For many of us living in the United States, the idea of human trafficking happening in our corner of the world seems hard to believe. Sadly though, this issue is just as pervasive here in the U.S., as in places like South East Asia and Eastern Europe.
Human trafficking touches every part of the globe, from small villages in Africa, to major cities like Bangkok or London, and upper middle class cities in America.
We may have watched Liam Neeson in the movie, Taken, busting down doors to rescue his daughter who was captured and about to be sold into the sex trade, and wish we could channel that heroism and go fight some bad guys. Well, I’m sure for most of us that may not be the best idea.
So, what do we do?
When an issue like human trafficking is discussed with moving PowerPoint presentations that list staggering statistics and tragic stories that fill your heart with every type of emotion, what often ends up happening is that since we cannot do everything, we end up doing nothing.
What I’ve learned over the past five years, and especially in my two years working for The A21 Campaign, is that our influence and power to make a difference starts with each individual person affecting their particular corner of the world with the passion and knowledge they’ve received.
So, here starts the story of one powerhouse organization that started with a few simple people who’s hearts were wrecked by the injustices of human trafficking, and knew that with one small step after another, those who were enslaved could be set free.
Christine Caine, a Greek native who grew up in Australia is a powerhouse evangelist who travels more than 300 days out of the year sharing the gospel. With her own personal story of abuse and restoration, her heart was deeply moved roughly eight years ago when she was traveling in Greece and was shocked to see poster after poster of missing girls all of different ages and ethnicities.
After doing some research, she discovered that Greece was one of the major hubs for human trafficking. Since prostitution is legal, and the legal system is riddled with corruption, Greece has served as the gateway to and from Eastern Europe, shuffling women, men, and children through the sex trade.
Now knowing what she did, she knew she couldn’t walk away and do nothing.
A friend of Christine’s, Phil Hyldgaard, was 23 years old at that time. Armed with nothing more than the knowledge of these atrocities and the passion to make a difference, he set out for Thessaloniki, Greece.
Phil was met with intense resistance from the police force and legal system as well as the Greek natives. Prostitution and human trafficking had been a secret evil embedded in the culture for a long time, and it took many years for the powers that be to get on board.
Thus, A21, which audaciously stands for “abolishing injustice in the 21st century” was born. There are many things that make A21 a unique anti-human trafficking organization, but one major differentiator is that it takes a holistic approach on the war on human trafficking.
As A21 says, their “operational strategy, and the heart cry of our organization, is to Reach, Rescue, and Restore lives.” So, we can organize their efforts accordingly:
1. Reach the vulnerable and disrupt the demand.
They have numerous awareness initiatives like Bodies Are Not Commodities, a common core high school curriculum that equips teachers with the knowledge and tools to educate their students about the dangers, signs, and pitfalls of human trafficking.
By equipping the new generation with the awareness of things like human trafficking we are able to trade their vulnerability with strength and resiliency.
Another powerful initiative to raise awareness is the annual Walk For Freedom that is actually coming up on October 14, 2017. Just last year, there were 300 walks in 40 countries all over the world. From Australia to Europe to the U.S. and everywhere in between, people join together in their respective cities and countries to walk unified, and in silence, as a demonstration of those who have been silenced because of human trafficking.
In A21’s own words, “the walk exists to reflect A21’s heart for freedom and justice, and it is ultimately designed to turn awareness into action.”
One more of the many others that are noteworthy to mention, is the A-Teams initiative. This is the heart and soul of A21’s mission and vision to activate individuals where they are, to influence those in their world with the passion and knowledge of ending human trafficking.
As A21 puts it, “These small groups are in cities across the world and are ready to be activated at any moment—to boldly lobby their leaders, to plan and host walks, to pull off daring fundraising campaigns. Members connect locally through their core team, but also globally as a united force of abolitionists.”
2. Rescue victims and seek justice against their captors.
In addition to raising awareness, A21 works closely with law enforcement on the ground to support raids, identify victims through their resource lines, assist in the prosecution of traffickers, represent survivors in court proceedings, and collaborate with governments and other NGOs to eradicate slavery at every level.
The hope found in A21’s story is that it started with a couple of people impassioned to restore the human rights of freedom to those who have had it taken from them. Their story is not one of sophistication, but of raw passion and unction to make a difference.
With that raw desire to lift others from oppression, they are now covering the globe not only with A21 official team members and offices, but also with everyday individuals in every corner of society who are able to impact their world with the awareness, compassion, and knowledge to change the world.
3. Restore survivors and equip them to live independently.
Lastly, A21 has shelters and safe houses in Thessaloniki, Greece, Sofia, Bulgaria, and Kiev, Ukraine. In these parts of the world specifically (but not limited to), A21’s team works with the local police and government to rescue and restore women and men who have endured the pains of human trafficking.
With 12 offices in 11 countries, A21 states that, “seven of them focus on fierce intervention, and six of them provide restorative aftercare.”
So, here are 4 simple ways that you could partner with A21 and join the fight against human trafficking:
1. Get informed and pray. Arm yourself with the knowledge of what is really going on domestically and internationally. A great, but sobering documentary, put together by the Polaris Project called Nefarious would be an excellent resource. Then pray. Pray for this injustice to end and for people to come out of slavery.
2. Join or start an A-Team. Whatever sphere of life you occupy, harness your gifts and opportunities to get innovative and creative in how you can raise awareness, change local policies, volunteer at a non-profit, and join together with like-minded people to make an impact.
3. Start or join a walk for the Walk For Freedom. Click here to sign up to join or start a walk in your area.
4. Donate once or monthly. Your financial support can help provide clothes for rescued survivors.
You’ll also like How I First Learned of the Sex Trafficking Epidemic, The Solution to the Sex Trafficking Problem, Surviving Domestic Abuse—When There Were No “Red Flags”, One Man’s Dream Women Can Believe In, and Anatomy of a Strong Woman