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O.U.R. Aftercare and Prevention: From a Brothel to a Hotel…

O.U.R. Aftercare and Prevention: From a Brothel to a Hotel…

She wished someone would have simply asked her in a hotel lobby as she stared at the ground in fear, “Are you okay?” Her response would have been, “Please help me.”

I recently met with a survivor in Utah who told me her story of being trafficked for several years through hotels. I asked her, “Were you afraid that your trafficker would have physically beat you if he heard you?” She said, “When you’re desperate it’s worth the risk, but as a young teenager you have no idea who will actually take the steps to help you if you ask.”

Not every survivor will be able to ask for help, but what if you could save a child from one more night of pain? What if you educated yourself or asked for assistance in getting education on how to identify children and adults that are being trafficked or are at risk?

We are often asked if trafficking really still happens in America. A mother of three beautiful young children recently said to me, “There is no way this still happens here. We don’t have brothels here anymore.” No, we do not have the same situation with brothels as we did a hundred years ago. However, many of us do not realize that when traffickers were no longer able to use brothels, they transitioned to hotel rooms.

Last year a CEO of a group of hotels saw the movie The Abolitionists. He was in shock. This topic can be an overwhelming reality to think about, but he did not let his shock stop him from taking action. He asked, “Where are some of the main places these children are being trafficked?” The answer he heard was upsetting. When he realized that many hotels are used as brothels, his anger turned to tears. He thought about his own children and the extent he would go to if anything happened to them. Subsequently, he decided that he was going to empower all of his general managers with the knowledge and ability to identify children in their hotels that might be in slavery.

So what did he do? He reached out to the O.U.R. team and asked, “Will you provide training to help my staff identify anyone that might be at risk or is being trafficked?” The O.U.R. Aftercare Team came to the company’s general manager convention to educate and empower the staff. One of the general managers in this training expressed his astonishment at the fact that such evil happens in the same place where he sees families full of joy playing with their children in the pool, kids laughing at breakfast over a bowl of fruit-loops, and carefree teenagers who can’t stop talking about how excited they are to be on vacation.

We believe that through awareness of loving and caring adults people can assist in liberating children from bondage. We will be the first to tell you that we can not do this alone. We need everyone, and everyone can do something.

We encourage you to do what this group of hotel general managers did and take some time out of your week to learn the signs. Become an advocate, a mentor, an educator in your circle of influence.

Related Article: Sex Trafficking Terms You Should Know 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. In the same spirit, it takes each business, each school, each neighborhood, each city to stop trafficking. Follow the example of this amazing group of hotels that said, “Not under my watch!”

Sincerely, Jessica Mass | Director of Aftercare

TRAFFICKING INDICATORS  (source: Polaris Project)

Pays for room in cash or with pre-paid card • Extended stay with few possessions • Requests room overlooking parking lot • Presence of excessive drugs, alcohol, sex paraphernalia • Excessive foot traffic in/out of hotel room • Frequently requests new linens, towels, and restocking of fridge • Exhibits fearful, anxious, or submissive behavior • Dresses inappropriately given the climate

Read the article Protecting Our Children From Sex Trafficking to know how to recognize more signs.


What can YOU Do?

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DONATE TODAY

Although it is hard to learn about the realities of sex trafficking in detail,

we know awareness can save lives and can protect our children.

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O.U.R. COLLABORATES WITH VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA – UTAH

O.U.R. COLLABORATES WITH VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA – UTAH

Operation Underground Railroad Aftercare had the honor of visiting Utah’s Volunteers of America last week. Their mission is to help Utah’s most vulnerable youth, ages 15-22 years old, by building trust and genuine relationships in order to break down barriers that keep them from bettering their lives.  Our missions parallel each other in many ways. For example, we both strongly believe that creating a family environment has a significant impact in the lives of youth.

(Image source: Volunteers of America – Utah Facebook Page, from a past event not affiliated with O.U.R.)

There are three common international reasons children are victims of trafficking:

1) Lack of education

2) Poverty

3) The breakdown of the family

We encourage you to make your home a place of safety and love for the youth in your lives.

“Everyone can help keep children safer by building stronger families, one day at a time. Help us keep children safer from trafficking by intentionally doing something to build up your family or someone you consider family.”

~Jessica Mass, Director of Aftercare


What can YOU Do?

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DONATE TODAY

O.U.R. Aftercare supports youth around the globe and in your neighborhood with the help of organizations and supporters like you. 

Spread the good news.  SHARE this article.

To learn more about Volunteers of America, visit their site here.

WHAT DOES O.U.R. DO IN UTAH?

WHAT DOES O.U.R. DO IN UTAH?

Here is what Operation Underground Railroad has been up to on the home front in 2017.

FREE AT LAST EVENT

On January 17, O.U.R. Volunteers gathered at the Crossfit O.U.R. gym to organize hundreds of hygiene kits and care packages for our Aftercare program to deliver to survivors. Children’s toys, soccer balls, granola bars, and toiletry items were donated.

 

VALENTINE’S DINNER

 Thanks to doTERRA, The Rock Church, Missio Dei, and the nearly 300 incredible volunteers, we were able to hand out 93 bags of hope, blankets, and Valentine’s Day cards to incredible women from The Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City. The event was held at Caputo’s Market & Deli in downtown with The Rock Church. Many of these women, who have been through so much, came up to our team with tears in their eyes saying, “This has truly been a magical night. Thank you for making us feel valuable and beautiful!”

O.U.R. Aftercare also has plans to support Red Light Outreach which ministers to girls in this very area.

 

ST. GEORGE TRAINING

In January 2017, St. George Police Department reached out to O.U.R. for assistance with an investigation targeting numerous massage parlors suspected of using trafficked foreign nationals to provide illegal services to customers. O.U.R. partnered with SGPD providing resources and assistance with translation services for the foreign national victims and witnesses. The successful collaboration showed how SGPD and O.U.R. could set the standard for such public-private partnerships. 

This is a sample of the kind of operation O.U.R. assisted with.

(photos from TheSpectrum.com)

O.U.R. is so grateful for our many supporters inside the state of Utah and throughout the rest of the world who help us further our mission to rescue children from slavery and assist law enforcement in the prosecution of trafficking offenders.


 

What can YOU Do?

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DONATE TODAY

To stay informed on O.U.R. updates, text “UPDATES” to 51555.

Spread the word of the good that O.U.R. and volunteers are involved in.  SHARE this article.

A Thank You from O.U.R. Aftercare

A Thank You from O.U.R. Aftercare

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Loving is easier than it seems. With a little bit of intentionality and partnership YOU can impact the lives of others!

If I were to ask you, “Can you tell me about a memory you have where you felt so much love from another person? Now, can you tell me about a time when you gave love to another?” As we give and receive love we are all encouraged!

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O.U.R. is so grateful for the many volunteers that came out in the middle of a snowstorm for our volunteer event in January to prepare gifts for some of the beautiful survivors here in Salt Lake City! There are many other things that you can do on a snowy Saturday.

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Thanks to doTERRA, many different churches and the nearly 300 incredible volunteers, we were able to hand out 93 bags of hope, blankets and Valentine’s Day cards this past weekend to the incredible women in our own city that have been through so much. Many of the women came up to us with tears in their eyes said, “This has truly been a magical night. Thank you for making us feel valuable and beautiful!” We encourage you today to speak love to your family, a window, a orphan, or a stranger.

You have the gift of change in this world!

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Love Always!

Jessica Mass
O.U.R. Aftercare

OUR Letters of Love

OUR Letters of Love

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February is full of spreading love, and we have a special opportunity for you this month to help our survivors feel loved in a personal way, with your own words! O.U.R. Aftercare will be collecting cards this month to have on hand for future visits at our partnering facilities. Think of how special each child will feel when they open the card that you sent!

STEP 1: WRITE THE LOVE

Everybody loves getting something in the mail, whether it is a homemade or a simple card showing someone was thinking about you. Get your family together for a craft night, or stop by the dollar store and buy a handful of cards to write in.

Here are some examples:
you are lovedSome phrases: “You are Loved” “Have a Great Day!” “You are Beautiful”

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paper hearts

An envelope filled with positive phrases written on each heart

Please, do not include your full name, address, or any other personal information on the card. Do not call attention to their traumatic experience, but keep it sweet and positive. This is not an invitation to become pen pals, thank you!

STEP 2: POST THE LOVE

Take a photo of yourself with your card (or just your card) and post it to social media using #OURLettersofLove.

We will re-post our favorites!

STEP 3: SEND THE LOVE

Email us a scanned image of your card to info@ourrescue.org  or mail them to 138 E. 12300 S. Suite C-149 Draper, UT 84020

We thank you for taking part in #OURLettersofLove – we cannot do this alone!

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Aftercare: The Light of One Survivor

Aftercare: The Light of One Survivor

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

She is smart, beautiful and full of light! Yes, she is a survivor and she is also thriving! When O.U.R. rescued her a little over two years ago she was not sure what she wanted to do with her future. It has been a privilege to walk alongside her and see her hopes and dreams develop. She is very excited about pursuing her education and in a couple years going on to college.

She’s also a leader at the aftercare home. Her soft but strong voice gives hope to all those around her. She speaks life into younger survivors. She believes that her voice as a teenager is powerful- and it is. Her smile is so bright. I often see joy radiating from so many survivors from around the world. One of my favorite questions to ask when I see this light is, “What brings you the most joy?” She responded with, “What brings me the most joy is seeing others happy. I love serving those around me, and I am so grateful for the life God has given me.” These are very powerful words from a teenager as she radiates the belief of hope, a bright future and loving all those around her. She told me that she loves those around her because so many people have loved her over the last two years.

I watched her graciously hand out candy and toys to all those around her. Finally after everyone else had received a gift I asked her if she had gotten anything yet. It was as if it hadn’t even crossed her mind to get something for herself. Did we still have gifts for her? Yes, absolutely. However, what she was most excited about is the different vocational training programs we are helping to provide which will have an impact on all of the children. Some of these trainings are things such as musical lessons, teaching english, and training them how to make marketable items when they transition to independent living.

Aftercare is a journey and Operation Underground Railroad is so honored to provide long-term aftercare love and support to survivors. We believe in the power of healing and the journey. We are all in this life together. May we all live this week in the same light as our beautiful survivor has modeled for us. It is anti-human trafficking awareness month. Survivors, we stand with you, we believe in you, you are the light of one.

Sincerely,

Jessica Mass
O.U.R. Aftercare Director

 

Operation Aftercare

Operation Aftercare

We are so grateful for those of you that continue to help with getting practical items to our beloved children in aftercare homes around the world! Maybe you can recall your favorite bedtime story as a child? These are simple items we sometimes forget how much they mean to us and others. Last week we were able to bring items to two of our homes we partner with. Whether it’s a warm towel to rap up in or reading a bedtime story to our children, these things bring so much COMFORT in life.

Thank you to our faithful aftercare supporters!

#CollaborationLove

There is HOPE

There is HOPE

We are so grateful to our partners at doTERRA! Many have asked where the HOPE bottles are going. We are excited to announce that last weekend 200 HOPE bottles went to a local community in Utah. You are often here our founder, Tim Ballard, say, “Everyone can do something”. This could not be more true. The below passage is from O.U.R. Director of Aftercare, Jessica Mass:

I was so encouraged this morning with the group of people from our community that came together because of HOPE. One woman shared about a time several years ago when she only had $36 in her pocket and wanted to love those in need overseas, but due to her current financial situation was not sure how to do so. So with a few loaves of bread, peanut butter and jelly she started to build relationships with those who were hungry in her local community. Another woman shared about her own history of being sexually exploited and about her passion to serve those in her local community who might be in the same situation. Another woman and her two teenage sons served side-by-side, putting together small gifts of HOPE. Her sons who were 12 and 15 years old, are being raised with the knowledge of how to respect and value girls. We can raise a generation of girls and boys that know how to value and truly love one another.

THIS IS PREVENTION.

So whether it is overseas or your neighbor, you can live a life of great significance. Many years ago a friend said to me, “The point to life is to love. Our job is to ascribe unsurpassable value and worth to everyone we come in contact with.” We can all make this one of our primary philosophies in how we live our own lives. This transforms our life so that we will look for the 12-year-old girl who is at risk for sexual exploitation. We will care about our neighbor who may live in poverty and be desperate to somehow provide for her children or the child who is fatherless will no longer be fatherless, because we gather around them as a community to support them in their hopes and dreams.

Prevention and awareness of human trafficking starts with love. Ascribing unsurpassable value and worth to those at home and abroad really only takes living a life of intentionality. To each and every one of you, thank you for your love and care for others and your support for future children rescued through O.U.R.

The storm came, but the wall stood strong

The storm came, but the wall stood strong

As many of you know, Haiti will always have a piece of our heart. It has been an honor to serve alongside their government, law enforcement and aftercare centers over the past 3 years. As Hurricane Matthew ripped through the island and left so much devastation, the O.U.R. team felt peace in the midst of the chaos.

O.U.R.’s director of Aftercare spoke with some of the Aftercare leaders in Haiti as they received word that the storm was going to hit Haiti the following day. One amazing and strong woman working with the children said, “It’s not that we don’t fear what could happen. It’s that WE CARE MORE THAN WE FEAR. We believe in caring for these children in the good times and in the midst of the storms. We will stand by them because that’s what family does.”

We are happy to report that even though there was flooding in the soccer field and some of the areas inside, ALL OF THE CHILDREN ARE SAFE! We are so grateful for all your thoughts and prayers for our beloved family in Haiti. We will assist as needed in the days to come.

Thank you for supporting O.U.R. so that we can support our children through their on-going healing!

Stay Current With O.U.R. – Rescue Report

Stay Current With O.U.R. – Rescue Report

Live every Wednesday at 3:30 pm MDT on Facebook, Operation Underground Railroad’s Founder and CEO Tim Ballard will be presenting a special message to O.U.R. supporters around the world. The live event will also include operation updates, special stories from the field, aftercare efforts and much more.

The Rescue Report first launched just a few weeks ago with Ballard talking directly to parents and providing them with four ways to protect their children from sex predators. If you missed it, you can still catch a recording of it by going to Operation Underground Railroad’s Facebook page HERE. Ballard followed up the next day with answers to questions people wrote in during the live event. In addition to answering questions, Ballard shared ways in which he is able to get out of the dark place that he works in and fill his life with light.

O.U.R. is developing a number of ways to get its message out. The Rescue Report on Facebook Live is just one of many features. The ultimate goal is to involve everyone, as awareness generates interest, and interest results in new Abolitionist ($5/mo recurring donors) that make it possible to rescue and help more victims of sex trafficking.

The first Rescue Report generated over 40,000 viewers, which is huge, but it could be a lot more. With over 700 million subscribers to Facebook, O.U.R. is hoping to reach at least one million in the near future. Abolitionists can help O.U.R. by liking and sharing the Rescue Report on their personal Facebook pages, as well as other O.U.R. content.

Ballard says, “Good people don’t know about this plague because they aren’t searching for these kinds of things. It’s hard to get good people to fight a fight they don’t know about. We need to help people know about it.”

One way you can help is to like and share this message with as many people as possible. Awareness is the first key in stopping sex trafficking. Help people be aware; like and share!