International Justice Mission is passionate about seeking justice to set women and children affected by violence and human trafficking free.

Lorianne Dueck is the Mobilization and Advocacy Programs Coordinator. She grew up in Manitoba but moved to the GTA in Ontario two years ago to work for International Justice Mission (IJM) Canada. 

"We're working to build a relationship with the government of Canada, with Global Affairs Canada, to really make sure that we can be protecting women and children around the world," says Dueck. 

She and the IJM team recently took a trip to Guatemala.

Lives Being Changed 

"We're in the bus, driving in a part of Guatemala City that's a little bit dangerous. We go through the entrance and doors and come into this beautifully set up room with balloons everywhere. We were going to 'The Day of Joy' for some of the survivors that had gotten to a significant milestone in their journey to receiving justice."

While the young men and women present had been battered and traumatized, there were mostly joyful and smiling women that day, according to Dueck.

"One by one, all of the survivors between the age of 16 and 25 that came in with their mom, social worker and their lawyer, came up to the front and were given a superhero cape and a pin that says 'I am a Hero.' It was such a special, intimate, joyous day of knowing they had gone through this process of pain, honesty, and vulnerability and now were pursuing school or going to become a hairstylist."

In the middle of that dangerous neighbourhood, the group enjoyed painting, playing soccer, and celebrating how far the women had come. 

"Our partner organization, AMG, was a safe space for these boys and girls to come and learn, heal, and hear about Jesus. They learned they are special, their bodies are special and they are to be treated with respect and they have a big life ahead of them."

Dueck shares that it was an emotional day, witnessing the resilience of the youth being celebrated.

Survivor celebration in Guatemala. Survivor celebration in Guatemala. (Provided by IJM)

Hard Reality

The IJM program, along with its partners in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, focuses on protecting women and girls from violence.

"The rates of poverty and violence are a lot higher in Guatemala than they are in Canada. Women are caregivers of their families and they're also working really hard. Unfortunately, due to some cultural norms, there is a lack of public safety and justice enforcement. A lot of women experience violence from a very young age. The family or community member know they can get away with it because the women won't report it because it's kind of viewed as normal, or a taboo topic."

The IJM office opened in Guatemala in 2005. By 2030 the goal of the organization is to protect 9.2 million women and children in Central America from experiencing violence.

"When we started the office there, it was primarily individual cases. They had lawyers and workers who would do this for free, offer that support and walk with that survivor."

While the Guatemalan government also worked on these cases, due to a lack of resources, the time turnaround was incredibly long. Thankfully, things have improved.

"In 2018, IJM started training other organizations to also be able to provide trauma-informed care, help people report, and support communities. That has allowed a much broader scope and allowed for a lot more protection."

One of the groups IJM works with is the Global Survivor Network, which is a group of survivors helping other survivors. 

"We know God created people to be living in freedom and justice. When that's taken away from them, people with care, professionalism, and intention need to go in and make sure that's not the case and then, that it doesn't happen again. That's where IJM is committed to working with the local governments and partners in the country to make sure everyone is increasing in their ability so everyone receives the same care at the same speed."

Dueck asks people to pray for the work being done.

"Prayer for staff, survivors, government officials, churches in Guatemala, and just prayer that violence wouldn't be a normal thing."

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