Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal activity in the world.
In 2013, the UN General Assembly even passed a resolution designating July 30 as the World Day Against Human Trafficking to raise awareness about the global issue. And in northeast Indiana, an organization is hard at work, freeing hundreds of trafficked children every year.
The lake town of North Webster, Indiana, is the international headquarters of a nonprofit, faith-based organization called Destiny Rescue whose mission is to rescue children from sexual exploitation.
Aaron Brown, the National Director of Operations for Destiny Rescue, says they primarily work in countries where trafficking is most prevalent: Thailand, Cambodia, India, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and a sixth undisclosed country.
“Two factors that really drive this issue of trafficking are poverty and the breakdown of family,” Brown says. “Poverty leads to desperation and when desperate, people are forced to do whatever they can to survive.”
Destiny Rescue helps girls find meaningful work after they are rescued.
Destiny Rescue currently focuses on four statistics from the International Labor Organization (ILO). According to ILO, there are at least one million children trafficked into the sex trade every year, an industry that worldwide makes approximately $99 billion annually.
While no country or person is immune to trafficking, ILO cites that seven out of 10 cases of trafficking happens in the Asia Pacific and 99 percent of all victims are female.
Since 2011, Destiny Rescue has freed 2,900 people out of the sex trade. In 2017, they rescued 620, and they’ve rescued more than 400 just this year.
But how do they do it?
According to Brown, Destiny Rescue’s first step to rescuing children is sending undercover agents into bars and brothels in red lantern districts. These agents either negotiate a deal for the children’s freedom, or they work with local, national, or anti-trafficking police to gather intel and set up a raid.
After the children have been rescued, Brown explains that they are provided with a safe home, preferably with their own families, and receive counseling, education, and vocational training in aftercare programs that are tailor-made for the individual needs of each child.
Destiny Rescue also helps them to find jobs in everything from graphic design to hairdressing, farming, and more.
“We’re seeing girls rescued and go on to be successful in school, get jobs, have families,” Brown says. “The cycle of poverty has been broken. There is hope. These kids can be saved.”
While Destiny Rescue focuses on primarily young girls, they have been able to free people of all ages and genders. Brown says the average age of those they have rescued is 14-years-old—the youngest being only 4-years-old.
Of all the people Destiny Rescue has been able to free, 80 percent never return to the sex trade, primarily because of their aftercare programs.
“It’s easy for us to find kids who need help,” Brown says. “The question is: Do we have the funds to be able to rescue them and properly care for them?”
On average, $1,500 can save a child from sex trafficking. Here in the U.S., Destiny Rescue raises funds and awareness to support rescue efforts abroad. People within the Fort Wayne community can participate by becoming a Rescue Partner and making monthly donations of any size.
Destiny Rescue also sells jewelry handmade by the girls who have been rescued, and northeast Indiana residents can host jewelry parties to sell these items to friends and family. For those who participate in Fort4Fitness, Destiny Rescue is also a charity partner in a program called Race to Rescue, which raises awareness about human trafficking and Destiny Rescue’s work
It’s just another way people in northeast Indiana are helping others across the globe.
“The people in northeast Indiana have made a significant impact on the world,” Brown says. “Our goal is to end sex trafficking in our lifetime. But it’s going to take all of us.”
To learn more, visit www.destinyrescue.com.