Lin Lin tells us her story from being lost and trapped in a foreign country to the empowerment of her current life as a young entrepreneur:
I grew up in Mandalay where my Father was a Jade merchant. One day when I was 8 years old, I was walking to school when a small black van pulled up next to me. One guy jumped out and grabbed me and pushed me into the back of the van. He put tape over my mouth so I couldn't scream. In the van were 6 other girls, all with their mouths taped like me. They drove for a long time until they abandoned the car at the side of a river. The men carried us on their backs as they waded across the river. I quickly realized that I was then in a foreign country. We were taken to an agent’s house and one by one the other girls were quickly sold. I was the last one. They were worried about selling me because I could speak a little of the local language. The gang of men were scared I would tell what had happened to me. I lived with the agent for 3 years but at 11 years old, they sold me as a wife. For the next 12 years, I lived with the family that bought me. I was controlled, abused, raped, beaten. It was a terrible time, and I find it hard to talk about it, it’s very painful.
When I was 22 I finally managed to escape that house where they keep me for so long. I had a little bit of money and I managed to make my way to a big city. For the first few nights I slept on the streets with other homeless people whilst I looked for a job. Eventually, I found a job in a noodle shop that also provided accommodation. I was just so happy to be free for the first time. I started to build a life again and saved money for 4 years there. Then one day, whilst I was on the bus, the police were checking everyone’s ID and I didn't have one so they arrested me. I told the police my whole story. I felt so confused at that time, was I a foreigner? Was I a local? But I’d forgotten how to speak the Myanmar language. But there was this strong pull inside of me, that I need to go home… I am from Myanmar and that’s where I belong. It took 9 months for me to finally return. The government tried to help me to find my family, but because I was so young when I was taken, there wasn’t enough information to find them. I couldn't remember their name or address, so much had happened. I was living in the Mandalay government shelter when they offered me the opportunity to come to Eden.
My dream was always to have my own business. Eden helped me get a Myanmar ID card and helped me to learn my native language again. I opened a bank account for the first time and started to save money for my dream.
At Eden, I could slowly heal from the trauma of the past. The Eden staff always encouraged me to reach for my dream. I had many ideas for a business but in the middle of a pandemic, many of them were not possible. So I had this idea to start a small rental business, renting out rooms for migrant people who need safe accommodation. It’s now very successful and I’m about to open my third place.
I have a dream that one day I will earn enough money to help other children who don't have parents with education, something I so missed in my life as I was not allowed to continue school after I was kidnapped and sold.
Its been a very long, difficult, and painful journey but I want to say to people that whatever circumstances you face. “Hold on to your dream, Don't give up, Take courage from my story, for nothing is impossible when you believe.” #Empowered.