…to make sure they were still alive.


“The truck was horribly overcrowded,” Maya recounts. “Everyone was packed together, and it was hard to breathe. It was pitch-black inside, and I couldn’t see my boys. I kept feeling for their faces and putting my hand in front of their noses to be sure they were still breathing—to make sure they were still alive.”

Maya said these words to me in December last year while telling of her escape from Syria – forced into the back of a truck with her 3 sons, herself heavily pregnant. They were being taken with thousands of others to a refugee camp in a neighboring Middle Eastern country. 

I didn’t really understand why she needed to keep her fingers under their noses to be able to tell they were breathing until last week when I was visiting a trafficking intervention agency in South East Asia. 

We were being told the story of how hundreds of trafficking victims would be taken from their homes in the back of trucks and driven for hours, often across borders, and into remote areas. I was told of children dying on these trips, suffocating to death. 

It was then that it hit me. The trucks were so crammed and packed with bodies, adults and children alike, that it would be so easy, and likely commonplace, for the children to be trampled, or just completely suffocated, with no way for them to cry out for help or find some air to breathe. 

Holding her finger under her sons noses was the only way for this beautiful 25 year old mother to ensure that they were still alive. And I’m not sure there would have actually been anything she could’ve done had their breathing stopped…

As a mother myself, this completely undoes me. 

Maya is a mother, just like me, who has been forced into situations out of her control. She just wants to keep her children safe. 

Read more of Maya’s story here.

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