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JOY in South America

JOY in South America

South America hero band bracelet

This young South American woman recently turned 18. She was trafficked at 9 years old in a city that is known for sexual exploitation, a common age for little girls when they are first raped. The story could stop here… without hope… without a future… without joy.

Thankfully, the story continues for this beautiful girl. This young woman is so full of light, love and JOY! She was rescued four years ago and is getting ready to move out of the aftercare home to study culinary arts at a university. She was so excited to tell us about the life she is living and pursuing her dreams. She has received vocational training through the baking program at the aftercare home, which she has loved because of her passion for cooking she has had since she was a little girl. Out of her love for others, she even cooked for us and she is so talented! Trust me, my stomach testifies to the goodness of true talent!

She’s the hope of what we long for, for all of our survivors. When we put the ‘JOY’ band on her wrist she was so excited and said it was her favorite birthday gift. This is an 18 year old that’s healing and thriving. HERO Bands made her 18th birthday! She wants to own her own business and has already started selling her baked goods in the market. Light in the darkness. Hope instead of hopelessness. Beauty from ashes. Joy through the tears. Thank you for supporting these lives!

  • Jessica Mass | Director of Aftercare

What can YOU Do?

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Because of your support, we can not only provide funding to our partnering aftercare centers, but can also give humanitarian aid and support vocational training – like this young woman’s baking classes!

See our new O.U.R. Aftercare page on our website for more information and stories.

O.U.R. Aftercare

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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

What YOU Can Do?

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Operation Underground Railroad’s Aftercare Program: Unity and Collaboration

Operation Underground Railroad’s Aftercare Program: Unity and Collaboration

In a world of division Operation Underground Railroad longs for collaboration to serve those in need of safe and loving homes. At this time O.U.R. finds it most effective to partner with well-established existing facilities who understand the culture and the community best, according to O.U.R.’s Director of Aftercare, Jessica Mass.

Operation Underground Railroad has now partnered with homes in over 15 countries and that number continues to grow as Mass reaches out to potential partners that share the same vision and passion about empowering survivors of trafficking.

“One of the major factors I am looking for when vetting an aftercare home is the long-term vision of what it means to provide care,” says Mass. “This factor is vital because some facilities might have all the standard areas of care, but we have to find partners with the mindset, ‘Once you’re here, you’re family for life.’” Additional areas of importance when vetting aftercare partners are: holistic services, mental, physical, educational, medical, and vocational training, as well as transparency.

There is one particular aftercare facility O.U.R. has been developing a relationship with in Africa for nearly a year. Providing resources and expertise has been a top priority. O.U.R. has also brought in professionals to train workers, and assisted with many other additional needs. This collaboration has laid the foundation for a mutual feeling of trust and unity.

Community Collaboration:
This past month Operation Underground Railroad chose this aftercare home for its first official humanitarian trip. Vetted professionals assisted in providing skills and training in their particular area of expertise.

These humanitarian trips are also supported through those who want to help survivors but aren’t sure what they can do. As a result, O.U.R. has created Suitcases with a Mission that donors can assemble with family, friends, neighbors, church groups, etc.

There are several different themed suitcases that aftercare centers are able to use. Examples of the themed suitcases are: Sport Suitcases, Craft Suitcases, Kitchen Suitcases, Health and Beauty suitcases. O.U.R. provides a list of items that go into the suitcase. Donors provide the suitcase, which can either be used or new, however, all items put inside the suitcase need to be new. Once the suitcase is filled and ready to go, it will be taken by the O.U.R. Aftercare group on their next humanitarian trip.

On this particular humanitarian trip to Africa, Mass and her team took a few different Suitcases with a Mission; a Health and Beauty Suitcase and a Craft Suitcase to the aftercare home. These were filled with beauty supplies, hygiene kits, books, and journals. “The girls absolutely loved the journals,” says Mass. One girl, in particular, was overjoyed. “She started jumping up and down, running through the house with excitement; she was thrilled.” Mass says this girl enjoys writing and hopes to become an author one day. Writing can also be a very therapeutic part of the emotional healing processing.

The children in this aftercare home range in age from 12-18. Through the love and healing they experience here, they are empowered to continue their education. Eventually they will find a career they enjoy with the various skill-sets they have learned because of the aftercare help they have received. This often happens through the loving care of the staff that have the mentality of a family unit.

One survivor, now in her early 20s, has returned to help these younger girls who are going through the healing process- the same process that she once went through after being a victim of sex trafficking. She is studying to become a social worker and is giving back to those who helped her find a new life. This survivor told us that she has a strong belief that families come in all different ways. To those that were family to her, she now assists by being family to others.

This young woman represents the hope O.U.R. has for all those who are rescued; to become empowered to find their own purpose in life and help others along the journey. It can be a long and difficult road, but it is possible with the help of O.U.R. and its aftercare partners, who are full of heart.

We appreciate the efforts of all those involved in the healing process for victims around the world. There are so many wonderful aftercare facilities and individuals that provide critical support to the healing journey for these girls.

If you or your group is looking for a humanitarian service project in conjunction with the Aftercare program, please consider contacting O.U.R.’s Volunteer Coordinator, Jani Dix at Jani@ourrescue.org.

There is something EACH of us can do to make a difference through unity and collaboration. Thank you for being a part of the O.U.R. family!

O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

The following are excerpts from a filmed interview with Tim Ballard on the progress Operation Underground Railroad has made in the first half of 2016.

Tim Ballard:

We have made huge strides this year. The thing I’m most impressed with is that half way through the year we’ve already seen as many or more rescues and arrests as we did last year. We’re probably close to double in terms of the countries we’re working in and the partners that we have.

We have been highly requested here in the States to work in several jurisdictions. We’ve met with several law enforcement officials in various states and set a goal that we would see at least one hundred pedophiles arrested in one year’s time. And just a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of summer we hit that goal. We surpassed it in fact, with over a hundred pedophiles.

These are people that were seeking for children on line as young as nine years old. And we were able to provide the tools to pull these guys out, and inevitably be able to find the children who were actually being abused. So we’re very proud of that accomplishment.

CET-COE:

One of the great accomplishments this year was the announcement of our CET-COE, Child Exploitation Targeting Center of Excellence which is housed at the University of North Carolina, in Charlotte.

We’re actually set up right now to be doing the very unique and different types of operations that we haven’t see a whole lot of yet, using a lot of high-tech strategies to go in and find children who need rescuing and get these horrible, perverted people off the streets.

Technology:

The technology we’re developing is for everybody. In fact, sometimes it’s geared towards law enforcement overseas who just have such limited resources and they don’t have a lot of man power so we can make up for that through tools that allow one cop to do the work of five. And it doesn’t cost them anything.

One reason that we created Operation Underground Railroad is because we saw this need. These law enforcement officers with great hearts, with a desire to help and make their country better, but they had no resources.

O.U.R. Short Term Goals:

We have quite a few operations set for the rest of the year. We’ve already hit our goals, so we’re going to keep pushing, and may exceed expectations. There are multiple countries who have asked us to come in. We’ve already started setting up shop there so we’ll be seeing more operations from now to the end of the year in various places throughout the world.

We’re not meeting our demands though. It’s very difficult for us to sit back and say, ‘Where do we go?’ because we could go almost anywhere now. This is why we need to grow financially. We need more people to become abolitionists because we are not even meeting the demands of law enforcement around the world who need these tools; who need our support.

O.U.R Long Term Goals:

We’ve always talked about setting up offices overseas and we’re starting to do that. These offices are like targeting centers; they’re labs. We are focused on the high technology side to attack this problem. And you’re going to see a lot of more permanent offices in the next several years, offices in various countries that are sponsored in part or fully by Operation Underground Railroad. These offices will be high tech in nature, in terms of the tools that we’re offering, and integrating because with these tools, one police officer can do the work of five officers.

We need to be a force multiplier in this problem. There are way too many kids out there relative to how many police there are looking for them. We built our tools with that in mind. ‘How can we maximize whatever resources are already out there? How can we maximize that?’ Become a force multiplier because with five times the cop power, we rescue five times the kids.

Partnerships:

Our partnerships are mostly focused on the rehabilitation end of things. It’s so important; in fact, it’s the most important thing that we do. We have to have in place something for the rescued children because so often the parents are not suitable or there are no parents or they are part of the problem.

We’ve really recognized that we need to put more into the rehab side and that’s a really delicate thing. We go into these countries that are very developing and we don’t always find the rehab partners that we want, so we have to spend a lot of time building them up.

One country that we are in right now, took us a year to get operational, even though the law enforcement officers in that country were green-lighting the operations. Now, we’re about to do our fourth operation in that particular country because that part (aftercare) is in place.

We hired a new director of rehab, Jessica Mass, who just does an amazing job. She’s partnered with rehab places, facilities, shelters, here in every state in the United States and in every country that we’ve been in, over 15 countries. She has gone and spent a tremendous amount of time finding our partners who we know, that when we have these children, we’re comfortable placing them there.

It’s so rewarding to watch some of these survivors become thrivers. We go back all the time, multiple times a year. ‘How are they doing? What do they need?’ This one wants to be a chef; this one wants to go to college. We can help with that. And we’re watching these stories unfold now. That’s a new development, an exciting development for us.

In 2016, I’d say one of our biggest highlights is the expansion and growth of our aftercare program and the wonderful partners that we’ve been able to make and trust, and watch the kids go there and know they have a chance.

Recruiting:

First and foremost our jump team members have to be brave. I mean, we’re asking them to do very dangerous things. Go into a foreign county. Go in undercover. Walk into a trafficker’s house who would just as soon kill them if they knew who they were.

We seek out law enforcement officers who have experience in rescuing children in anti-trafficking enforcement. It’s so important that these people have the utmost integrity; that they have good hearts. One thing we do, and frankly it’s on purpose, is when we do these tryouts and the training, we ask them to pay for part of that expense of coming over here. And that’s because we want to see who really cares.

I know that every guy that I recruited, especially in the beginning, had to walk away from pensions. They had to walk away from government security. And the fact that they were willing to do that told me that that’s who I want on my team. If you don’t have the heart for this, you’re not going to last long. It’s great to see these people who are willing to fly themselves here and sacrifice financially just to have the chance to make the team.

The Jump Team:

I think very few people are willing to do what our operators do. I mean you sacrifice your innocence in ways that are so incredibly uncomfortable and painful that it’s very rare to find someone to do this.

These kids are in hell. We’ve seen things that you can’t even imagine happen in hell. And the only way to get to those kids is to go in there. You’ve got to be willing go in there and not flinch while you’re there. Anyone willing to do that is just so amazing to me.

It’s like someone willing to run into a burning building. That’s what these guys do every day. It’s a different kind of burning building but it’s no less precarious, no less dreadful and they do it. And I’m so proud to associate with some of these operators that we have working for us – amazing guys – and girls.

Rescues:

It’s imperative to us that our policies on rescue operations are very clear to our partners and donors. We are not a vigilante group. We work with and under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies that officially and formally bring us on board. If that doesn’t happen, we don’t operate. But, once we are official we move forward.

Every operation is so different. Our operators will go, usually pretending to be like the other tourists, looking for illicit contact with kids. And then they infiltrate it, and this is where their expertise comes into play in that region; they’ll go in and know how to talk and what to say; how to dig in.

Other times it’s very specific; as specific as, here is this child who’s missing. We can come in with our technology, teach them. We’ve had cases where we look at facial recognition technology that allows us to go in and identify this child that was taken and maybe being sold in a different continent. So it really does vary.

A lot of what we’re doing now though, is targeting pedophiles and traffickers using tools that allow us to exploit places on the Internet where kids are being sold. The dark net is a place where people work with impunity because they think no one’s watching. We’re trying to build tools to help law enforcement to get to those places quicker and more efficiently and understand that world so they can pull these kids out.

Case Story:

In one case, this individual had this child that was being exploited. It was quite a distance from our office and we were expecting to go do the operation the following week. But our operators who are experts on line, were able to identify that this was a problem that couldn’t even wait three days.

And because we have such awesome donors and awesome supporters, they were made aware of the emergency without giving them details. One of our donors said, ‘You need to get somewhere to save kids? Just get to the airport. My plane will be waiting for you.’

I literally left the my kid’s basketball game that I was coaching with nothing, jumped in my car and sped to the airport, got on that plane and had that guy arrested and those kids saved, and those kids placed in safety within 12 to 15 hours. That was an emotional case just because we knew we had to get there fast. But, this is where we have the kind of comparative advantage where we can just go.

The whole flight over I have her image in my head. Five years old and we were able to get to her and pull her out of that situation and that guy’s in jail right now.

The Danger For Children

It’s usually men, perverted men have access to children in various ways; sometimes their own children or a niece or a nephew. They take advantage of the situation where the parents are out of the picture for some reason and they take this child under their wing, so-to-speak, but really they’re grooming them and exploiting them.

They go on line and start selling, sometimes they want to exchange this child for someone else’s child and they want to set up these horrific dark escapades. All I can say is that we have the tools and the ability to have law enforcement intervene in those deals. To find out where they’re happening and when they’re happening, intervene, intercept the deal, and then infiltrate and dismantle.

Eradicating Child Sex Trafficking:

That’s still the goal. We know that it can work. It works on a small scale. We go into one city, do several operations, and we shut it down. At the end of our operations, we can’t find anyone who’s willing to sell kids, all of them citing the previous operations that we previously conducted.

If it works on a small scale, why can’t it work on a large sale? We just need more people, more organizations, and more governments on board. If we made the response to selling kids for sex so powerful, you could literally scare people from thinking about doing it. That’s our goal.

I do believe that we can eradicate this. It’s going to take a long time, but with enough support and enough growth, we are building the tools that can eradicate this.

What You Can Do:

We need your help to make a difference. If you haven’t donated to our cause, please visit our web site at OURrescue.org and start today. Every dollar helps rescue children and ensures they receive the recovery care they need. If you already donate, please take the opportunity to evaluate if you can give more. We’ve already completed more rescues to date in 2016 than we did in all of 2015. We need your support to continue at this pace and fund additional rescue operations. We can’t do it without you. Thank you!

Interviewed and Edited by: Cheryl L. Karr

Cooking Up A New Life – “Alicia’s Story”

Cooking Up A New Life – “Alicia’s Story”

 

This is a story about “Alicia,” a victim of child trafficking rescued by O.U.R. in a Latin American country in early 2015. Currently on her long road to recovery, she is facing the ups and downs of psychological challenges common to trafficking survivors who had to endure months or years of rape and other physical and emotional abuse. Many of these survivors are unable to regain the life that God surely intended for them, but thanks to generous O.U.R. donors, Alicia just might be one who is able to overcome her ordeal, despite the steep hill she is facing.

Imagine if you were abandoned by your parents at the age of six years old because they chose to move to the United States illegally in search of a better life for themselves. Imagine further if your mother and father chose never to return for you, and instead maintained contact only through a brief phone call every two weeks. Such was the childhood and adolescence that Alicia endured. Alicia was raised by her grandmother in a Latin American beach town popular with Americans and other western tourists.

Grandma was a loving and caring woman, but at her advanced age she was not always able to keep tabs on her 16-year-old granddaughter. Alicia was a susceptible target to cunning human traffickers who lurked in her town, looking for vulnerable and impressionable young girls upon whom to prey and lure into the commercial sex industry. Alicia was forced to endure many months of sexual exploitation before an O.U.R. jump team rescued her, in a daring operation that also resulted in the liberation of a 19-year-old girl and the arrest of three traffickers. O.U.R. officials immediately got Alicia into a vetted aftercare center in the country’s capital city, and generous donations from O.U.R. supporters provided a monthly stipend that covered her aftercare.

Things went well in the initial months of Alicia’s recovery, and she even felt secure enough to share with federal authorities information and intelligence on other trafficking networks that were abusing young girls in her town. This information led law enforcement to conduct a follow-up rescue that saved 12 girls and arrested six suspected traffickers. However, as is the case with so many survivors of the horror of human trafficking, Alicia’s emotions and mental state cratered after about six months in recovery.

In late 2015 her struggle increased with her being able to interact with the shelter staff and her fellow survivors. Due to her not being able to continue to progress the staff felt obligated to move her to another aftercare home. Under the guidance of her counselor, she was taken about a 90-minute drive to the southeast of the capital city. Although Alicia was moved to a first-rate facility with a loving and caring staff, her initial weeks there were incredibly difficult. Alicia expressed her desire to leave the shelter and return to her hometown, despite the high probability that she would be re-trafficked or even killed by local organized crime groups.

O.U.R. rescue and aftercare officials had been closely tracking Alicia’s struggles. Upon learning of her struggle to continue working through her trauma, we dispatched a delegation to travel to her new shelter and meet Alicia face-to-face to see what might be done to keep her in the program and on the path to recovery. After multiple conversations with Alicia and encouragement to dream and consider what she would like to do with her life, she shared that she would love to become a chef. In consultation with the shelter staff, O.U.R. was able to fund through our generous donors to pay for weekly cooking classes not only for Alicia, but also for some of her fellow survivors.

O.U.R. Hires Chef
O.U.R. Hires Chef

The shelter hired a prominent female chef in the region—who agreed to provide her services at a greatly reduced cost—and arranged for the donation of all cooking ingredients. The chef herself told the girls that she had come from a poor background, but through hard work and commitment she had been able to rise to the top of her profession. She told each of her cooking students that they could become anything they wanted to be, but they first needed to be willing to work hard and stay committed.

After just a few months in the cooking class, the shelter staff reports that Alicia has made a complete turnaround and appears to have a new lease on life. She has rapidly distinguished herself as the top student in the class, but even more importantly, has become a model citizen in the aftercare home.

Alicia is now a positive and productive influence on both the staff and her fellow survivors. We visited again in mid-June to check on her, and are so proud of the progress she is making. All of us continue to pray for her full recovery. We hope you enjoy these pictures of the positive changes being made in the life of this precious trafficking survivor, changes made possible through generous donations to O.U.R. Without you, none of this would be possible. Thank you so very much!

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

Planting Seeds of Hope

Planting Seeds of Hope

 

“Lani” looked so young when she was rescued by Operation Underground Railroad that law enforcement was sure she was a minor. Her protests to the contrary were useless. Unless she could provide solid evidence that she was 18 years old, she would need to meet with the social workers at the aftercare shelter.

O.U.R.’s mission is to rescue children who are being trafficked for sex by pimps and pedophiles, and help them in their recovery. Often, in that net, we rescue those who are not considered children. They may be 18 years old or 25 or more. Most likely they were started as child prostitutes by traffickers and now know no other way of life. But, because they are no longer minors, they are free to leave the aftercare that O.U.R.provides all minors following a rescue.

Lani called for someone to bring her ID to prove she was an adult, but while waiting, she learned that she had options. She did not have to live this type of life any more. For three days the social workers helped her to understand that there is loving support for people caught in her situation. Although tempted by the thought of freedom, the strong connection she had to her pimp/boyfriend drew her back to him once her ID arrived and she could prove she was eighteen.

It is heart breaking to see someone who is caught in the jaws of hell, wanting to be free, yet fearing what the unknown offers. In Lani’s case, O.U.R.’s local aftercare partners continued to check on her, letting her know there is still help should she choose it.

Eventually, she and her pimp moved away. Lani soon became pregnant with her pimp’s baby. Fear engulfed her as she realized this baby’s future was in the hands of her pimp. She did not want her baby to live the kind of hell she was living. Yet, she knew there was a high probability that this child would one day become a prostitute if she stayed with this man. What could she do?

Secretly, she slipped away from the village in search of the social worker who had helped her following the O.U.R. rescue. She found her in the city and in desperation asked if the ‘other options’ were still available to her, telling her how she did not want her baby to grow up being trafficked by this man as she had been.

It takes a lot of strength for a young woman to leave a controlling pimp/trafficker and seek help. He had assured her many times, “You will starve in the streets. I will kill you if you leave.” But, leave she did, into the loving arms of O.U.R.’s aftercare partners.

Today, Lani is living with her newborn in freedom at a home for single mothers, receiving vocational training and emotional counseling as she dreams about the future of her life and that of her child.

This is the type of outcome O.U.R. hopes for all the children and adults we rescue. Collaboration with local officials and local aftercare support is pivotal in making this happen and O.U.R. has experts working hard daily to create these partnerships.

Adults are not treated as criminals and are not held against their will, but we do try to plant the seeds of hope and ‘other options’ that are available to them so that when they are ready, as in the case of Lani, they will seek us out.

That time may not be today. It may not be six months from today. But, once they know there is a better way, a safer way, that thought will begin to grow. And that thought may, one day, turn to action. And when that happens, we will be there for them.

We at O.U.R. believe we can make a difference in this most important step. Believe with us and join the O.U.R. team in building hope and freedom from exploitation. There are a number of ways you can do this from becoming a recurring donor (an abolitionist), to volunteering, to creating a fundraising campaign of your own. Visit ourrescue.org on how to get started.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging From The Shadows

Emerging From The Shadows

 

Anna’s Life in Aftercare

The following story was written by one of the Operation Underground Railroad team members who oversees aftercare for the children it rescues. This is an update on a young girl O.U.R. rescued in Africa a little less than a year ago. She was just fourteen when she was raped, then kidnapped and eventually made a child bride. She was pregnant when O.U.R. rescued her and had the perpetrator arrested. He is currently serving time in jail for the crime.

Anna
There is no “one-size-fits-all” after a child is rescued from sexual slavery. However, when a survivor is provided resources, counseling and people who truly invest in one’s life you often see the birth of hope. This is the story of Anna, a young teenager who has been through the worst horrors that this life can produce, and yet, she has hope beyond understanding.

I last visited with Anna in December 2015. I got to see the infancy of hope in her as she sang Amazing Grace and told me that she wanted to do something with music when she got older but wasn’t sure what.

I could not be happier to report my most recent observations and interactions with Anna. She is not just surviving but is thriving in many areas. While “thriving” is defined very differently based on the individual, one thing is consistent; hope.

This visit I did not even make it back into the home before I saw her with a bright smile coming out to the patio. She walked with a confidence and glow that only comes when one is experiencing restoration.

Through generous donated gifts, O.U.R. was able to give Anna clothes, books, nail polish, puzzles, jewelry, and clothes and toys for her baby boy. Her gratefulness about the new items would inspire anyone to sacrifice a meal to provide her with things she can call “her own.” The true gift she said was, “Thank you! I feel loved.”

She kept looking at the different nail polishes, so I asked her if she was good at painting nails. Without missing a beat and with a huge smile on her face, she said, “Yes, I am very good at painting nails.” So, of course, any woman who hears this offers her unpainted nails to be used as practice. Anna graciously offered to paint my nails, but it wasn’t just “painting nails.” There was a beautiful pride she had as if communicating her feeling and belief that she has so much to give back to the world.

Uganda Aftercare 2

For all those who stand with us, I hope you know the gifts you give out of love are received not just as “items” but are also received with the same spirit of love. While we are a world apart, we are yet united in love through the healing process of restored hope.

O.U.R. also had the privilege of spending quality time building a relationship with Anna, her baby, and one of the social workers at the center by taking them out to eat at the local mall. Anna stated that she had never been to the mall.

When we all arrived, Anna’s eyes were so big as she looked around at all the different stores. When asked where she wanted to eat, she confidently pointed toward the restaurant on the second floor. She is showing so much growth, finding strength to express her desire with confidence that her opinions matter.

Over lunch Anna shared that she was excited about going back to school in a few weeks. Anna also stated she had a better idea of what she wanted to do after she graduated from secondary (high school). She hopes to become a businesswoman, open a music studio and incorporate being a DJ within her business.

I observed that Anna has grown so much over the last couple of months through the care she is receiving at the aftercare center in Africa. She still has a long journey ahead of her and obstacles to overcome. However, what if no one had come to rescue her?

O.U.R. has been blessed to rescue so many children around the world from the horrors of sexual slavery; but if O.U.R. was created just for this one precious life, it has all been worth it. Anna has hope for her future and believes she will accomplish her dreams. She is truly an inspiration to all of us to invest in the lives of others.

To help “Anna” and others like her please go to OURrescue.org

 

Operation Mundo Nuevo

Operation Mundo Nuevo

26 Children Rescued in the Dominican Republic – 8 Arrested

Boys and Girls ages 12-17

Sometimes you see it in their faces.  Sometimes they give nothing away.  But for one unique soul, an unusual clue saved her from a miserable life of prostitution; she spoke broken Spanish with a Creole accent.

“There was just something about her that didn’t look quite right,” observed Tim Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) Founder and CEO.  She was a “working girl” but didn’t look like she belonged there. This immediately put the Jump Team on high alert.

Maria telling her story to Tim Ballard
Maria telling her story to Tim Ballard

O.U.R. was working under “deep cover” to set up the next rescue. One of Ballard’s operatives approached her and hired her for the night to see what they could find out. When they got to the hotel room, he told her they were not going to have sex. Instead, he wanted her to tell him everything she knew.  “She broke down and told her story,” said Ballard.

She was from Haiti (we will call her Maria). She lost both her parents at age 12 during a huge earthquake. A motherly woman found her hungry and alone, having nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  She offered the 12-year-old a home and safety if she would come with her to the Dominican Republic, which she did. But, instead of a safe refuge, she ended up in a nightmare, chained to the wall with other young girls and offered for sex to anyone willing to pay the traffickers who had bought her from the woman.

Eventually this hell-hole in the D.R. was raided by police, but traffickers got the young girl out before the police could get to her. They then took her to another town and set her up in a new prostitution ring.  In fact, she was sold three times between the ages of 12 and 14.

Her childhood was over.  Life as a prostitute became the norm. Today, she is no longer a girl in servitude but knows no other way to survive.  When the O.U.R. Jump Team found her in the D.R., she was on her own, making a living doing the only thing she knew how.  But, with her help, O.U.R . was able to set up a sting just a few days ago and rescue 25 boys and girls ages 12 to 17 being used for prostitution, the majority of which were between the ages of 12 and 14.  Their stories are yet to be told. “ It’s so fresh. Details are still coming in, “ said Ballard.

arrest

As for Maria, her life is about to change.  Operation Underground Railroad is sending her out of the country to an organization called “Breaking Chains.” They offer a 90-day program that helps heal both the physical and spiritual soul of an abused person such as Maria. Ballard said, “We’re going to invest in her and help her start running a business. We give micro loans. We’ll find out what she’s good at and then help her get started.  The 90-day program ends with some kind of future where they (rescued adults) can sustain themselves.”

Maria’s story will be featured in an upcoming documentary now in production about Tim Ballard and the Jump Team called The Abolitionists which is being funded by private investors and is planned for a theatrical release early next year. For more information on the documentary, please refer to the article in the O.U.R. Blog entitled The Abolitionists.

Written by Cheryl L. Karr

Rescue Update: Operation Voo Doo Doll in Haiti

Rescue Update: Operation Voo Doo Doll in Haiti

The following are excerpts from an interview with Founder and CEO of  O.U.R. Tim Ballard on his recent visit to Haiti to check up on the 28 children he and the “Jump Team” rescued in February. 

Q: You just went to Haiti right and checked up on those children you rescued in February. Can you give us an update?

A: Yes. To see these kids, they’re totally happy now.  They were just shattered before, and now they’re not. After just two months there, we can see physically they’re getting fed.  They’re being taken care of. They’re licensed, and it’s a pretty nice facility where they’re at.

Q: Are there any of them that will be returned to their parents? 

A: No.  None of the parents have been found. In most cases, they probably wouldn’t be. But, we don’t know about all of them.  They’re still looking into some of them.  Half the kids went to one orphanage and half went to the other one. They’re (the orphanage) still looking into the whereabouts of the kids and a lot of it is still tied to the investigation which is still pending. The women are in jail still. That’s just part of the process.  So, we’ve had a lot of people interested in adopting these kids, so we’re working with adoption agencies, and there’re several families who really want to get these kids.

Q: I heard you were interested in adopting two of these children.  Can you tell me about that?

A: Yes. We’re one of those families.  The hold-up right now is that they’re tied up with the investigation so once there’s a sentencing of the women and the cases are over, the kids become adoptable. When I was down there, I met with the head officer who runs all adoptions in Haiti, a very high level person, and she was so gracious, and she knew exactly who we were and about the operation. She’s going to help us.  We consider adoption part of the rehab process, too, if we can get these kids into homes.

Q: So the child you’re holding in the picture, is he the one you want to adopt?

A. Yes,  him and his sister.

Q: And how old are they?

A: Three and four.

Q: And what is their story? I mean, where are their parents?

A: The story the traffickers gave us is that they are both dead.  They were killed in a murder/suicide, but that’s something they would say anyway.  That’s what they (law enforcement) are investigating right now. But unless they can find the parents, or find that there are no parents, or find the parents and they say that they can’t take care of them, then they are not adoptable. So right now they are working on tracking this.  And we’re still heavily involved with the operation in Haiti. We’re closing in on some of the traffic organizations.  That’s one of our next sting operations that we plan.

Q:  If someone wanted to adopt one of these children, what would they do?

A: I would send them to our web site at OURrescue.org and we can connect them with the adoption agencies.

Q: A lot of people ask what they can do to help.  Is this something you would like to see them do?

A: This is something we want to start a chain reaction with.  Do you want to help? Do you have space and means to take one of these kids in?

Q: Do they speak English or French?

A.  They speak Creole and a little French, maybe.  They learn English real fast.  Actually, in the place we have them, they teach them English.

Q: So the three women are in jail?

A: Actually, there are two.  The other woman is an undercover cop.

Q: What is the latest on that?

A: It’s in the judicial process.  They do hearings, and they’re investigating.

Q: Do you have to go back for any of that?

A: I might have to go back and testify.

Q: Do you have any upcoming rescues planned?

A: We have several, but we can’t really give any details.  We have one in Guatemala…We have two in Colombia we’re working on.  Another Haiti one.  And then we have several in Mexico that we’re working on.  

For more information or to help with the cause, please visit ourrescue.org

Interview by Cheryl L. Karr

Children Rescued from Prostitute Ring in Colombia

Children Rescued from Prostitute Ring in Colombia

Youngest Prostitute is Eleven Years Old

O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard recently returned from a rescue mission in Colombia in which he and the Jump Team rescued 26 children and five adults used in a prostitute ring.  The adult prostitutes were there mainly to keep the children in line. In the following interview Tim Ballard talks about the mission and how it all went down.

Q: What is your most memorable moment with the Colombia rescue?

A: There was this 11-year-old girl.  She was really afraid.  There were several of them but there was this one little girl, and she was just shattered. A lot of them were, but, she was wearing a T-shirt and basketball shorts, and she looked like she’d just walked out of junior high school. She was being controlled by one of the adult prostitutes. 

I was down with the traffickers, and she was down with the other kids.  There were 26 all together – minors. There were a couple of them that were, like, 11 and 12.  She just really stood out, and when they (traffickers) got them back into the party, she just hid into a corner in the back yard. She kind of became the face of the rescue. 

We didn’t get any contact with them after the takedown. I’m a bad guy (undercover) anyway.  If she ever saw me, she’d know me as a bad guy.  We had Lori Holden; she’s an actress on the TV show The Walking Dead. She came along with us.  She’s an ambassador for us and she was back with the girls. They came in, and her job, along with several others, was to keep them calm, especially when the takedown was happening. She identified these younger girls, and she actually connected with them, and she was hugging them and crying with them and telling them they’re free.  She actually got that experience, which was really cool. 

Q: How does an 11-year-old end up in this situation?

A: They’re just coerced by the traffickers.  They’ll go to them, either directly to them; or it’s some connection. Usually, the trafficker has an adult prostitute friend, and this will be the adult prostitute’s favor or some connection, like she’s in an impoverished family and sometimes the parents know something and sometimes they don’t know anything. But sometimes they know something, and they’re getting in on the take too, which is incredible to believe. 

Unfortunately, on this case-and I don’t blame them-they’re (law enforcement) really-tight lipped about sharing anything with us. We’re not in the “need-to-know” with these cases, what happened to each one of these girls, so they’re not going to tell us. That’s probably wise. So we don’t know.  But sometimes we do. 

We have operations where, because of the nature of where we’re working, we get to know indepth.  On this one we didn’t get to know the details. But that’s how they end up.  It’s poverty. They’re deceived. The families are deceived. They’re told one thing.  Sometimes the kids are taken to another place.  The traffickers were telling us, and we can’t get a confirmation on this, (maybe someday when it all comes out), but the trafficker told us one of the kids was from Mexico and had been kidnapped and smuggled from Mexico. So that happens a lot, too.  

They’ll go to a family and deceive the family, some poor Mexican family.  “We’re going to take your child to the capital.  To the city. She’s going to be a nanny for us, and she’s going to get paid, and she’s going to go to school, and she’ll call you every week.” The parents get $500, or something, and they take the girl, and instead of Mexico, they go to Columbia. And they never hear from her again. That happens a lot.  The traffickers were telling us one of the kids was that (kind of instance).  So the Colombian officials confirmed that, so they’re keeping all the information about the kids really tight-lipped.

Q: Isn’t part of what you do is rehabilitation?

A: Yes

Q: How can you do that if you don’t know their story?

A: Well, every case is different. In Haiti, we have access to the kids. In Colombia, we partnered with an organization called Renacer *. They are a non-profit organization that’s licensed with the country of Colombia and they actually take care of the kids.  They have beds there.  They have psychologists and educators and they’re there for as long as they need to be.

Q: So you just turn over the children to them?

A: Yes, (to) the Colombian officials after the arrest goes down.  And with good reason.  We never have possession of the kids. The Colombians always keep control, as they should. And they’ve already partnered with Renacer*, so they take the kids there. In other places, like Haiti, where there’s not an established relationship, we’ve found a rehab center, an orphanage, ahead of time, a couple of them.  So before our operation, we talked to the Haitian officials and said, “This is where the kids need to go. These are good licensed orphanages,”  and so they respected that and made sure those kids ended up there.

*Renacer is a foundation that cares for children and adolescents who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

For more information on Operation Underground Railroad, please visit us at https://www.ourrescue.org/

Interview by Cheryl L. Karr