From a Student at College of William and Mary


Beatrice Fernando related her story of perseverance in the face of one of today's greatest human rights atrocities: the modern slave trade. The experience of listening to her story left me with a greater understanding of the poverty that enables the slave trade, and how important it is for we free peoples of the world to stand against such a dehumanizing practice.

As a middle-class American, I have a vague understanding of third world conditions, but have never been able to feel what it must be like to live under them. Mrs. Fernando's explanation of her childhood provided me with my first look into that situation. She was raised in a one room hut, with thin wooden walls and a thatched roof. Snakes and other poisonous animals were a part of everyday life, as much so as the absence of proper nourishment. Mrs. Fernando described her desensitization to the dangers all around, so as to function on a daily basis. It became clear that desensitization was a survival mechanism that lasted throughout her captivity.

As she ended her presentation, Mrs. Fernando appealed to our compassion, so that we might raise awareness of this problem of slavery – a problem we tend to see as extinct here in the US. In her life, Mrs. Fernando has overcome her own apprehensions about sharing her experiences. From personal experience, she encouraged us to "take the first step" in seeking change, to use our liberty as a catalyst to free those who are enslaved. We are to "pull out the roots" of this problem. We must do more than enact legislation: on the individual level, we must spread awareness and act to topple the system of slavery from the bottom up.  

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