The sugarcane fields seemed like the perfect place to disappear – or so Grace hoped. She ran through the rows of canes, which arched high above her head and blocked out everything except bits of sunlight. She wasn’t very far away; the sugarcane farm stood next to the home she lived in with her family. But Grace wasn’t hiding in the fields as a game – she was hiding to survive.
Grace was born with albinism – a genetic condition affecting melanin pigment in the skin that some East African, traditional cultures view as a curse. These cultural norms include the belief that albinism gives a person supernatural power, and that possessing their body parts brings wealth and power. This fuels a human trafficking market for the illicit sale of people living with albinism, even for their body parts. Tanzania has the world’s highest population of people with albinism and is the source for many of these trafficking rings. People involved sell body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars.
Grace’s mother knew the stigma of albinism and abandoned her as a baby. She grew up in the care of her grandparents, but cultural views of albinism clouded their judgement with shame for Grace — she was not safe with them, either. Her grandparents hid Grace in a sheep’s pen, where one day she overheard them discussing plans to sell her in Tanzania. That’s when Grace knew she had to escape.
Running deep into the sugarcane, Grace hid for several days before a crew working in the fields found her and took her to the farm’s owner. She discovered Grace was malnourished and had festering wounds, and provided her with shelter, food and medication. But she lacked the stability to care for Grace permanently.
Though Grace’s situation has unique risks and challenges, there are many children who, like her, find themselves in crises through no fault of their own. Horizon’s Whole Family program provides immediate intervention when a child, youth or family is suffering to the point of great abuse. Grace experienced rescue and found family within Horizon’s Micro Community, which became her home after leaving the sugarcane farm.
Not only was Grace rescued, but she also experienced restoration and received empowering access to education, nutritious food, and more. She’s currently pursuing a certificate in social work and community development in university, working toward her goal to become a professional social worker. Grace has stepped into leadership as a class representative, where she also receives mentorship.
“Grace is disciplined, hardworking, cooperative and a good leader,” Beth, a caregiver, said.
Because a community of people believed in Grace and gave her access to resources, she received a second chance at life. This kind of empowering transformation always takes a community. Come be part of it by donating to Horizon’s Whole Family program: https://empowertheorphaned.org/donate/