A Toddler Trafficked: Nicha’s Story
One of the brightest, most inquisitive, and energetic children at ZOE Children’s Homes is tiny Nicha. She is smart, quick witted and is fond of telling everyone she meets, “I go to school!”
Her preschool teacher reports that Nicha is attentive and engaged. It is hard to believe this is the same girl who the police brought to ZOE as a listless and lethargic toddler.
The city’s shopping and entertainment districts are awash with lights and pedestrian traffic. Shoppers look for bargains while merry-makers fill the streets with music and laughter. The merchants and shopkeepers are delighted with the ring of their cash registers, but these are also lucrative locations for professional begging rings.
Nicha was a part of one such begging ring.
You may well ask the question,
How could a tiny toddler be part of a begging ring?
This is her story:
Nicha was born far from the city lights, in a small and very poor village. Through various circumstances, Nicha became the baby in a “family” of professional beggars. She was especially ‘valuable’ to the ring and was used as a ‘prop’ by an adult beggar who posed as her mother, in what was exposed as a sinister performance for financial gain.
Each night, the adult beggar found a place to sit with Nicha cradled in her arms. Hearts were filled with pity as strangers looked upon the poor mother and her sickly child. But, Nicha wasn’t actually sick; rather she was being regularly dosed with a narcotic sedative to make her drowsy, lethargic and compliant.
Some nights the adult beggar would carry her around, looking for people who would give her money. The mother had her role rehearsed perfectly and with a slow and deliberate shuffle, she would pause just long enough for a passerby to feel both uncomfortable and obliged to “help” her sickly baby.
David Cross, a ZOE volunteer, recalls the time when he met little Nicha.
I remember clearly when Nicha first came to ZOE. I looked at her in contrast to my youngest son who was similar in age. At first, I thought to myself, something is not quite right here. She was incredibly lethargic. She was slow to move and overall she did not look well. I actually thought that some testing would need to be arranged, as she appeared to have developmental delays. But, as the days and weeks passed, we all came to realize that there was nothing slow or lethargic about this little girl. We now know that this was the result of the drugs that were still present in her tiny body.
Now as I walk past her, she comes running up and greets me with her loud voice and huge smile. I asked her the other day whether she liked going to school, and she promptly started to tell me what she liked, who her friends were and then broke out into song proudly singing the Thai alphabet! It’s clear now that there is no need for any developmental testing!
Nicha is a remarkably bright child with a promising future. Her life is a testament to what a difference a loving, caring and nurturing environment can make.
To protect this child’s identity her real name has not been used in this article.