The heat of the sun made it hard to breathe, as Devina wiped the sweat off of her forehead. She had been riding on a cramped and uncomfortable bus for nearly five hours when it finally stopped for a break. Devina leaned her head against the warm glass of the window while the woman next to her sat texting, hardly ever looking up from her phone. Devina watched as masses of travelers passed by and spotted the bus driver, who had gotten off to talk to a few border agents. 

Devina already missed her family — leaving her village at sixteen years old was more challenging than she expected. Still, the woman next to her promised it would be worth it. She had told Devina that much better job opportunities awaited her and these opportunities would allow her to provide for her family. Devina even snuck 35,000 NPR from her father to cover the woman’s fee. Her plan was to quickly earn that amount back and send it to her father right away. 


“Remember what I told you.” The woman spoke to Devina, still looking down at her phone. “The pay is good in Delhi and many restaurants are hiring.” Devina looked down at her hands, which were nervously folded upon her lap. As she glanced back out the window, she saw the group that had been talking to the driver now approaching the bus. One of the men came to Devina’s row, quickly looking over the pair. 

“Where are you traveling, ladies?” The man questioned them, making eye contact with Devina directly. This caused the woman next to her to sit up in her seat. 

“New Delhi.” The woman spoke immediately. “My sister and I are visiting family.” 

Devina was not prepared for this answer and was immediately uncomfortable with the lie. Why did the woman make this up when they were simply traveling for a waitressing job? The man noticed Devina’s reaction to the statement, and started informing the two about the dangers of human trafficking in this region. Devina had heard of human trafficking before, but did not know much about what it looked like in her community. When the man asked for their ID cards, Devina’s companion said they had forgotten them back home. Devina’s fear was increasing at the thought that she may have trusted a woman whose intentions were unknown. Devina spoke up for the first time, telling the man that she would soon start a new job in Delhi. Visibly alarmed, he asked the pair to step off of the bus and fill out additional paperwork for travel. 


As soon as they stepped off the bus, the woman bolted away. Fortunately, our border staff members were able to catch up with her, as a confused Devina stood silently by. It was later revealed this woman planned to sell Devina into sex slavery once they arrived in Delhi. After staff explained these dangers to Devina, she was relieved to return home unharmed and thankful to the team who was watching for the red flags she had known nothing about. Devina could remain a teenager a little longer — with her dreams and freedom still intact.  

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