Portraits of Hope – 2 Photo Essays

Stories and photos by Babylene Bocayes, Philippines Field Communications Specialist; essays are told by the mothers themselves.

Two mothers share their stories of overcoming being victims of human trafficking, thanks to a OneChild partnership with a Filipino organization that restores hope and dignity to such survivors.

Since 2019, OneChild has partnered with She WORKS (Women of Reliability, Knowledge and Skills), an organization in the Philippines that provides training and empowerment to women survivors of human trafficking.

With the partnership, She WORKS was able to expand its ministries to the children of these women, providing them holistic care and programs that is, in the words of our Child Champions in She WORKS, “a perfect fit” in fulfilling their vision of healing and transformation.

In those years of partnership, She WORKS has raised empowered women with restored dignity who are now serving as Child Champions in their Hope Centers.

Get to know some of them in this photo essay and experience hope in the stories told by the mothers themselves. (The photos are intentionally shot in low light to protect family members’ privacy.)


I am Rachel,* 32 years old, married with four kids — three girls and one boy. We live in Quezon City, Philippines.

I was born here but I grew up in our province with my family until I finished high school.

When I came back from the province, I worked as a house helper. Then a friend invited me to work at a bar. I was enticed to work there because I was earning good money not knowing that [it was a dark alley where] I was destroying my life. [Working at a bar in certain communities in the Philippines often leads vulnerable women and girls to darker occupations that erode their sense of self-worth and security and can even endanger their lives.]

Different religions were introduced to me by different people. And these encounters helped me to realize that what I was doing was wrong. I regretted that part of my life. I do not want to go back to that kind of life. I’d rather do difficult jobs, but not that kind of job again. I felt like I trampled on myself. Why did I even do that?

Then in 2018, I encountered She WORKS. Then I got closer to God.

(She WORKS staff go through narrow and dark alleys to reach out to female survivors of human trafficking and prostitution.)

My life changed because of them. They are good models. I learned so much from them like putting others first before self.

A handwritten Bible verse Rachel posted on her door says: Proverbs 23:19, 23 — “Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Buy the truth and do not sell it — wisdom, instruction and insight as well.”

When the pandemic hit, I and my husband lost our jobs. We could not go out of our house because it was not allowed.

But I was so grateful [for She WORKS] because they were a big help to me and my children. Every month, they gave us groceries, vitamins, toys, and school supplies. They also asked us to watch Bible stories every Friday and listen to a [children’s] radio program called “Okiddo” on Saturdays, and we had some sharing of what we learned. My children learned to pray and [adapt] moral values.

[In the midst of the pandemic,] I could not believe that I was one of the five [women survivors] who were chosen for livelihood training. At first, it was hard. We met online, and I was shy facing the camera. We also had [internet] connection problems. But because of my determination, I learned many things that I did not know before.

When the pandemic ended, we started meeting face-to-face in the center. In the morning, we have morning [Bible] devotion and through that, I got to know the Lord more. We learned from a professional painter how to paint various kinds of flowers on coconut [shell] soap dishes. Then we also learned to sew bags. We also make bracelets and hand sanitizers.


And then they chose me to become a Child Champion.

It makes me proud to become a Child Champion.

[I open my home] because I pity those kids who lack attention from their parents. I came from poverty, and I know how it feels. And as a parent, I do not want to do that to my kids.

Since the pandemic, kids come [to my house] to listen to “Okiddo.” It’s good because they enjoy learning together in a group, they bond and become closer to each other unlike before [when] they just treated each other as neighbors but not friends.

I want to raise my children well and I hope they will finish their studies and that they will not experience the life I had. I want a better life for them. When they finish their studies, they will [have a chance to] find a good job and live a happy life.

My biggest learning in life is that while you are still alive, you should love your children and your family. Even if I am not used to expressing my love to my children, I try my best for them to feel my love. I learned it from She WORKS, to be open and to express love through words, to say, “I love you,” and hug them.

Thank you very much, She WORKS and OneChild. You are a big help to our kids and our whole family. Our burdens are much lighter because we have partners in raising the children well with fear of the Lord, compassion, and respect.


I am Elizabeth,* 35 years old, and I live in Quezon City, Philippines. I have four children — two boys and two girls.

I was the youngest in our family. My parents were business-minded, so they were able to send us to school. I graduated IT (an information technology course), but I got pregnant after my graduation. I felt like I was a disappointment to my parents. Their dreams for me crashed.

At first, I thought having a family and children would be fun and easy. I never thought about the struggles that come with it.

Our struggles started from the time we woke up. We did not know where to get money to buy breakfast or coffee. When the kids asked for more food, I could not give them more.

I had a friend, and she was living a good life. She invited me to work [at a bar] which she promised would give us a better life and that could provide for my kids’ education. I did not have any work experience. So, I went with her. I had no idea that it was a dangerous place.

During that time, I felt free to do everything like drinking all night. I felt free from my struggles at home. I experienced quite a good life in the sense that I could eat what I wanted and earn quite a good income.


My husband then worked as a garbage collector. He earned less than 4 dollars [a day]. I know that my husband had an idea where I was working because he knew my friend. For me, I felt that there was nothing wrong with my work because I had no God in my life that time.


My mother was a pastor. She had an idea of the kind of job I was doing. So, she brought me home and I stopped working at that place from then on.

It was my mother who knew about [She WORKS]. My mother brought the staff to my place to interview me. At that time, I just lost a baby.

My life was far from God. As a child, I went to church with my family. But I did not feel Him especially at those times when I was really struggling with poverty. I was thinking if God has a favoritism, why do others have good life, and we do not?

When I met [staff of She WORKS], they encouraged me to join the trainings. On my first few days of training with them, we prayed and studied the Bible. When I went home, I told myself, “I don’t like this praying and always reading the Bible.” I had second thoughts about continuing. I and my colleagues were telling each other that we didn’t like it. We were even mocking the staff.

But She WORKS continued to encourage us to come back. Until now, I really can’t believe how I got here. I did not know anyone from She WORKS. I live far from them. But they were very persistent in reaching out to me. They walked far to get to my house.

With the help of She WORKS, I experienced joy in God’s presence. I thank God that He gave me a new life together with people who are showing genuine love for me.

Before we were very shy and had no courage to talk to many people. They trained us to have confidence in ourselves.

I went through livelihood [training]: sewing, soap making, bead making, painting of soap dish made of coconut shell.

Now, I am currently training for Lead 1 after graduating from livelihood training. It is helping us to work with the mothers like how to interview them. They also teach us how to handle kids because they have different personalities. Before, I did not want to deal with kids. I already struggle to raise my own kids. Our patience was really tested. But we learned to be patient. I realized that it feels good to serve these little ones. We enjoy it as time goes by.

If I would compare my life before and now, it would be so different.

It’s better than before. I now know the right things to do. Before, I just relied on my own hustle even though I know it’s not the right thing to do. But you do it so you can feed your family. [She WORKS] teach us the right thing to do.

Before, my dream was to get rich. I was always discontented. My life now is always enough. Even though we are not earning that much, I don’t feel that God is lacking. Whatever money I have, I pray over it saying, “Lord, this is enough for us.”

Now, I entrust to God all our needs that He will provide. I don’t stress myself thinking anymore. I felt that what we receive is enough, every time.

(She Works partners with OneChild to provide holistic programs to the children of the female survivors. Elizabeth has two children registered in OneChild. Her children receive the same love and care from the same people who led her to her beautiful transformation.)

My kids are different from others because they hear Bible stories and are taught many things. They are more active. They are trained to show their talents and be confident with the things they can do. They are active in going to church, too.

[She Cares Hope Center] provided them with school supplies like bags, notebooks, uniform and shoes. I am saving more.

I dream for my children to finish their schooling. And I dream that my relationship with God will grow deeper, and that I will know Him more. I want to be like our leaders in She WORKS who I see as having a real and deep relationship with God. I also want my husband to know God. I hope he will change.

I believe that God has a plan for us. I believe that God will have the power to change him.

The most important lesson I learned from it all is that I should trust God always. I realized that God will make a way. He will allow you to go through it all, but in the end, He is there waiting for you.

*Names changed for privacy.

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