• Maria D

    Powerful post, Heather. xoxo

  • Darcie

    Yup, made me cry too and I’m at work!

  • natalie shahmiri

    I’ve done a lot of humanitarian work and I think that is perhaps the most common and profound response – why was I born lucky and they weren’t? How did I win the universal lottery?

    While there is no answer and nothing we can do to change it, your sharing of these experiences and giving these people a voice is more than they could even fathom having asked for. You’re doing a wonderful thing and helping them in ways you’d never understand – even if it’s just being there to ask them what they want in life and listening. It’s amazing what compassion can do to help people when there’s nothing else to offer.

  • Samantha

    Not that it makes much difference in your emotional response, but it’s not as though you and she were standing in line up in heaven awaiting your birth assignments. And you just happened to be the next in line when it was time for an American baby to be born and she when it was time for a baby in SE Asia to be born. It’s not luck of the draw. Your parents had a baby and so did hers. It might not have been by choice, but it is genetics — not destiny. For me, the situation angers me so much more when I take “fate” out of the equation. It’s not right that there is such a disparity in lives from place to place. And blaming it on “luck of the draw” doesn’t do anyone any favors.

    I am looking forward to reading more about your experiences there and what Exodus Road is doing.

  • KristenfromMA

    Oof. That hits hard.

  • http://www.sarahaugen.org Sara Haugen

    Powerful, important stuff.

  • http://www.kimcarter.net kimc

    Couldn’t agree more. Saying this is fate or chance means that nobody and/or nothing is responsible for the situation when that simply isn’t the case. Politics, economics, religious extremism, geography, cultural tradition are all at work on a macro level shaping the lives of people from region to region. That any one person’s life is the way it is, may not be by their own doing, but it certainly affected by influences much more immediate than fate or chance.

  • Tracie

    Thank you Heather, for doing what I do not have the guts to do. I am humbled

  • Anu

    I volunteer with an organization where we raise funds to run a day and night shelter to house young girls and children born into brothels. The mothers (all sex workers) willingly send away their babies and visit them whenever they can. We house them, clothe and feed them, fight with the local schools and get them accepted into school (sometimes keeping their story anonymous) and after 6 years, we are having our first batch of girls and boys graduate high school. Two of our girls were accepted into nursing college with guaranteed job placement after graduation. There is hope, educate one girl at a time, one by one and we can make a difference.

  • Heather Armstrong

    I preface that statement with “it serves no purpose” and I do not personally believe in fate nor do I assign this simply to luck of the draw. It was a visceral reaction to witnessing all of us on the that plane who demonstrated and emphasized the disparity to me. It could have been any one of us. Any of us, but it was *her* specifically. I will get into this in a later post, but no one organization or even network of organizations can change the world. But they do change the world of individuals. In that moment I was thinking of her as one of those individuals.

  • Heather Armstrong

    One by one. So slow and so steady. That is what I witnessed and what I plan to expound on further. Thank you for doing what you do. You are changing people’s worlds and I admire that more you could possibly know.

  • kmpinkel

    No one knows the why’s of it all, but what we can recognize is that if we are lucky enough to catch the “right side of the coin” and recognize it, then we have a responsibility to, with whatever we are endowed, to do our part to facilitate change and be hope and love. We have every opportunity of each day to change someones life for the better even if for one afternoon. We are in a drought of selflessness on so many levels, but with the efforts of Exodus Road and many, many more organizations for so many of the world’s needs there is hope. Thank you for being an example and a catalyst for many who may have never known and for those that knew, but did not know if they could make a difference. Every single life matters.

  • cici

    My belief system includes the concept that we are all the same because we are all connected. We are all one energy so that girl is you and you are that girl. Hard to verbalize coherently but I believe within our souls we are one. So we are in the pain she is in and we are advantaged enough to try to heal that part of “us”. Tempted to delete because I can’t really articulate. I so respect you putting a voice and your energy into helping to heal this tremendous wound

  • MazMonroe

    For me, it’s overwhelming to even try to begin to think about all that’s wrong in this world. There is just so much suffering. That you are willing to get up and leave your lovely family and comfortable life to go and attempt to help these people speaks volumes, Heather. I admire you so much.

  • Anna Cabrera

    The best part of your birth right is that you choose to do for others. You choose … thanks for that and to all the others who choose to look horror in the face. Many shrink away — whether they call it fate, or feel to small to help, or misunderstand the privilege of living in a world with choice.

  • michelle

    Your last question so resonates with me. I have 16 year old twin boys and I spend a lot of time talking to them about how lucky they were to have been born to me and my husband and it has nothing to do with their efforts. Therefore, they need to look upon everyone less fortunate then them with compassion instead of arrogance and work to improve everyone’s life.

  • http://www.yourfridayafternoondistraction.com/ Joanne z Filmlady

    I’m speechless and so sad for these girls. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing. You’re educating all of us.

  • http://www.twitter.com/lovesmoose Carla

    This is my most favorite blog post of yours ever, and I’ve been with you almost since the beginning.

  • Teal

    There but for the grace of God go I. I am unbelievably privileged to be an American woman in the 21st century. I am starkly aware of that and am thankful for it every day.

  • http://dadcation.com/ michael from dadcation

    When I was painting the inside of an old, refurbished house that would be used as a shelter and a schoolhouse for girls rescued from a life of slavery here in Atlanta, every time I’d let myself think about what this building I was helping to beautify would one day be used for, I’d start to cry and would be unable to push the paint roller up and down the drywall. I can’t imagine sitting face to face with one of them and asking such a question.

  • Jen Wilson

    It’s NOT fair. None of it is. I worked in a safe house for girls who were trying to get off the streets. Prostitution was all they knew. They’d been sold at a young age by their parents/relatives to pay for drugs. The few who had children talked of one day getting their kids back. That was their one wish. One girl didn’t want to have any more babies because she didn’t want any more babies taken away from her. I quickly learned what the term “bad date” meant. We made dinner with them, trying to teach them simple life skills as much as we could. They didn’t even know that leftover food could be put in the fridge to be heated up at a later point. Their self-worth is so low that they can not even imagine they’d be able to do anything else. A friend of mine is a youth worker who is on-call 24/7. Among other things he picks up girls from johns, tries to find them a safe place even just for the night. Lets them sit in his car as long as they want, just to get out of the rain or the cold. To keep them safe for just a few hours. I can’t get out of my head the 14-year-old mom he mentioned who needed money for formula for her baby, and when welfare turned her down, and my friend was out of options for her, she showed up the next day “with a fist full of twenties and a dead look on her face.” It hurts to even think of what they’re going through, and hurts even more that we can’t just rescue them all, tell them they’re loved, and keep them safe.

  • Jenny

    Thank you. Yes. Nothing coherent or intelligent to say comes to mind. But thank you for going and writing and being that kind of human being. I want to hear more and hear it often.

  • tami

    While I am willing to admit that there may be some sex workers somewhere who have agency and free will, it would be difficult to argue that the girls the Exodus Project aims to help are there because it’s their “dream job.” The question I always ask myself is, “what are we as a society doing that keeps creating people, mostly men, who need to buy these “services?” Also, do any of them really believe that the girls/children are happy “working?” What makes the men able to do this and want to do this? What should we be doing to as people, as a society, to change that?


  • mrscamacho

    I’ve been reading your blog off and on since it sustained me through a particularly bad job situation in early 2002.

    I really love to see what you are doing with your life, privilege, and success. Brava, Heather.

  • Lauren3

    Heather, you are doing an exquisite job of chronicling this. Looking forward to all the rest. xoxo

  • Rebekah

    I haven’t been this excited about reading something in a long time. This is beautiful and heartbreaking and I can’t wait to hear more. Thank you for taking us along on this journey with you.

  • Manisha

    A little different take on all this but relevant to the question of “why her and not me?”. I immigrated with my family from India. My parents come from very little farming communities where still today they only get water twice a week. I moved out of their home at 17 and eloped at the age of 22. I have been married for 20 years now to a wonderful man. When I came to my parents to tell them I was married, they were shocked and did a little bit of shouting and a little bit of quiet worry. On the other side of the world, my cousin eloped years after I did. When she returned to her parents home they started to beat her right in the middle of the street. Their Muslim neighbor is the one to come out and grab her and pull her into his home for safety. Eventually they forced her into a divorce and she lived a shunned life for many years.

    Now she is remarried and living in a little hovel of an apartment in a dirty, smoggy urban third-world city with her husband while I live in a cute little bungalow in cold, friendly urban Minneapolis. She is broken yet grateful. It kills me to think about the similarities and differences in our lives. We both have the same head strong personalities and we both had the potential to take power over our lives. Yet she is broken and I am soaring. We were both born in the same little farming village and yet our lives are so very different. I don’t know if it’s fate or luck of the draw or whatever. Many of us who immigrated could tell the same story. This story isn’t just about women in dire situations, but also for women in everyday ordinary contexts.

    I’m curious to see where you are going with all of this, Heather. I hope you have the courage to face these sorts of realities because it can feel harsh and glorious all in one breath.

  • Keri

    Heather – just a huge THANK YOU for this and your big ole heart! There is nothing to replace awareness of it, and when “we know better, we do better.” And SO MUCH of our life’s blessings (in spite of what a few readers wrote) ARE left to chance. You and I didn’t ask to be born to good families in a wealthy country or give birth to our girls in clean hospitals or homes. Surrounded by protection and a life set up for success. Any more than these young faces in SE Asia asked for their “fate.” These girls and their desperate (not evil, but desperate!) parents might be numbers to some, just as the maternal and infant mortality rate were statistics to me, too. Then I sat in Hinche’s St. Therese hospital as a birth doula and held the hand of crying Phillipe as she delivered a beautiful baby girl she wouldn’t name. She feared she would lose her to the same diarrhea that took her 2 year old and a nameless faces engage the heart just a little less. So, your work this past week might be a drop in a large bucket of faces…but it matters. Oh, does it matter. THANK YOU, thank you. (Also, DAMN YOU! First I go to Haiti, thanks to you and Christy, now I am Asia-bound, someday. :) What can I do in the meantime??? Seriously, I am 45 mins. from NYC and all “yours.”
    Keep it up, Momma Dooce. Keep it up.
    love from the East
    keri bryant

  • http://oddlovescompany.com/blog/ Katybeth

    At my teens high school graduation the speaker told the story, told countless times before, about the man who throws the starfish back in the ocean one by one. He couldn’t make a difference to all the starfish but he did make difference in the life of each starfish he returned to the ocean. Perhaps, just asking your question to the young lady you met will make a difference in her life. Of-course, you’ll never know. What you do know is she made a difference in your life and you connected. Maybe it’s all about connection…being seen and being heard. I don’t know how it works on this level but I do know your heartfelt work is making a difference.

  • greenplanner

    I remember watching the film ‘Paris, je t’aime’ many years ago, and being most moved by this part: (Quote is from Wikipedia” “A young immigrant woman sings a Spanish lullaby to her baby before leaving it in a daycare. She then takes an extremely long commute to the home of her wealthy employer (whose face is not seen), where she sings the same lullaby to her employer’s baby.” Even in wealthy countries, it’s only the lucky who can afford to actually raise their own children.

  • http://www.homejames.ca Amy K

    you’re doing great things! raising awareness is the first step and by using the forum you have available (your blog) you’re educating so many people. thank you for sharing your experiences. keep up the great work heather, i will look forward to reading more about your journey.

  • Jen Moore


  • Suzy Soro

    Beautiful, Heather. Sad but so beautifully written.

  • Matilda

    I volunteer for a project that supports people who have been raped or sexually assaulted and after a talk from an ex prostitute this weekend she told us that she hates the phrase “sex worker”. It implies it is a job, a choice, a career. It is PC because people do not like the word “prostitute”. I found that really interesting.

    You are doing some fantastic work, Heather. It is so difficult to see and hear so I hope you are being kind to yourself.