Travels from: Boston, MA
Extreme poverty propelled 23 year-old Beatrice Fernando to look beyond the borders of her native Sri Lanka for a means of financially supporting her young son. Because work as a housemaid was considered beneath her family's social status, she responded to an ad in a Sri Lankan newspaper that offered paid housemaid positions in Lebanon. Yet when Fernando arrived in Beirut, she discovered that the advertised position turned out to be nothing more than a front for a wealthy slave holder. Fernando was locked inside the house and forbidden any communication with the outside world. She was starved, repeatedly beaten, and never paid. After several months of inhumane treatment, she escaped in the only way available for her: by jumping out of a fourth-story window.
Fernando's heartbreaking experiences as a victim of human trafficking and her remarkable recovery make her a powerful speaker for any audience. Her story is not unique: traffickers often prey on a sense of financial vulnerability, advertising a good job as an avenue out of the desperation of poverty. Fernando speaks out in order to save others from the elaborate and cruel human trafficking networks that exist all over the globe.
Fernando's autobiography, In Contempt of Fate (2003), chronicles her experiences as a slave in Lebanon and her dramatic escape. Fernando has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, been interviewed by radio and television programs, and been profiled in The Boston Herald. She founded the anti-slavery organization The Nivasa Foundation and serves as its president, spearheading its flagship campaign to provide aid to the families of victims of human trafficking in Sri Lanka.