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

Slave Stealer Podcast 16: Interviewing Gardy’s Dad

Slave Stealer Podcast 16: Interviewing Gardy’s Dad

Guesno Mardy: Father of Missing Child

In Episode 16 of the Slave Stealer Podcast, Tim Ballard and Mark Mabry interview Gardy’s dad, Guesno Mardy. For those of you that are new to this, Tim Ballard founded Operation Underground Railroad in part because his job at The Department of Homeland Security didn’t give him the leeway to keep his promise to find a young boy in Haiti, Gardy. Tim and his team have maintained a presence in Haiti for the past 5 years searching for this little boy.

Guesno came to the Slave Stealer studio to walk us through the story in first person. He runs an orphanage in Haiti where he currently takes care of over 100 lost or orphaned children.

Guesno is a soft-spoken man and speaks perfect English with a Haitian Creole accent. At times he’s kind of tough to hear, but listen closely and be inspired.

For more information on the story of Gardy, see episode 11 “Meet Gardy.”

What can YOU Do?


With technology being so prevalent in our kids’ lives, it’s important to take the extra step to keep them and their private information safe. These 3 simple setting changes will make a different in limiting strangers’ access to your children’s information. Read more here.

Technology settings to keep kids safe

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Tim Ballard and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Work Together to End Human Trafficking

Tim Ballard and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Work Together to End Human Trafficking

Last Thursday, June 30, new legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to help the Federal Government effectively work with anti-trafficking nonprofit groups, including Operation Underground Railroad. Tim Ballard and Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, met over three years ago to discuss the possibilities of collaboration between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), like O.U.R., and the Federal Government. The advance of this bill is a historical mark in the fight against trafficking and the freeing of victims.

The legislation includes plans to create a Public-Private Advisory Council. This council will consist of eight to fourteen representatives from nongovernmental organizations that have a strong understanding and substantial experience in the field of anti-trafficking. This knowledge includes both rescuing victims and providing excellent aftercare for them.

This council will be a direct line of communication between the government and NGOs. The members of this council will collaborate to submit recommendations to Congressional Committees for the Federal Government to know how to implement best practices for fighting human trafficking. Senator Hatch speaks positively about what this council will be able to do. “This Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council will allow government agencies to draw from the unique knowledge and experience of groups like O.U.R., allowing us to leverage government resources to fight human trafficking around the world,” Hatch says.

This legislation melds together the influence of two groups who are both vital to the eradication of human trafficking. Tim Ballard adds, “Human trafficking is a critical issue, and to more efficiently eradicate the problem, nonprofit groups need increased coordination with the Federal Government. This bill establishes a way to share successful anti-human trafficking strategies between federal agencies and organizations like Operation Underground Railroad.”

This Public-Private Advisory Council will open a new chapter in the fight against modern-day slavery for the United States. This legislation will allow both groups to effectively draw on each other’s expertise and work together to lay a strong foundation for future anti-trafficking efforts.

(Image source: Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune)

What can YOU Do?


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Utah-based Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-human trafficking organization, has become an officially recognized charity in Mexico. By declaring itself as a charity, the organization will be able to host fundraisers to raise money and awareness for child exploitation operations in the country.

Matt Osborne, O.U.R.’s senior vice president for rescue and rehabilitation, said he is looking forward to partnering with the Mexican Government to further rescue and rehabilitate trafficked and victimized children.

“A lot is said in the press about Mexico,” Osborne said, “The problems they have with organized crime, drug trafficking, but we’ve seen a real dedication, commitment to fight child exploitation. We see men and women and the federal police in the attorney general’s office, in the Mexican Congress, in administrative interior, willing to work with us.”

Since opening its operations in Mexico in 2015, O.U.R. has rescued 42 victims and has assisted in the arrest of 17 traffickers throughout the country.

Osborne said these efforts to help trafficked children would not be made possible without the help and support of Utahns due to their willingness to donate, spread awareness and to help in the investigations and operations.

“We’ve been very blessed to be supported here by Utah,” Osborne said. “We look forward to working to support all the dedicated men and women in US law enforcement and law enforcement around the world to fight this horrific crime.”

Click here to read and hear the story from Utah Public Radio.

Slave Stealer Podcast 15: What Kind of People Sell Kids?

Slave Stealer Podcast 15: What Kind of People Sell Kids?

people sell kids?

What kind of people sell kids? Who are they?

What’s it like to be in the home of a trafficker? How do traffickers talk about their own families? In this episode Tim shares face-to-face encounters with some of the guys he helped put away.

The story begins with Eduardo. As part of a sting operation, Tim sat on a beautiful beach to see if the intel was true – if you sit on this beach long enough, a trafficker will approach you and offer you underage girls. One did. This trafficker took Tim to his boss, Eduardo, who sold girls as young as 11.

After Eduardo took some time to introduce Tim to the girls, Eduardo said, “Hey do you want to see my family?”

Tim goes on to explain what Eduardo said about his own family as he showed Tim pictures on his phone.

There are more than 2 million children enslaved worldwide. Tim says, “It’s the job of every adult, every decent adult, to stand up and be [these kids’] parents because if we don’t, Eduardo becomes their parent. That’s the reality.”

Join us in listening to episode 15 of the Slave Stealer podcast, “What Kind of People Sell Kids?”

What can YOU Do?


Learn more about how O.U.R. started with Tim Ballard in the first episode of the Slave Stealer, “Meet Timothy Ballard Part 1.” Click here.

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Slave Stealer Podcast 14: How to Explain Trafficking to a Twelve-Year-Old

Slave Stealer Podcast 14: How to Explain Trafficking to a Twelve-Year-Old

how to explain trafficking

Trafficking is a difficult issue to talk about, which makes it even harder to explain it to our kids. Co-host Mark Mabry introduces his son, Bo, who is 12 years old. Before this episode, Bo had recently seen the movie The Abolitionists. Previously he did not know that his father, Mark, had been on rescue operations. Bo just knew Mark was traveling.

But it is important to do so, and Tim explains why.

In this episode, Bo sits down with Tim Ballard for a question and answer session. Bo asks the questions, Tim answers them.

Some of the questions that Bo asks include,

Is the feeling the same every time you rescue a large group of kids?

What do you mean by law enforcement?

Do you ever feel bad for lying when you are undercover?

How much does an operation cost?

Tim tactfully answers all of Bo’s questions in a way that makes sense to children and teens.

Join us in listening to Episode 14 of Slave Stealer, “How to Explain Trafficking to a Twelve-Year-Old.”

What can YOU Do?


Did you miss the previous episode of the Slave Stealer? If you did, come listen to Former Marine Interrogator Now Journalist Jason Buttrill discuss his experiences on O.U.R. operations here.

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Training & Aftercare: The Dominican Republic

Training & Aftercare: The Dominican Republic

This past month, O.U.R. Aftercare and Fox Valley Technical College worked together to provide survivors and officials in the Dominican Republic with tools to fight human trafficking. President of Operations Jon Lines, SVP of Rescue & Recovery Matt Osborne, and Aftercare Assistant Tyler Schwab oversaw the O.U.R. sponsored training.

Fox Valley Technical College is a college in Wisconsin that utilizes their own National Criminal Justice Training Center to uncover human trafficking. They partner with many national organizations to train others how to fight along with them.

A special training was held for anti-trafficking investigators and prosecutors. Two Fox Valley trainers provided instruction on a variety of investigative tools and techniques to track down perpetrators in the area. With O.U.R.’s donation of new laptops, this task force can continue to protect more children.

The O.U.R. Aftercare team had great interactions with survivors in the Dominican Republic. The team led several service projects and activities, such as repairing an old security gate and preparing new homes for rescued minors. The team even put on a magic show for the survivors.

 Tyler and a girl living at an orphanage repair and paint an old security gate

 A survivor, an employee at Destiny Rescue, Brett; a volunteer, and a local share a hug together after a joint service project.

Adrianne, a volunteer, holds a child’s hands while wearing her O.U.R. ring.

What can YOU Do?


The rehabilitation process after the rescue is an essential part of O.U.R.’s mission.

Check out the new page on our website dedicated solely to O.U.R. Aftercare!
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Slave Stealer Podcast 13: Recent Operations in Haiti and Thailand

Slave Stealer Podcast 13: Recent Operations in Haiti and Thailand

slave stealer

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. #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?


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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