Content warning: This article includes mention of sexual abuse that some readers may find disturbing. We recommend that you read with discretion.

Liza* walks down the alley by her new home. As she walks, she glides her fingers effortlessly against the red brick buildings covered with a vibrant green moss. In her new neighbourhood, she feels safe—free to roam and feel the soft wind on her face. It’s a wind that feels like freedom.

For Liza, this feeling is new and sweet. It’s a kind of freedom she only dreamt about the nights she would quietly sing herself to sleep, her uncle asleep just across the room. A freedom she only prayed for as she lay in her bed all those years ago, stone-cold with fear as she heard her uncle’s footsteps approach her.

Bravely revealing the truth

Ever since her mother passed away and her father left when she was just four years old, Liza has lived with her uncle. And though for many years, her mentors and staff at her Compassion centre had thought she was being provided with a safe haven by her relatives, the truth was far darker.

A far away picture of a girl sitting on a chair leaned over and praying.

The fact that her Compassion centre could be kept in the dark for so many years was indicative of just how sinister the reality was: for the last 10 years, Liza had been sexually abused by her uncle who has promised to care for her in her parent’s absence. And though it took years to work up the courage, Liza knew she needed to share the truth, no matter how hard it was.

Staff at the Compassion centre always knew Liza to quietly keep to herself. So, when she bravely approached them one day to share about something urgent, they knew something was very wrong. Through hazy eyes and broken tears, Liza explained the details of what she had been through the past ten tears.

Horrified, the staff immediately stepped into action to get Liza out of the dangerous situation. Together, they devised a plan to keep Liza safe from her uncle, to bring him to legal justice and ultimately, to help her to begin to heal.

Girl in a stripped shirt walks through the street, her hand on a pole.

The first step was to immediately take Liza out of the dangerous situation. She was moved from her uncle’s home and placed with a new caregiver, Ria, a former staff member at the Compassion centre and her husband, who is the village’s community leader.

The next step was to pursue legal justice. Knowing this process would be both time-consuming and traumatic for Liza, staff decided to remove her from the situation and help her focus on moving forward.

“She is a brave child,” says Wahyu, the centre director. “She showed her fighting spirit to win this battle. That’s why this case could come to an end quickly.”

The journey to healing

After bravely sharing with staff about her traumatic situation and leaving her uncle’s home, Liza is a different person. Though the healing journey is still long and hard, she is starting to walk in true and tangible freedom.

A close up of a girl's hands praying

“She is more talkative now. She gained more confidence in herself than her previous self before the case,” says Oki, Liza’s mentor.

In fact, Liza has started to actively pursue her passions again, becoming a creative writer in her centre’s literacy program, regularly contributing to daily devotional pieces for children.

She’s also used her experience to help a friend who was also abused, encouraging her to see the Compassion centre as a safe shelter.

Liza with her caregiver, Ria.

Liza with her caregiver, Ria.

Staff registered Liza as a Highly Vulnerable Child so she could receive the extra support she needed. This helps to cover her educational supplies, like textbooks and even monthly internet costs, since she is learning from home. This way, Liza’s new caregivers are able to afford to fulfill her daily needs.

Stepping into a hopeful future

As Liza walks through the streets of her new neighbourhood, she is filled with hope. This is a new chapter in her life—a fresh page ready to be written. As she walks, she daydreams of what her future could be.

Girl in stripped shirt walks down street with houses on either side. There are flags across the road

“My dream is to be a teacher someday,” says Liza. “I’m grateful God has given me a lot of good people in my life.”

At her new home, she feels safe and secure with her caregivers who love Jesus and love others fully.

“We are so grateful to Ria, who wanted to take her in. Without her willingness to care, Liza wouldn’t be as happy as she is now,” says Oki. “A friend is what they need at their age, not a patronizing figure. As a mentor, we also have to pray for our registered children, diligently.”

As she heads back to her new home where she feels known, loved and protected, she sits on her front step, opens her Bible and turns to Philippians, to a verse that has anchored her through every high and low.

Girl in stripped shirt is pictures with her bible open reading a verse.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she whispers, as a confident smile streams across her face. The sun starts to set and she lets out a deep, contented sigh.

She is safe. She is free.

*a pseudonym

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Story by Laura Phillips

Field reporting and photos by Hutama Limarta

Written by: Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips is the Writer and Editorial Specialist for Compassion Canada. She is passionate about pursuing justice and mercy through writing, crafting, music, and sharing stories over a cup of strong coffee.