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Stories about people from the O.U.R. Team

Slave Stealer Podcast 13: Recent Operations in Haiti and Thailand

Slave Stealer Podcast 13: Recent Operations in Haiti and Thailand

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We have discussed that slavery has never really left the world. That’s the bad news. But here is something good… such great evil reveals great heroes. Everywhere in the world there are good people with freedom imprinted on their soul.

Tim Ballard, Mark Mabry, and Hugh Vail sit down and talk about the recent operations in Haiti and Thailand.
Tim explains that when Americans hear of the work O.U.R. does in other countries, they often think, “This is a problem for someone else.” However, Tim says, “Eventually that trafficked child’s pain will cross oceans will cross borders and it will land at your house.” Pornography filmed in other countries often makes it back here to the U.S.

The United States is the highest consuming nation of child pornography. Many Americans will travel to foreign countries and abuse these children. O.U.R. strives to catch these perpetrators in other countries so they stop bringing that evil back here. Tim has come across too many stories of people saying, “What, my dentist is involved in this? My doctor? My attorney?”

Supporting anti-trafficking efforts overseas really does help here in America.

At the end of the podcast, Tim invites in an undercover operator. Although this operator cannot reveal his identity, he explains his personal story of entering the fight against trafficking.

Join us in listening to Episode 13 of the Slave Stealer Podcast, “Recent Operations in Haiti and Thailand.”

 

 

 

O.U.R. Team Spotlight: Matt Osborne

O.U.R. Team Spotlight: Matt Osborne

Matt Osborne is a real life hero; the kind that stories are written about and the kind that you cannot forget. Brave, driven, focused and committed, Matt continues to blaze a trail in the fight against modern day slavery.

As Senior Vice President for Rescue and Rehabilitation at Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), Matt rescues and ensures rehabilitation for children trafficked and sold into sexual slavery in the U.S. and around the world. Since joining O.U.R., Matt has led a number of rescue operations that have resulted in the liberation of some 120 trafficking victims and the arrest of almost 40 suspected traffickers.

Matt’s commitment and passion for guarding others from harm became clear after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Matt felt strongly about protecting his country and began working in national security, a decision that led to a twelve-year career with the CIA and later the Department of State. During that time, Matt worked with issues of terrorism against the U.S., chemical and biological proliferation and the war in Iraq, and ensuing insurgency and political transition after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

An important aspect of Matt’s work for the federal government was providing classified information to U.S. Presidents, senior cabinet officials and the National Security Council. He served overseas tours as a Foreign Service Officer in places such as Spain, Mexico and Venezuela, focusing on issues of terrorism, counter narcotics, and human trafficking. During these tours, Matt organized visits for high profile government officials such as President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He also worked on the Department of State’s Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) Report, which further opened his eyes to this terrible crime.

Matt first met O.U.R. founder Tim Ballard back in 2000 at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), both as graduate students and Research Assistants at MIIS’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies. They remained in contact over the years, and when Tim started O.U.R. in late 2013, he strongly encouraged Matt to join the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking. Matt was impressed by how quickly O.U.R. was progressing. He could see Tim’s passion and commitment, and had also seen the caliber of his work in his role with the federal government. Ultimately, it was the cause of fighting for innocent children that won Matt’s heart and allegiance.

Matt joined O.U.R. in August of 2014 and the vision became clear: the O.U.R. jump team could be what he calls a “force multiplier.” Matt felt that those in the U.S. government and in select countries around the world were doing exemplary work saving kids, but with more resources from O.U.R., these officials could simply do more to fight child exploitation.

Matt had enjoyed both serving his country and traveling the world in a government career, which had availed him many opportunities and privileges such as meeting presidents, prime ministers, kings, princes, and other high profile officials. In leaving the CIA and U.S. Department of State, Matt made the considerable sacrifice of giving up his U.S. government pension, health care, and stable salary in order to fight for the O.U.R. cause. A family man, Matt was grateful that the move to O.U.R. allowed him to move back to Texas with his family. The calling of defending the defenseless had been a continued drive for Matt, and it has now become something to stand up for beyond his own need for professional comfort and security.

In an interview with Matt in late July 2016, he recounted his first days as a jump team member and how things have grown at O.U.R. since the start. He said that initially, O.U.R. needed to reach out to countries to request the opportunity to work with them, and then raise the money to allow the work to be done. Funds raised at that time were just enough for one rescue, and then the process would begin again to find another willing country and raise more money to rescue and rehabilitate. Now, as Matt reports, funding for rescues has increased significantly, and more countries than ever are seeking out the help of O.U.R., causing the number of countries and jump team members hired to lead rescues—and most importantly the number of children saved—to increase as well. The O.U.R. team is getting ever more skillful about how they are building and fundraising, and they are now leaner and able to do more work with less money. What’s more, the individuals joining the jump team are arriving already incredibly skilled.

When asked about O.U.R.’s potential in the near future, Matt says that the focus will be to continue to expand rescue work with partners in the U.S. and overseas. O.U.R. had first concentrated on foreign rescue missions due to the need. However, with more advanced technology, the O.U.R. team has what Matt calls a “comparative advantage,” putting the organization in a position to be even more successful in mission support at home and abroad.

Matt is a native of Dallas, Texas and holds a B.A. in International Studies from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and a M.A. in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. He is married and has two daughters, who he says give him the drive to fight child exploitation and human trafficking every day.

Matt says he feels blessed to be helping kids, and that there is simply no higher cause.

5 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking With #Freedom4All

5 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking With #Freedom4All

#Freedom4All is a campaign Operation Underground Railroad runs every summer until July 4th to increase awareness of modern day slavery and our fight for freedom worldwide.

“July is a time that we reflect on independence and freedom; it is a time that we remember the high price our forefathers paid for our liberty. The #Freedom4All campaign was born to remind us that, although we enjoy unparalleled freedom, over two million children in the world are trapped in sexual slavery. O.U.R’s primary purpose is to rescue and rehabilitate these innocent children,” says O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard.

So without further ado, here are the five ways you can help us spread awareness of human trafficking and fight for #Freedom4All!

1. Show It on Social Media!

This is the fastest and easiest way to show your support! For Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, show your support with our Freedom 4 All images.  This will give your followers a chance to learn about human trafficking and further inspire them to do something about it.

For Facebook, we will have a custom #Freedom4All frame to use with your profile picture – coming soon!

For Twitter and Instagram, we have custom #Freedom4All images just for this campaign for you to post. Check them out here. Make sure to repost, retweet, and SHARE from all of our social media channels @ourrescue and use #Freedom4All to spread the word!

 

2. Sign Up for Thunderclap!

There is a LOT of noise when it comes to posting on social media, so it’s not always easy to ensure our message of freedom is heard. By signing up for Thunderclap, you allow us to share a single message “flash mob-style” on your page.

Last year 518 people signed up for Thunderclap, reaching 720,978 people, meaning 720,978 people heard our message of freedom! This year our goal is to reach at least 1,000 Thunderclap sign-ups! Will you help us reach our goal? Sign up here.

3. Sport the Movement!

There are more ways to spread awareness outside of social media. O.U.R.’s custom #Freedom4All shirt definitely has a patriotic vibe, making it an ideal choice for your 4th of July festivities and will surely pique the curiosity of those around you. It’s an easy conversation-starter to help you share our mission of rescuing children from human trafficking. 100% of your purchase will be donated to the cause. Click here to purchase.

4. Don’t Miss Our #Freedom4All 2017: Message of Freedom!

O.U.R. founder and CEO, Tim Ballard, will be giving a special address on fighting for freedom. His words will inspire you and to those you share. Check out the motivational address he gave for the 2015 #Freedom4All Campaign:

“Slavery does exist today and its tentacles reach further and deeper than most of us realize, with its victims barely surviving in unthinkable darkness. The #Freedom4All campaign is a movement that will shine a light into this darkness and provide a way for each of us to eradicate this evil.”

5. Donate For Freedom!

Everything O.U.R. does to rescue and rehabilitate children is only possible through your donations. Although steps 1-4 help spread awareness, funding is what makes rescue operations possible. You can either donate once, or you can sign up to Be An Abolitionist and donate as little as $5 every month. $5 seems like a small chunk of change, over 6,000 Abolitionists contribute to over 40% of all operational costs. Click here to become an Abolitionist today!

 

Thank you for spreading the message of freedom this summer!

 

ABOUT OPERATION UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is a non-profit organization that rescues kidnapped children from slavery. O.U.R. rescue teams (called “Jump Teams”) are comprised of highly skilled ex-Navy Seal’s, CIA and other operatives. These teams work in conjunction with and in full cooperation with local police forces and foreign governments to liberate children around the world.

The original Underground Railroad was a network that existed in nineteenth century America to liberate African slaves. Today, slavery has a new face: the face of an innocent child. Slavery’s victims today include nearly two million precious children throughout the world. They are slaves, exploited for sex.

The symbol of the Underground Railroad shines through the darkness that surrounds these poor children and offers hope and freedom to children that are abused daily. Thousands of these children are imported every year from third world countries to developed countries, such as the United States and Canada. Operation Underground Railroad can rescue and save them from the horrors of slavery. This is its mission!

O.U.R. rescues these children and delivers them to safe havens that offer freedom and rehabilitation. In the process, O.U.R. expert rescue teams break the avaricious organizations that exploit these children and deliver the perpetrators to justice and jail. Using cutting-edge computer technology and human intelligence, O.U.R. rescue teams go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement liberate enslaved children and dismantle the criminal networks. www.ourrescue.org #freedom4all

 

 

Slave Stealer Podcast 12: Slavery Called Me

Slave Stealer Podcast 12: Slavery Called Me

Slavery today is alive and well. “With the money that human trafficking brings in every year…you could buy every Starbucks franchise in the entire world, and in addition to that you could buy every NBA team, and then still have enough money left over to send every child in the United States to college,” Tim Ballard states.

In Episode 12 of the Slave Stealer podcast, Tim Ballard, Mark Mabry, and Hugh Vail discuss the parallels between historical slavery and modern-day slavery. They also revive the memory of William Wilberforce and his platform. Wilberforce was an influence for good in the late 1700’s as he inspired people to understand the negative effects of slavery.

Because slavery is still rampant today, Tim Ballard calls on you to act:

“We need to shake the foundations like they did in the 19th century…we can do it.” More than 2,000,000 children are enslaved in the sex trade, and more than 5,000,000 children are in slave labor.

Join us in listening to Episode 12, “Slavery Called Me.”


What can YOU Do?

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The process of filming the documentary “The Abolitionists” was an amazing one. Listen to Mark Mabry discuss the process of getting the documentary started here.

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STRENGTH IN PRAYERS, GOOD THOUGHTS, AND LOVE

STRENGTH IN PRAYERS, GOOD THOUGHTS, AND LOVE

It is no secret that several members of the Operation Underground Railroad team are spiritual in their own ways. Many of our operators pray together while out on a rescue operation, while others choose to meditate or worship in their own way. Some of our Aftercare homes also have a religious base and will often send us prayer requests depending on their needs at that time.

Because of that, we welcome your prayers, positive thoughts, or energy to strengthen our various efforts- from success in our rescue operations, to health and a better future for our teenage survivors and their babies.

We are creating a specific list for those who would like to join!

Let’s stand together with our operators, Aftercare homes and survivors in this battle to lift them up in prayer, thoughts and most of all in love.

By signing up for this list, we will inform you of prayer requests from our Operators or Aftercare specialists who are facing unique challenges.

Subscribe by texting “OURPRAYERS” to 51555, or enter your contact information below.

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O.U.R. PART OF SPECIAL TRAINING IN THAILAND

O.U.R. PART OF SPECIAL TRAINING IN THAILAND

 O.U.R. Thailand Country Coordinator, Jib, attended a two-day Pattaya police network training on law and process for victims of child abuse. The training was held at Pattaya City Hall on the 3rd-4th of April.  

 

 

 

Mr. Sarot Nakbet is an honorable instructor from a prosecution team under Princess Bajrakitiyabha. He was invited by the Social Development Office of Pattaya City Municipality to lead his team for this training called, “Stop Violent Acts to Children in The Family.” This will aide Pattaya area workers in the child protection network combined with government offices, NGO, volunteers from communities, Tourism Police Volunteers, and ACT Pattaya (TICAC police).

 

Pictured left to right: Jib, an O.U.R. employee, Khun Amm from Upstream Family and Community Learning Center-Chiangmai, Khun Sudjai from Haven Children’s Home Family-Pattaya, and Khun Arunratsami, a social worker from the Social Development Office of Pattaya City Municipality.

 

 

Jib had the opportunity to meet Sister Piyachat from A Fountain of Life Foundation of the Catholic Church who presented issues on child cases in Pattaya city, asking for TICAC investigation and cooperation. She expressed her appreciation and hopes for continued partnership in the future to save the children.

 

Good News Florida: Operation Underground Railroad Rescues Children

Good News Florida: Operation Underground Railroad Rescues Children

Thank you Good News Florida and Tami Gomez for helping us shine a light on the dark world of Human Trafficking. Article below:

Human trafficking is a horrible evil present in our world today. Worse than simple trafficking, however, is child sex trafficking; a booming criminal industry that specializes in providing depraved individuals with children to satiate their perverted desires. These children are often sold multiple times per day to such individuals to be used, humiliated and abused, and passed along. These children are human beings made in the image of God, who are being treated so horribly. Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) has dedicated itself to freeing children from these appalling situations and getting them safely back to their families or to new families.

OUR, based out of California, is a non-profit organization that rescues victims of exploitation and human trafficking around the world. According to Osborne they have operated in fifteen countries worldwide including Colombia, Haiti, India, Thailand and others. While their focus is on children, OUR saves people of all ages. Over the course of three years, they have rescued about 600 individuals from some of the darkest possible situations.

OUR works in various ways to bring sex traffickers to justice and free their prey. They always work with local authorities to capture and bring offenders to justice. Matt Osborne, senior vice president for Rescue and Rehabilitation, said that OUR serves as a “force multiplier” as they help fill financial, training, technology and personnel gaps in the countries in which they operate. In some cases, that means helping train officials to be able to handle trafficking situations more effectively for themselves.

Rescue

In other cases, OUR brings in their own personnel to handle a situation. Their fully trained operatives, called the Jump Team, will pose as American child sex tourists to be able to capture the criminals who exploit children. Once money changes hands, local authorities come in SWAT-style, arrest the perpetrators and take them to be tried in a court of law. Due to the dangerous nature of these operations, many Jump Team members will pray before, during and after operations for safety and a successful mission.

When asked if his job is hard and if all the danger is worthwhile, Osborne responded, “It is difficult to have to play the role of the American child sex tourist and have the girls look at you as if you were really a disgusting predator who was going to do wicked things to them.  However, it is all worth it in the end when you have the chance to help pull someone out of the hell in which they are being forced to live.”

Rehabilitation

Once children have been pulled out of this torturous life they were forced to lead, they are rehabilitated with their families or with new families who will take them in and care for them. This is where Jessica Mass, director of Aftercare, comes in. Mass stressed the fact that they vet homes thoroughly before placing a child in one and, once placed, stay connected and help provide therapy, vocational training, funds for college and help meet other needs. Mass said, “We believe in helping restore lives and empowering voices of our little ones to a life of freedom, full of love and vision for their future.”

Working in this field exposes one to some of the greatest evils that happen on planet earth and can bring doubts and pain to rescuers and caregivers. But, according to Mass, it’s all worth it in the end: “I see the journey of healing and lives restored to the purpose God has for them. There is always hope! I believe there’s hope for everyone through the power of the gospel.” She firmly believes that, despite the evils plaguing the world, God has placed OUR in it to make a difference and to help rescue and restore his children.

OUR makes it easy to make a difference in the world. Becoming an Abolitionist is the easiest way for anyone to get involved. By donating at least $5 per month, you can become an Abolitionist and know that your money is going towards freeing children from this sickening exploitation physically and giving them the opportunity to become free spiritually. You can also sign up for updates from OUR to be informed about when they have made a rescue and to better know how to pray for them. OUR will assist anyone who is interested in doing awareness campaigns for human trafficking. Companies can sponsor vocational training programs through OUR, as well. If you purchase anything from their website, www.ourrescue.com, one hundred percent of the proceeds will go right back to furthering their efforts to rescue children. For those unsure of how to help, visit their website, get informed and “spend time asking God what you can do to protect and love His children,” said Mass.

A native-born Miamian, Tami Gomez is a freelance writer for the Good News while she and her husband attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. They hope to become missionaries to the Far East.

Operation Underground Railroad Rescues Children

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Jon Lines: The Perfect Fit

Jon Lines: The Perfect Fit

By: Lorayne Mitchell

You know that feeling that comes when your eyes catch a glimpse of that elusive puzzle piece? It is the one with the muted hues and no bright colors to place it easily among the others. As we identify it and ultimately locate its perfect spot, we feel a keen sense of not only accomplishment, but also a satisfaction that comes with completing the perfect fit!

That is exactly the feeling that the directors at O.U.R. (and specifically the founder and CEO Tim Ballard) are experiencing. In the ever-changing landscape of an expanding company, new placements are constantly needed. Let me introduce you to the “perfect fit” as the Executive Vice President of Operations – Jon Lines.

Don’t assume this is just an ordinary placement, for it is anything but that. Allow me to share with you the details of Jon’s career summary, his relationship with Tim, and his plans for the future operations of O.U.R. After graduation with honors from Arizona State University in 1992 and a degree in Justice Studies, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service sidetracked Jon from his plans to attend law school.

Major highlights from Jon’s career include:

  • 1992 – Assigned to the Phoenix, Arizona INS office, working in state and nationwide fraud investigations in the naturalization process of aliens
  • 1997 – Recruited to join the Inspector General’s office, spearheading large scale investigation that eventually led to reforming the nation’s naturalization process.
  • 2002 – Was hired for a supervisory position in Ogden, Utah
  • 2003 – Department of Homeland Security was created. This necessitated the merger of INS and US Customs. Appointed as the interim leader of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations for the state of Utah.
  • 2007 – Selected as the Assistant Special Agent in charge of the 4 HSI offices in Utah. Accepted into the Naval Post Graduates School’s Master Degree Program, where he eventually earned his degree in Homeland Security and Defense.

In 2012, an enthusiastic experienced special agent, Tim Ballard, called Jon with a plea and a strong desire to transfer to Utah and work with Jon there. Tim carried with him a special set of skills from his work with child exploitations. Jon held Tim in high regard after watching him in action. Jon remembers vividly, “Tim was a real credit to our office. He had more vision than most other agents I had previously worked with. We began to discuss new and innovative ways to deal with sex trafficking issues both domestically and internationally.”

In 2013 Tim couldn’t shake nagging feelings that he needed to do more to save the children. Jon proved to be a patient sounding board to him. When most others told Tim he was making the wrong decision to walk away from his government job and pension, Jon was one of the few that discussed Tim’s options with him at length, and eventually encouraged him to follow his dream. While Tim was getting O.U.R. off the ground, he kept a watchful eye on Jon’s great success in the Utah offices of Homeland Security. He called Jon several months ago and asked if he would consider coming to work with him at O.U.R. Tim stated, “Bring everything you offered at the DHS office. Come and join our team at O.U.R. I’ve admired your leadership skills, vision, and above all your uncompromising investigational and operative expertise. I need you to apply your unbending expectations of accountability, credibility, and efficiency within our operations. I need your help to ensure that all incoming donations are well spent to save lives and rehabilitate the children exploited around the world.”

Jon shared with me his view on this new assignment, “Tim was a line agent when we worked together before; I was the agent in charge. Now the tables have turned. It’s not about who’s superior here. I would like to continue to build upon the absolutely incredible team that Tim has built. Tim and I respect each other, share the common mission of saving children, and the vision of what can be done with aftercare.” Jon will be on the ground and involved with the missions as much as he possibly can. He will provide leadership to the teams, facilitating their successes from an administrative perspective. Thailand has opened up as very fertile ground for future missions, and it is one of Jon’s main focuses as he begins his assignment with O.U.R.

Jon also realizes the great blessing his family has been, and will always be to him, by sustaining and supporting him with his career, his vision, and his current decision to stand with Tim and work with the team of O.U.R. His wife Kimberly has been by his side for 31 years. He has boys for bookends – Brye is his oldest son, Dutcher the youngest of the group. Daughters Micah and Haley are sandwiched in between. His children have blessed him with 5 beautiful grandchildren: sweet granddaughters Jonnie, Josie and Haddie, and grandsons Knox and Brigg.

Jon closed our interview by sharing with me one of his favorite quotes. Edmund Burke, an Anglo-Irish statesman, penned the following: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

What a perfect mantra for a man that refuses to stand by and watch children be lost, when he has the skills and expertise to make a difference. We will watch with great interest the great blessing he will be to the team of O.U.R. Is there any doubt now that Jon Lines is the PERFECT fit?

Board of Governors: Alberto Puertas

Board of Governors: Alberto Puertas

O.U.R. recently added Mr. Alberto Puertas to their Board of Governors.

Alberto Puertas is a career/academic counselor for the University Advisement Center at Brigham Young University. His responsibilities include: serving as the International Advisement Specialist at BYU; teaching courses in career strategies, career exploration, and effective learning; mentoring students at risk, and assisting the University in promoting career development issues and objectives.

Alberto has a Master of Science in Counseling and Guidance from BYU. He has mentored many college students doing humanitarian work and internships abroad. He has presented workshops and seminars in the United States, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. In his presentations and daily work, Alberto Puertas emphasizes the relationship between meaning, spirituality and career development. He also stresses the benefits and challenges globalization presents to vocational guidance in the international arena to this new millennium.

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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!