Cindy, a former human trafficking survivor, has been a courageous voice for many years to assist other survivors in need. She advocates about the issue to help eradicate the issue of human trafficking by educating the public.
She has become the most powerful voice against human and labor trafficking in South Florida. She regularly speaks at high schools to teach students how to spot signs of traffickers on social media and otherwise.
Cindy is a recipient of two prominent awards from a Miami based nonprofit organization, No More Tears, for being a hero and an amazingly courageous woman.
How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey?
Once I got out, I started noticing that they were a lot of gaps in the system. I found myself not being able to properly heal due to services restricted because of my immigration status or the lack of them. I was born in Costa Rica, and I wasn't a resident at the time. Even Americans have a hard time finding the proper help to recover.
And for me, it was just simply impossible to kept quiet about it. So, I decided I was going to start sharing my experience with the public as a way to make awareness about human trafficking and the aftermath faced by survivors.
Who are your role models?
Somy Ali, former Bollywood actress and child sexual abuse survivor. She's the President and Founder of “No More Tears.” It's a South Florida nonprofit that helps HT and DV victims to get out of danger and find a new life with proper care and support, giving them all tools to heal and reincorporate into society.
Ricky Martin, Latin American singer. He founded the “Ricky Martin Foundation”, that educates about its existence through global awareness and research. I've been a Ricky Martin fan since I was 10 years old. I was too young to understand the concept back then, plus, he was talking more about LHT (Labor Human Trafficking) than SHT (Sexual Human Trafficking).
Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too Movement.” She started using the phrase “me too” around 2006 and let to this huge movement that its changing lives around the world. I admire her so much because she gave all of us the platform and push we needed to come forward with our truth.
What inspires you?
I think more than an inspiration, I do this because of my experience. What happened to me can not be undone but, I can help to prevent this from happening to you, and that's why I do it.
Please tell us about your story
I was brought to the USA by a friend with a fake promise of work. I knew this person for years and met her at work in my country. We became friends quickly and started living together with our kids after a couple of months in Costa Rica. She offered me $1000 for babysitting for ten days for her and her mother-in-law here in VA, USA. I accepted it, but after arriving in the USA, I was forced to have sex with dozens of men every day. The life of my kids and ex-husband was threatened if I don't comply with what my traffickers asked me to do. I got flighted back and forth from my country for years.
It took me 6.5 years to get out of this ring. And after years of counseling, I decided to help others not to get trapped in these types of situations.
What's your most memorable experience?
It's hard to pick just one… but…I took an HT case a few years ago. She was completely devastated and without hope for the future. She was just barely eating and not sharing much about herself. We took her in our care, and after three years, this survivor has completed reinvented herself. Nowadays, she works as a mental therapist/counselor, and she's returning the love by helping other survivors and victims to overcome their fatalities. Seeing how a person stands up for survivors and helps others is the best reward I can get in this world.
Which social media channels work best for promoting your work?
What's your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that not enough people join this fight against modern slavery.
Looking back, what's one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
For what I lived, I wish I had the concept of Human Trafficking. I knew what coercion and extortion were but didn't associate with a crime. If I had then, I would have definitely said something earlier and to the correct people.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
Survivors. I get to recharge when I talk to them. Their resilience is amazing. It's inspirational to know their stories and watch how they overcome obstacles on their way to recovery.
Any message for our readers
Educate yourself about this topic. This is a growing problem, and we need to tackle it now. Participate in awareness events and bring your kids/teens with you. Ask the Principal of your kids' school to bring someone to talk about it to your kids. It is a hard topic, I know but, it makes the difference when your loved ones get approached by a trafficker. And, studies show that more likely, your child/teen will be approached from traffickers 2-3 times between their 11-17 years old of life.