprofit organization. This helped her to obtain a new identification, as she had tried to get her passport from the consulate but was denied.
Nourma has not been able to see her mother and brother for nine years.
When Nourma first explained her situation to Safe Horizon, they told her she had been trafficked and she did not even know it.
Nourma’s history surprised College of Arts and Sciences freshman Jordan Malcom.
“People can be involved in trafficking and not know that they are, that really stuck out to me,” said Malcom.
“Freedom is my happiness. To earn that freedom, I had to pay the price of losing my family,” Nourma said. “I feel great now. I can smile from the bottom of my heart.”
Today, Nourma studies social work in New York and lives a “simple and happy life.”
Chris Heuertz, a founding partner of the Omaha Gravity Center, a nonprofit organization based upon “contemplative activism” through retreats, spiritual direction and pilgrimages, also spoke with Nourma. The two met at a conference in New York that discussed human trafficking.
Heuertz has done work with Mother Theresa and the Mothers of Charity.
Heuertz noted “awareness, understanding, advocacy, and accompaniment” as keys to aiding victims of human trafficking. According to Heuertz, 30 to 46 million people make up the population of modern-day slavery.
“We tend to allow ourselves to believe that slavery is a thing of the past, when really, millions of people are living that reality every day,” College of Arts and Sciences junior Samantha Stoupa said. “Her story was both a much-needed reality check and a message of true hope and faith.”
Heuertz and Nourma called for action to identify and prevent human trafficking.
“If you see something, say something,” Nourma said. “Even if it’s just someone taking care of a lot of children, just ask ‘are you being’ paid. That’s all you have to do.”
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.