Browsed by
Tag: O.U.R.

CrossFit O.U.R. 2016

CrossFit O.U.R. 2016

 

 

If you live in Utah, there’s a great and easy way for you to help support Operation Underground Railroad. Come work out with O.U.R. jump team members at CrossFit O.U.R. in Draper, Utah. Coach Drew Rykert will get you in shape in no time at all, and who knows, maybe you’ll even get to go on a rescue mission.

O.U.R. founder and CEO Tim Ballard personally chose Rykert to run the CrossFit O.U.R. gym due to his experience and commitment to O.U.R. Rykert was already running his own CrossFit affiliate where Ballard and other jump team members were previously working out. Soon both Rykert and his wife became jump team members and participated in several rescue missions.

“CrossFit O.U.R. is for everyone, says Rykert. “Since opening our doors, we’ve had all walks of life come through and that is just what we wanted. This has helped us grow organically and develop a culture where everyone knows your name.”

“Couples continue to be a strong addition and we have started an O.U.R. CrossFit KIDS/TEENS program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 4 pm. We also offer KID CARE at 9:30 am and YOGA at 7 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 7am on Saturdays. There is a FREE introductory session every Thursday at 6 am and 6 pm.

Many generous partners are supporting the O.U.R. gym as a means of consistent revenue including WODOmation, Bam Bams BBQ, HYLETE and Kill Cliff and we are extremely grateful to them.

CrossFit O.U.R.
CrossFit O.U.R. Gym

The 8,000 square feet gym was built with donations from private donors and includes a 70 foot Pull Up Rig, Olympic lifting equipment and the best coaches that are trained and certified.

CrossFit O.U.R. is a for-profit gym that started up last September with the intent of helping cover O.U.R.’s administrative costs. With over 100 members and climbing, it’s doing just that. “This way money that comes into Operation Underground Railroad for rescues missions can go directly to saving kids,” said O.U.R. COO Jerry Gowen. The ultimate goal for gym enrollment is 300 members.

Come get in shape and support the organization that rescues children from sex traffickers. CrossFit O.U.R. is located at 13648 S. 200 W. in Draper, Utah. For more information go to our website: CROSSFITOUR.COM

Written 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

 

After The Abolitionists Movie Premier

After The Abolitionists Movie Premier

 

Silence is not always golden. In fact, many injustices continue today because those who would fight against them are not aware they even exist. Such is the case with child sex trafficking and slavery – until now.

The feature-length documentary The Abolitionists premiered in theaters nation-wide May 16th, enlightening audiences who previously were blissfully unaware of this dark side of the world.

They now know that child sex slavery is one of the biggest plagues of our day and is growing by the minute. Sweet, innocent children, are kidnapped, sold, or tricked into becoming sex slaves and movie stars of pornographic videos. It is real. It is happening. And it needs to be stopped.

The Abolitionists is the story about a former CIA officer and HSI agent, Tim Ballard, who unwillingly became exposed to this dark side of humanity during his 12 years with the government.

It only took one rescue for Ballard to realize these children needed saving. Since then he has left government service and begun his own non-profit organization, Operation Underground Railroad, to rescue these children.

Movie theaters were sold out across the country for the premier. Some were bought by modern-day abolitionists who are doing what they can to help rescue these children. Other theaters, simply sold individual tickets. The Larry H. Miller Theaters donated all proceeds of the movie to O.U.R. for the rescuing of children – a very generous gift.

Current estimates put viewers at around 35,000 for the May 16th event. Exact figures are still coming in. Reactions have been inspiring. People have been shocked, saddened and amazed at what is happening to children around the world. Here are just a few of the comments from viewers:

“When I saw the movie The Abolitionists, I was heartbroken at just how many innocent children are being forced to be trafficked and forced to be sex slaves.” William Billiam

“Well done. Didn’t like the subject matter, but that’s why it made an impact. God bless this film and the light it is shining on human trafficking.” Helen Matter

“Very inspirational and informative for everyone. We really need to work together to stop human trafficking.” Melissa Peters

“As dark as the subject matter is, I love the hope and light that are fighting the darkness!” Jenn Foote

A movement has begun. Since the premier of the film on May 16th, volunteers are signing up with O.U.R. in record numbers to help rescue these children.

“It has been amazing to see the response of people after they have seen the film. They are motivated and ready to do all they can to put an end to this atrocity,” said O.U.R.’s National Volunteer Coordinator Jani Dix. “People are willing to give their time and talents and truly believe they need to be part of this solution. There is a lot of darkness in this world and you see that in the film, but there is also so much light and the O.U.R. volunteers are a testament of that.”

Since the premier of the film, over 550 volunteers have signed up to help O.U.R. fight this plague, bringing together an army of 1300 worldwide to rescue these children. And there is something everyone can do.

You don’t need to donate money to help, although that is a great way and very much needed. Many volunteers offer their talents to the cause. Some are helping by organizing events, some are writing articles or giving presentations that spread the word. We encourage you to help in whatever way you can, because once you know this is going on, it is very difficult to do nothing.

Helen Keller once said, “I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Tim Ballard saw something wrong and is doing what he can to right it. “My goal is to eradicate this heinous crime all around the world. That may take some time, but I believe we can do it.”

What will you do to help? Visit our website at ourrescue.org to discover the many ways you can make a difference.

If you have not been able to see the movie, The Abolitionists yet, you can request it to play at your local theater by inquiring at  http://theabolitionistsmovie.com/contact/.

Standing Shoulder To Shoulder In Cambodia

Standing Shoulder To Shoulder In Cambodia

By Caleb Larkin

In Asia alone, there are approximately 13.5 million human sex trafficking victims according to the U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report” (July 2015, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf). The U.S. State Department also estimates about two-thirds of all human trafficking victims worldwide reside in Asia. One organization located at the heart of the issue in Cambodia is working to change those numbers and save lives.

“One girl is too many. One day is too long.” is a motto that Agape International Missions (AIM – http://agapewebsite.org/) lives by. Operation Underground Railroad established a recent partnership with AIM to provide resources, such as funding and training. In 2016 alone, AIM and O.U.R.’s joint efforts have already led to five rescue operations with 22 victims rescued and seven traffickers arrested.

AIM, which has been fighting sex trafficking since 2005, has rescued 539 victims and estimates it has had an immediate impact on over 10,000 people by rescuing, restoring and reintegrating victims, as well as, directly preventing sex slavery in Cambodia.

Ashleigh Allard has been the Development Coordinator at AIM since October 2015. “I don’t think I understood the gravity of the issue before working with AIM. It’s hard to calculate the number of children who are being trafficked for sex,” she said. “We’ve rescued girls as young as four years old. Hearing that would break anyone’s heart.”

“Operation Bullhorn” was the most recent mission where O.U.R. provided training and funding for AIM’s rescue. On March 29th, AIM’s rescue team freed six minors and three adults in a massage parlor front for human trafficking. Phnom Penh’s Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Services arrested one trafficker in the raid on the parlor in the Kendall province in Cambodia. After a two-week undercover operation, AIM uncovered evidence that indicated the parlor manager was selling the children for sex. AIM has since relocated the six minors to a rehabilitation center to assist in the recovery process.

Allard explained the partnership with O.U.R. provides AIM with resources and support to enhance their ability to conduct recovery operations in Cambodia. “The rescue side of what AIM does aligns with O.U.R.’s mission,” she said. “O.U.R. helps provide the funds for raids.” This partnership is vital to O.U.R. in expediting our ability to connect with the existing law enforcement, aftercare, and community to enhance their role in eradicating sex trafficking locally.

The goal of O.U.R. is not to liberate every child ourselves, but to empower those agencies already doing great work. O.U.R. is able to enhance their tools and resources so they can have a larger impact and rescue more children while arresting and prosecuting traffickers.  O.U.R. consistently works with law enforcement so that the traffickers can be arrested through proper legal channels.

AIM’s goal focuses on four main areas: prevention, rescue, restoration, and reintegration. The organization has set up 12 different programs all focusing on some aspect of their goal. AIM owns and operates two transitional homes. These homes focus on victims 18 and older to find employment, receive counseling and “get back on a good trajectory for a successful life.”

In addition to their transitional homes, AIM owns three employment centers to help victims reintegrate and promote prevention of human trafficking through sustainable jobs. “One of these employment centers employs members of the community known for generational sex trafficking. Providing sustainable jobs breaks the cycle of exploitation,” Allard said. AIM also owns a retail store, Made, to help fund their efforts, an emergency family care center, an elementary school, and a gym called The Lord’s Gym, which focuses on kickboxing, allowing men to come in and train. Allard explained this key to help in prevention; to get men and others involved in a different cause, one that appeals to them such as kickboxing.

The Lord’s Gym is a preventative measure to help keep those who may be susceptible to evils of sex trafficking, on the right track and away from desperate and terrible mistakes. AIM feels it’s vital to get involved with the community before sex trafficking seeps into an individual’s life in order to complete eradicate sex trafficking.

“Brandon”, the director of regional operations with O.U.R., works closely with AIM’s operations in Cambodia. Brandon praised AIM’s efforts not only on their rescues, but also on the rehabilitation side. “AIM is very focused on the rehabilitation process,” he said. “They have a Muay Thai fight school. It’s a very good connection to the locals and helps in that rehabilitation process. AIM does a really good job of helping the victims go to the communities where they come from.”

Brandon, with a 20-year military background in special ops, as well as a Master’s degree in forensics and training by the Department of Defense in Trafficking in Persons, recognizes the strength a partnership with AIM gives to combating sex trafficking in Cambodia. “O.U.R. really wouldn’t have been able to work in Cambodia without this partnership,” he said.

“It would take years of work to establish ourselves in Cambodia, but when we partner with an organization, we can get the work done more quickly.” He also explained that the funds O.U.R. provides to AIM equates to a fraction of the cost to send jump team members there in just airfare and hotel cost. Brandon feels the partnership helps cut costs and allows O.U.R. to work with AIM instead of “reinventing the wheel.”

With the five joint operations in 2016 with AIM, Brandon has seen the benefits of working together towards a common goal. From first establishing the connection with AIM, to the most recent success with “Operation Bullhorn,” Brandon continues to play a vital role in providing training and funding to AIM’s effort to curb the human trafficking infection in Southeast Asia.

How can people get involved?

One way that people can get involved is being educated on the issue. There are organizations all over the world that are combating this issue. We all are capable of fighting the issue, using the talents, abilities and skills we already possess. Allard feels that people need to find a niche they are passionate about and follow it. “No matter where you live, there is likely an organization that is fighting human trafficking,” she said. “Just being aware of the issue, however, isn’t enough. We need people who are willing to act.”

Sex Sting Nabs Alleged Child Predators

Sex Sting Nabs Alleged Child Predators

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 in the Appealdemocrat.com

By Monica Vaughan/mvaughan@appealdemocrat.com

The child sex sting that led to a Yuba City planning commissioner’s arrest and subsequent resignation was part of a months-long, resource-intensive operation that resulted in criminal charges filed against five other men.

The most recent arrests were Tuesday night, when two men were hancuffed and questioned after they separately showed up at a meeting location where they presumably planned to have sex with 9- and 14-year-old girls.

“They’re predators in our community. They’re looking for kids to have sex with. Grown men are looking for children to have sex with,” said Jason Parker, chief investigator at the Sutter County Districk Attorney’s Office, which is coordinating the stings.

“When we set operations up, we know these guys are out there. Our goal is to go after them.”

While similar stings have been conducted across the country for years, this is the first sting in Yuba-Sutter to focus on child sex crimes. It was created and led by District Attorney Amanda Hopper, with support from the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, the Yuba City Police Department and an outside organization, Operation Underground Railroad.

“Much of public safety is reacting to crime after it occurs. This operation was proactive,” Hopper told the AppealDemocrat in her first public statements about the operation.

Men who were arrested in the Sutter County stings are accused of reaching out to what they believe to be people offering children for sex. They allegedly clearly communicated what they would do with the minors, and showed up at a pre-arranged meeting, presumably with the intent to rape or molest children.

Defense attorneys representing men arrested in the stings, who were contacted by the Appeal-Democrat, said they were not yet familiar enough with the operation to provide a statement.

While the sting operation is seemingly bait to trap would-be perpetrators, Deputy District Attorney Clint Curry said it isn’t entrapment.

“A person is entrapped if a law enforcement officer engages in conduct that would cause a normally law-abiding person to commit that crime,” Curry said. “It’s an objective test. It doesn’t matter subjectively what’s in the suspect’s mind. It looks at behavior of the government agent.”

In this operation, detectives don’t offer people any motivation or reason to come to the meeting, he said. For example, he said, they don’t say “If you have sex with this child, she will be freed from slavery.”

Staff from Operation Underground Railroad assisted the agencies in implementing the plan.

“We’re a small rural community with limited resources,” Hopper said. “Operation Underground Railroad provided the support, experience and education and resources that we would not otherwise have.”

“One of the things the District Attorney’s Office agrees with Operation Underground Railroad in, is the need to educate people about how real child sexual exploitation is, and that it’s here and it’s everywhere.”

Each operation required hours of commitment from officers in three law enforcement agencies, Hopper said.

Details were not immediately available about how much staff time the operation cost.

“Every person there (Tuesday) had already worked full days and nights, and then more days. They put in the hours because they wanted to, because they had the opportunity to do good for Sutter County and to protect its children,” Hopper said.

Sheriff J. Paul Parker said it’s “absolutely” worth it for four or five of his deputies to work flex time or overtime to participate.

While most arrests of suspected sexual predators are made after a victim comes forward, the crimes the men caught in this sting operation allegedly committed have no real victims.

“It’s cheaper to intercept (these crimes) before they occur than after they occur,” he said.

After a sex crime has been committed against a child, “you have a victim, someone who has been traumatized for the rest of their life. How do you put a monetary value on that? You can’t.” This (operation) is a fiscally conservative approach,” Parker said. I think it’s been very successful.”

The suspects

The seven arrested men don’t seem to share any traits aside from their gender.

“We’ve seen 18-years-old, 50-years-old, economically well-to-do and we’ve seen dirt poor. We’ve seen different racial groups represented,” said Deputy District Attorney Clint Curry. “The only thing they have in common is they have a penis.”

Aside from Ivin Rhyne Jr., a former Yuba City planning commissioner who works with the California Energy Commission, most of the men caught in the sting live in the Sacramento Valley, but outside of Yuba-Sutter.

Jeffery M. Albo, 50 from Washington state, told investigators he was in the area as a contractor for three weeks at Beale Air Force Base.

Albo and Timothy L. Neher, 40, were arrested Tuesday evening, after they separately showed up at different times at the meeting location. Both are married with children, according to court documents.

Charges filed against them in Sutter County Superior Court on Thursday include felonies for attempting to perform sexual acts with a child and for arranging and appearing at a meeting with the intent to perform sex acts with a child. The most serious count is punishable by night years in prison.

Law enforcement officials involved in the operation say the men are predators, and the operation allows those men to be weeded out. The point was argued Thursday during Albo’s arraignment in front of Judge Christopher Chandler.

Although Albo has no criminal history, “This is the kind of crime that happens in secret,” Curry said. “It takes a lot of resources for law enforcement to ferret out.”

Albo’s attorney, Chris Carlos, argued Albo has never been arrested, and it’s “not appropriate to say he might have something out there. (He has) no criminal history.”

Assuming Albo did what officers say he did, “he made a mistake,” Carlos told the judge.

How it works

Each sting operation requires weeks of preparation. From start to finish, some 20 officers are involved.

“Every cop who works these goes, ‘This is what law enforcement is about. This is what I always wanted to do’,” Parker said.

On Tuesday evening, more than a dozen detectives gathered at a remote location to await the arrival of a suspect. Undercover officers posed to meet the suspect, as clearly armed officers on arrest teams waited nearby, prepared to cuff the suspect after a signal was communicated.

The suspect said he would meet at the spot when he left work.

In the days leading to the meeting, he and a few other men communicate with an undercover detective who claimed to have access to children available for sexual acts. There was no discussion of an exchange of money, only an interest in sex with children.

Audio and video surveillance was wired in the meeting location, which officers observed in a nearby room.

“Our hopes would be that we set up an operation and have no one respond,” Parker said.

That hasn’t been the case. At least on arrest has been made each of the five times detectives set up a location. On several occasions, men have expressed interest and arranged a meeting but never showed up.

“That’s not a bad thing,” Hopper said. “If they are legitimately hesitant about raping children, I want them to back out.”

The first target suspect on Tuesday did not back out. As soon as he arrive, he was arrested. During a search, officers found in his possession condoms and a bottle lubricant, Parker said.

He gave short answers.

Detectives off-site listened to the interview through a baby monitor.

After he was driven away to be booked into Sutter County Jail, detectives stayed on site and prepared for the next suspect’s arrival.

Arrested and charged

David Ignacio Chavarin, 33 of North Highlands.

Nicolas Davide Brown, 26, of Oroville.

Howard Montenegro, 44 of Sacramento.

Timothy Leroy Neher, 40 Chico.

Jeffery Michael Albo, 50, of Edmonds, Wash.

Professional baseball player observes sting

Former White Sox baseball player Adam LaRoche was present with Sutter County law enforcement officers to observe a child sex sting operation on Tuesday evening.

“After my experience overseas, I went on a quest to find out more about trafficking. That’s when I cam in contact with Operation Underground Railroad and was invited to Sutter County,” LaRoache said in statement provided to the Appeal-Democrat.

“Everyone who was present in Tuesday’s operation has an interest in protecting children,” said Sutter Coutny District Attorney Amanda Hopper, whose office coordinated the sting.

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? #Rescue 500

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? #Rescue 500

Total To Date: 529 Rescued – 182 Arrested
(2014-2016 )

In April 2016 O.U.R. hit the 500 mark for the number of rescues of victims of sex trafficking. Far more than its founder, Tim Ballard, was able to accomplish in the 10 years he worked with Homeland Security rescuing children from sex traffickers.

Currently O.U.R. is averaging four to five rescues per month. The exact number of victims rescued as of this writing is 529, but Ballard will tell you it’s not the numbers that count. “We are action focused,” said Ballard. The quantifiable numbers show our progress, but they only tell a part of the story.”

One of the most important areas of success can’t really be measured. It is the deterrent effect. And that is the result of catching traffickers and pedophiles before they can get to their targets.

“There are children out there right now who will never be trafficked because the people that would have trafficked them are in jail,” said Ballard. “And they don’t even know they would have been trafficked because it never happened. You can’t measure that.”

The second deterrent is the fear of getting caught. With O.U.R.’s successes, many traffickers are now afraid to sell children where O.U.R. has been operating, and pedophiles are afraid to buy them. O.U.R.’s jump team verified this recently when returning to areas where they had previously conducted stings, working undercover, trying to buy children. The traffickers informed them that it is now very dangerous and they will no longer sell children. This is the goal O.U.R. hopes to replicate all over the world.

Operation Underground Railroad first began rescuing children two and a half years ago in developing countries where resources are limited and children are most vulnerable due to poverty and cultural issues. O.U.R. always works within the law and with law enforcement in a public/private partnership that is resulting in a very successful model.

Law enforcement in the United States is taking notice of O.U.R.’s impressive record in these developing countries and some areas of the country are now partnering with O.U.R. to help supplement their meager budgets since O.U.R. does not charge for their services.

To date O.U.R. has helped law enforcement in the U.S. rescue eight children and arrest 47 potential pedophiles. And according to O.U.R.’s COO Jerry Gowen, the arrests are the number we should be paying attention to because for every pedophile taken off the streets, numerous children will never be violated.

O.U.R. is leveraging technology to help eradicate pornography and shine a light on the problem of child sex abuse in the United States as well as other countries. “We’re helping rescue children in so many ways,” said Gowen. As we get more resources we’ll do even more.” O.U.R. is currently operating in Southeast Asia, South, Central and North America and The Caribbean with the goal of one day eliminating child sex trafficking all over the globe.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Aftercare with O.U.R.

Aftercare with O.U.R.

Editor’s Note: The following description of Operation Underground Railroad’s Aftercare program is written by the director of aftercare for O.U.R. and is intended to give you an idea of how O.U.R is helping the children it rescues. 

The keyword in Operation Underground Railroad Aftercare truly is “Collaboration”.

We are committed to the journey of supporting survivors in their healing process. At this time, O.U.R. has found the most effective model is partnering, empowering and supporting in-country organizations, safe homes and aftercare centers.

Through collaboration we have been able to support the care of survivors far beyond what we would have been able to do on our own. In order to be most effective, we believe that people who have already invested years in the country are the experts and understand the culture far greater than those who do not live there. It is the desire of O.U.R. Aftercare that we come in with a servant’s heart and an empowering spirit.

Aftercare also works directly in collaboration with the O.U.R. Jump Team and government officials to communicate the needs and potential aftercare centers for children. We then assist in the communication to the center about upcoming rescues and the predicted needs, such as additional social workers and medical professionals in-country.

It is the current practice of O.U.R. Aftercare that before an operation, we build partnerships with in-country aftercare centers that will be able to provide quality holistic care through the healing process of the trauma of trafficking. We believe in ensuring that a survivor has the resources to receive as much aftercare services as needed. We also continue to build on the generous support of individuals and corporations to increase the amount of humanitarian aid and aftercare assistance from O.U.R.

Due to the generous support of many individuals and partnerships, we are also able to provide humanitarian aid based on the need and specific request of the aftercare center. We believe in providing strategic humanitarian aid that is empowering to the center’s short and long term goals.

Summary:

We believe that established, vetted aftercare centers are the experts in their country and we are servants. Servants that believe in empowering dreams, visions and hope for each survivor’s future. United we stand in the fight against human trafficking and the healing process of victims that become thriving survivors.

RIDE THE RAILROAD: Charity Bike Ride

RIDE THE RAILROAD: Charity Bike Ride

By Donovan Baltich

Mark never imagined himself sitting across the table from a CEO and executives of a major corporation — at least, not until after he graduated from high school.

But that’s just how far the 17-year-old from Irvine, California was willing to go to raise money and awareness for Operation Underground Railroad’s mission. Mark Tenney’s campaign, “Ride the Railroad,” has been in development for a year and will kick off this July. With a goal of raising $250,000, it is well on its way with $96,000 pledged thus far.

Mark and his brother met O.U.R. founder Tim Ballard when he came to the Tenney’s house for dinner and to share O.U.R.’s mission. “My brother and I were just so impressed — what a self-less job, rescuing kids. We wanted to help out by telling all our friends about it,” Mark said. “We always thought about how we could raise money for this organization, but I’m not in a position to donate a large sum of money myself.”

The Tenneys are a family of cyclists — and living in Irvine, they know many other cyclists. Mark came up with the idea to have a 450-mile bicycle race down the coast of California, from Santa Cruz to Laguna, during the week of July 26–30.

But individual contributions wouldn’t be enough to reach a quarter-of-a-million in funds for rescuing kids, so Mark reached out to corporations for sponsorships.

“The first time I met with a potential corporate sponsor, it was with Golden State Foods, and I was really intimidated sitting across from the CEO and other executives, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you become,” he said.

“Ride the Railroad” won’t start for another two months, hopefully allowing the campaign to pick up its final contributions to reach its goal, which would fund five separate missions at $50,000 a piece.

“It will all be worth it — all the hard work and time we’ve done — is all worth it, and I’m excited to see it happen,” Mark said.

Mark’s mother, Elizabeth Tenney, estimates her family has put in more than 1,000 hours preparing for the “Ride the Railroad” campaign, and Mark alone, five–ten hours a week. O.U.R.’s mission has affected every member of the Tenney family. “The people involved in O.U.R. are so special. They’re not just good people; they’re exceptionally good people,” Elizabeth said.

Anyone can make a difference; Mark is proof of that. You can follow his lead by starting your own campaign or supporting someone else’s. Since September 2014, 92 abolitionists have created campaigns, and they’ve raised $299,020.73 through YourRescue.org.

Raising money for Operation Underground Railroad has never been easier with the launch of YourRescue.org site. On the page, you can start your own campaign or browse dozens of others to get involved in.

The possibilities for your own campaign are endless: from dance parties at Cal State Fullerton to collecting donations at your band’s shows. One community in Bountiful, Utah hosted a silent auction, a race and an event night with Tim Ballard, raising more than $100,000.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN YOURrescue CAMPAIGN

Whether big or small, follow these eight tips to create an impactful YOURrescue Campaign.

1. Make the first donation. Listen: you can get the momentum going before you’ve even written your first fund request. Donate to the cause you believe in to get the ball rolling.

2. Send out emails. Your friends are dying to get something more meaningful in their inbox. They are good people who are happy to help. Send out personalized emails to the people you know before reaching out to the people you don’t. Just take two paragraphs to explain your cause, your goals and how they can donate to your campaign. Link to O.U.R. pages and stories that moved you. Don’t be afraid to follow up, and make sure to say thank you for every donation.

3. Announce your campaign via social media. We love social media! Let everyone on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram know what you’re doing and how they can help. Here are 140 characters to help you get started: Children all over the world are ensnared in the horrors of human trafficking. We can change that. Join my campaign: (link to your campaign here.)

4. Reach out to your inner circle. Call, email and send notes to your mom, dad, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and that kindergarten teacher you’ve kept in touch with for three decades. They are interested in your cause and will want to help you make a difference.

5. Utilize grassroots marketing. Call your local newspaper, local news station and local radio shows. Ask them how you can work together to raise awareness.

6. Do giveaways. Approach local businesses to see if they will donate to your campaign.

For example, do you know someone who makes the most amazing holiday wreaths? Ask them to give one wreath to every person who donates more than $50. Your giveaways will publicize the products of the participating business while also giving incentives for more donations.

7 Have fun. Your campaign can be a blast! Hold fundraising events that you’d want to be a part of even if you weren’t involved in planning them; get your friends involved, hold bake sales, or sell vintage clothing in pop-up shops. Use this as an opportunity to get creative while making a difference.

8 Remember, no matter how much you raise – from $5 to $50,000 – you are using your time to help children. We are grateful and they are grateful and you’ve made a meaningful difference.

THE ABOLITIONISTS: MAKING THE MOVIE

THE ABOLITIONISTS: MAKING THE MOVIE

Editor’s Note: This story was originally written during the making of the film. Portions have been updated to reflect the completion of the movie.

__________________________

Imagine being right there with the Jump Team when they rescue the guarded children who are being used as pawns in a sick game of sex. Imagine seeing the startled faces of the depraved men as they are being arrested for prostituting them. Or, perhaps you’d like to go undercover and play the “bad guy” who is buying the innocents.

It may not be possible for you to witness any of these things first hand, but a film crew is following the people who do it all, and have now turned it into a major motion picture called The Abolitionists. This Monday, you will have a front row seat to all these experiences “up close and personal.”

FletChet Entertainment owners Darrin Fletcher and Chet Thomas have been working with Operation Underground Railroad, documenting O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard’s every move as he finds the children, works with officials, and has the bad guys arrested.

“Our goal was to make it as cinematic as possible. We wanted this to feel like you are part of the team. You’re literally going to see it up close. It’s gritty and it’s real and sad and heroic,” said Fletch of FletChet Entertainment.

The Abolitionists Film Crew in Nicaragua
The Abolitionists Film Crew in Nicaragua

Safety is always a concern for the Jump Team as well as the camera crew. “It doesn’t feel dangerous when you’re out there but when you’re back, it looks a lot more dangerous,” observed Fletch. Security dictates what the film crew can and cannot do. They use about 20 small Contour cameras that are attached to guns, helmets, hats, and hidden in rooms.

It’s not infrequent to go to places where they get patted down so they also use Pocket Cinema Cameras that work well in low light and blend in, making the film crew look more like tourists than documentarians. So far, they’ve used the cameras in Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and the United States with great success.

The “star” of the show is Tim Ballard, owner and founder of Operation Underground Railroad. It’s pretty much his journey of saving kids. Fletch says he is the perfect host and could make it in Hollywood if he wanted to. Fortunately for all, he’d rather be helping children.

According to Fletch, if there were a second star of the film it would be “Batman.” No, not THAT Batman. It’s a code name for a very unassuming man who helps O.U.R. find traffickers. Fletch describes him as one who is very comfortable everywhere he goes.

“I don’t know how he does it. He goes into these places and I can’t look. I look at the ground. Then I think I have to start looking because I’m drawing attention to myself. I look up and he’s right at home. Just at ease working undercover arranging buying little girls.”

Batman was telling a story that was so disturbing that I cut my camera. Chet cut his camera. You don’t see any graphic images. It’s all very clean, except for your mind’s eye in that moment.

san pedro

In Cartagena the film crew stumbles upon a beautiful cathedral and sends Chet, with his “sliver tongue” to find out what it’s all about and see if they can film inside. He comes back with a 93-year-old priest who gives them a tour of San Pedro Clavier Cathedral.

Inside is a glass coffin of San Pedro. It is the perfect backdrop for filming the meeting between the priest and Tim Ballard. The priest says Cartagena was the corner pin for bringing slaves to America and that San Pedro would see the slaves arrive and go and smile at them so they would at least see one friendly face.

“It’s a great story. There are really great stories about heroes who, in their own right, should be abolitionists,” said Fletch. The irony of the former slaves and today’s trafficked children is not lost on the film crew.

To ensure the quality of the film, Chet and Fletch enlisted Academy Award winner Jerry Molen as Executive Producer, someone Chet has worked with for many years. Molen may be best known for working with Stephen Spielberg on Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and The Minority Report.

Fletch says that although Jerry comes from an executive level, he is very much involved in the making of the film. “Once we had a cut that we’re happy with, Jerry would watch it and give us some notes and we would implement those. He’s also very well connected so his name still calls down a lot of power.”

And they’re all hoping that power and quality of work will win the film some attention and notoriety; not for them so much as to shine a light on the issue of child trafficking which will hopefully create more awareness and fund more rescues.

Funding for the film has come from private investors so as not to take any funds away from those who are rescuing the children. The Abolitionists will be released in 600 movie theaters across the United States this Monday, May 16th.

In making the film Fletch has discovered a disturbing truth. “I’ve learned people will do anything for money and there are good people and bad people everywhere. In our film we make a very strong attempt to ensure that the countries we’re in don’t look bad. We make very sure that there’s also a good story in the place where we go.”

Operation Underground Railroad is now hoping this movie will start a movement that will cause people to rise up and help rescue these children from slavery. Everyone can become an abolitionist.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

The Abolitionists‘ website

The Abolitionists: Movie Trailer

Buy Movie Tickets here

Operation Whale Watch

Operation Whale Watch

 

Latin America

Rescued 24     Arrested 5

 

Operation Whale Watch was a high-risk mission that Operation Underground Railroad’s ops leader felt was worth the risk. And he was right.

Twenty-four young women were rescued in this operation in Latin America. Only one was a minor. But that one minor is key in the potential punishment of the five traffickers. Because of that 16-year-old girl, they are now facing 15-30 years in prison. That’s a good day’s work.

The mission went pretty much as planned, but was considered high risk for several reasons. First, these traffickers were professionals. They knew what they were doing and they had been doing it for a long time. They were organized, connected, and well prepared to deal with whatever came along. “This was a sophisticated crime ring. The real deal,” said the ops leader. “These guys controlled the drugs and the women, creating heightened security risks.”

Second, they were armed. O.U.R.’s advance team had done their homework and knew these thugs usually packed heat. “The head guy was armed,” said the ops leader. “He carried a pistol on his left hip.” On the other hand, O.U.R.’s jump team members’ weapons are more imperceptible, in that they are highly trained on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. All these assets are top notch and have served them well.

Third, some of the local police were less than trustworthy. “He had the local police in his control, ” said the ops leader. “We believe this guy had the local police on his payroll.” In order to vet out such situations, O.U.R. works closely with the U.S. Embassy and the federal government of whatever country they are operating in. “They always support us from afar,” said the ops leader. In this particular location, they knew some of the local police had been compromised.

This vital information came from O.U.R.’s advance team, which scouted out the area first to determine if there were traffickers and evaluate the potential danger. Their mission was paid for by specific donors who understood they were taking a risk also. If the intelligence didn’t pan out, the donor money would not result in a rescue. Fortunately, for both, it was a big score.

The green light was given. The operation was a go! The jump team assembled and developed a plan with the country’s federal law enforcement for a sting operation. Security is always a consideration, but in this particular operation O.U.R. brought in their top people due to the previously gathered intelligence. Nothing would be overlooked.

OP Whale Watch Beech Party

A house was rented and a birthday party planned as a cover for having a lot of girls gathering in one place. They didn’t want to alarm the neighbors or cause undo suspicion. Prior to the party, cameras were hidden around the room. This video would be useful later on for prosecution purposes as well as telling O.U.R.’s story.

The Latin American authorities of this country were involved every step of the way. Some of their law enforcement people were placed as waiters at the party, partly as a precaution for safety and partly to help when it came time to arrest the traffickers. Others were waiting from a distance and would move in once the signal was given.

Operation Underground Railroad’s ops leader was instructed by law enforcement officials that when he made the payment to the traffickers he was to be sure to count out the money in front of the girls so that they could later testify about the money. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

The girls started arriving at the party. It was clear to the ops team that many of them were reluctant to be there. In fact, they had overheard the traffickers telling the Madam, “You have to force the girls to be there.”

Negotiations never seem to go smoothly. When there is a lot of money involved and the stakes are high, emotions run high too. “They were trying to get the maximum price from us for the girls,” said the team leader. “They believed we were stupid tourists. They were trying to get $1000 U.S. per girl. That is the highest price we’ve been charged. Normally it’s between $200 to $300. One thousand dollars is the price of a virgin. And they lied to us saying many were under age.”

The mark of a true professional, however, is how they handle issues when things don’t go as planned. One group of girls was late to the party due to traffic. A decision had to be made. Do we go ahead and take down the traffickers with what we have or wait until all can be at the party? The O.U.R. ops leader determined it was too dangerous to wait. He moved forward with the transaction and pulled out the money, making sure the girls could see it.

The trafficker had a different idea. He did not want the girls to see the money. It was obvious to O.U.R. that he was planning on taking a larger cut than what he had promised the girls and he didn’t want them to know how much he was selling them for. A compromise was made and a bargain struck.

A drink sealed the deal and the signal was given. Forty-five seconds later the police stormed in. “It seemed like 45 minutes to me,” said the ops leader. “This guy did not have a weapon, but when the police broke in, he reached for a weapon he normally carries in his left hip, but he didn’t have it.” O.U.R. had warned him previously that he would be searched when he came to the party and he had chosen not to bring the pistol he normally carried. Unknown to him, O.U.R. had two of its own flank him on either side, just in case he had managed to sneak something in. He wasn’t going to get away with anything.

Everyone was arrested; even O.U.R.’s jump team. That’s how they manage to keep their cover. O.U.R. had also arranged for a couple of social workers to be there to help with the girls following the arrests. “They were sad, crying, and scared when the police came in,” said the ops leader, “but the social workers quickly helped them to feel safe.” The 16-year-old was taken to a shelter where O.U.R. will be able to follow up with her care and get her the help that she needs. She has since been returned to her family, but O.U.R. will continue to monitor her progress. So far, none of the adult women have chosen to take advantage of the shelter but that could change.

As for the group of latecomers, it is unknown what happened to them, but it is believed that there is still a ringleader out there somewhere who was very lucky this day. “The boss may still be out there and we’re looking for him,” said O.U.R.’s ops leader.” The government will be looking for him as well. His days are numbered.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr