SEARSPORT, Maine — It was a documentary about human trafficking that sparked Monica Villagomez to take action.
Villagomez, 19, of Clinton, Mass., spent the month of June halfway around the world counseling young victims of human sex trafficking at a safe house in Nepal.
She will talk about her experience at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at Searsport Full Gospel Church, 71 East Main St.
“Many of the girls had been forced into prostitution or into working at strip clubs,” Villagomez said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Some had been forced into manual labor, but most were victims of sexual exploitation.”
The safe house she visited, run by missionaries, housed girls and young women between the ages of 8 and 21. The vast majority of children rescued from brothels, located in cities, in Nepal are girls.
“A lot of the children are from villages in the countryside,” Villagomez explained. “They come from families that are poor and lack educational opportunities. Guys come from the cities offering their families a better life and more opportunities in the city.
“They say, ‘I can get your daughter a job in the city and she’ll send home money,’” she continued. “In the cities, where the girls are better educated, they says things like, ‘I can make you famous.’ Or, make them think they love them. Either way, they all end up in the same situation.”
She said the safe houses offer the rescued girls the chance to be children. Villagomez connected with one 13-year-old girl.
“One day, it was raining really hard and I saw her just standing outside,” Villagomez said in an email. “Something inside me felt like I should go outside and dance in the rain like I used to when I was a little kid.
“I thought it was pretty weird, but I did it and motioned for her to come and play,” she continued. “She hesitated but finally came and started to dance. It was like something lit up in her eyes and I watched as she was learning to be a kid because her own childhood was stolen from her. It was really awesome to be a part of.”
The trip to Nepal was organized by Youth With a Mission, a global Christian mission group founded in 1960. The organization is working in 1,100 locations in more than 180 countries, according to information on its website.
Villagomez plans to try urban ministry in the United States next. She will begin a mission in January in San Francisco counseling victims of human trafficking in that city.