We packed up a suitcase of High Tea supplies and hopped on the train to Antwerp, Belgium. Our visit last year led us to a great organization that is totally hands on with reaching out to women. They not only visit the women working the windows, but offer a support system. For some, it is simply having a weekly meal together to provide community, for others it is “rescuing” them out of their circumstance (providing a safe place to live, education, job training, a plan for the future).
Prostitution in Belgium is legal, but less regulated than Netherlands. Amsterdam is one of the most well known Red Light Districts, so is highly regulated and overseen by the government (the government has recently been buying brothels so they can “oversee”…it is actually a ploy to be part of the multi-million dollar industry).
Due to the lack of legal regulations, the Red Light districts throughout Belgium are one of the highest places for trafficked women and girls. It is not uncommon to see girls age 13 working windows. Those that are trafficked have no legal rights.
Cherut means “freedom” and that is the hope they offer. To be free from pimps, a desperate past, and for a life that offers a glimmer of light. Their grassroots beginning has grown! What started with one woman’s vision to see women in the Red Light District experience freedom, now has grown to a movement of more than 50 volunteers, trained social workers and case workers. Their simple start in one apartment has expanded to 5 safe houses that will house up to 20 women.
Our team grabbed a delicious Belgian waffle and walked over to Cherut to set-up for the tea. We hosted High Tea for women from more than 10 countries! Each woman received a Yada Lovely Things gift box and a Bible. One of our favorite moments was when a sweet girl from Czekoslovokia opened her box and had a squeal of delight seeing a Bible in English. She has been in classes to learn English and now had her own English book. Oh my…how the Word of God can bring such joy!
Our experiences at the High Tea were completely different from Amsterdam to Antwerp…and both were amazing.
We enjoyed dinner with our dear friends from Ecuador (who volunteer at Cherut) and heard their vision for continuing to expand the work of bringing hope to girls working in Belgium. Belgium is one of most spiritually deprived countries in Europe. Although dark, it makes the light of Jesus that much brighter and sought after.
More on this later, but we will be continuing to host High Tea to provide funding for Cherut’s sponsorship program. For $300/month for 6 months a girl getting out of prostitution will be provided with housing, education, counseling, and job training through Cherut. We are excited to see how God will bring healing and hope for women in Belgium!