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Rescue Impacts Village Community in India

By Julia Randall

Along a stretch of a major highway that travels through a rural area in India, families struggling to survive set up make-shift roadside brothels to for the sale of sex. A truck driver delivering goods to other parts of the country will stop to select a girl as young as 11 and disappear with her into a small shack before quickly returning to the road. When they are a little older, these girls will be sent to a bigger city to be sold to a larger brothel. This is deemed necessary and acceptable in a region where the burden of providing for parents and siblings falls on young girls.

However, freedom—and the cultural change that enables it—is coming to this part of India gripped by poverty and inequality. This was illustrated by a raid that local police conducted recently in which they arrested a trafficker and rescued six girls, including 12-year-old Tia* and 16-year-old Anna*. In demonstrating that trafficking is illegal, officials signal opposition and make it a much riskier endeavor, causing people to re-evaluate the cultural beliefs that encourage it.

The impact of the raid ripples far beyond the number of rescues in an area where the trafficking of minors can be common and cultural norms assign value to individuals based on gender, class and economic status. It heralds a change in the attitudes of locals who participate in an illegal practice in an attempt to survive the circumstances of poverty.

Members of The Exodus Road’s BRAVO team travelled 28 hours each way to reach this location in order to collect the intelligence and evidence that assisted police. The length of the trip and effort involved reflects the commitment of those working in India to bring freedom to the area. Their work is altering long-held beliefs as legal consequences force people to re-think cultural norms.

“(Residents) didn’t know it was wrong to do this and now they are understanding,” said The Exodus Road Country Director Sudir*.

The fight for freedom of the those trapped in trafficking is complex and multi-faceted. This case demonstrates the importance of combatting slavery by partnering with local government and law enforcement to increase awareness, along with the crucial need to establish a consistent presence in areas where trafficking is an everyday and often accepted practice. It is essential to work with local individuals and organizations as they honor us with the privilege of assisting in their efforts.

Social justice can only occur where equal rights exist. It is our aim at The Exodus Road to partner in support with Indian officials with the hope that, one by one, girls like Tia and Anna can be set free from slavery.

A special thanks to Messenger International for funding this successful mission.

*Names have been changed for security purposes


 

Meet Som: Northern Operations Manager, Thailand

By: Corinne Shark

Panyapat PiyathamsawatFreedom work is all-hands-on-deck and part of bringing you to the frontlines means bringing you in the front door of The Exodus Road offices. Today we are shining the spotlight on Panyapat “Som” Piyathamsawat, our Northern Thailand Operations Manager. As one of our national staff members, Som is an integral contributor to the function of the on-ground team in Southeast Asia. Prior to working with The Exodus Road she spent years in research, journalism and media analysis, produced television news, developed programming for USAID, and served as a freelance language translator. Som brings extensive experience in the value of trusted communication between collaborative sectors. She believes in the necessity of building relationships to achieve common goals. Som’s heart for the exploited impacts every aspect of her work and inspires hope in real and tangible ways.

What drew you to the cause of human trafficking?
My background experience in research and journalism made me aware of the infamous issue of trafficking here in Thailand, but at the end of the day the issue was still there. I was able to inform people but I wanted to participate in a concrete result. It was time for me to take the next step toward making an impact on peoples’ lives.

What is the most challenging part of this work for you?
Collecting enough credible evidence to convince the authorities to take action is always a challenge. Our job is to support the local police toward rescues and arrests which requires time, patience, good teamwork and trusted relationships. Good evidence without good relationships with law enforcement is worth nothing and so we work hard to build trust and solid partnerships. The Exodus Road has earned credibility and a positive reputation.

What has been most fulfilling?
Contributing to the team is exciting. For example, a group of 16 female leaders have been active in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. Some are business owners, one holds an office and others serve their neighbors. I will be helping them understand the different forms of human trafficking and how they can help us identify those being victimized. We don’t know what’s happening in the smaller communities; but they do. Justice really is in the hands of the ordinary. I am an ordinary person and so are they.


We’re grateful for partners like Messenger International, whose community is helping to fund national salaries, like that of Som.

“A Night for Rescue” Annual Benefit Dinner

Colorado Springs – A sold-out crowd gathered in The Pinery at the Hill to fuel freedom with The Exodus Road. The air was alive with a sense of purpose as donors connected with anti-slavery efforts and gave with overwhelming generosity. Long-lasting impact will be made because of what transpired at “A Night for Rescue.”

The evening began with an exclusive Q&A session with undercover operatives, moderated by Kevin Campbell, VP of Global Ops. Each investigator spoke about a specific moment in the field that moved them. They were able to share their personal motivations and answered questions about safety, logistics, and direct rescues.

The dinner guests then perused the silent auction items. The ‘Staycation Package’ provided by Neil Levy and Swiss Chalet of Woodland Park received the highest bid. Other high quality items were donated by Axe and the Oak Distillery, Bristol Brewing CompanyCorner Post Meats, Distillery 291, Old West Cigar Co., Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours, and Team Extraordinaire.  Lee Spirits, a local gin distiller, matched and then exceeded a private donation of $1 per “Cheers to Rescue” sold, which resulted in a significant amount raised from drink sales. A piece of live art was created and subsequently offered at the auction by local artist Lois Sprague, who specializes in large scale portraits and murals.

After the gourmet meal, MC Britt Ham of Trine Aerospace and Defense introduced the keynote speaker. Matt Parker, co-founder and CEO of The Exodus Road, shared details of recent rescues in India and Thailand. He spoke passionately about first-hand accounts of resilient survivors and the brave men and women who were integral to their rescue. The stories were inspiring. Rebecca Berry said, “Tonight was amazing! A fire was lit in [my husband] John! His wheels are spinning!” The chair of the event, Michelle Ham, had this to say, “The evening was truly a special one. It encouraged me personally to see so many people of Colorado Springs, Denver and Teller County come together to combat trafficking here in Colorado as well as globally.”

Many people helped make this a successful “Night for Rescue.” Various volunteers, led by Martha Cole, of New Life Downtown, worked alongside the staff team. This evening was also made possible by the generous donations of our Corporate Sponsors (listed below). At the end of the night the participants finalized their donations and silent auction purchases. Valerie and Griffin Stewart, co-founders and owners of 5daydeal, presented a special donation which helped to surpass the goal for the night. Everyone came together in a beautiful singleness of purpose. Altogether, the amount raised to fuel freedom was just over: $52,000. 

Special thanks to Taylor Powers for photographing the event. 
Strong Tower
Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours
New Life Downtown
Discovery Church Colorado

Human Trafficking Awareness Month: 3 Stories You Should Know (and Share)

By Julia Randall

A man stuck at sea, deceived and forced to labor long days under a hot Pacific sun.  A domestic servant who hasn’t seen the world outside the home where she works in almost a year.  A child who waits anxiously, unaware of what’s in store for her, as the price of her virginity is negotiated.  Despite different backgrounds and situations, these individuals are bound together by the chains of slavery and fates they did not choose.  Participate in Human Trafficking Awareness month by refusing to look away from the stories of those trapped in trafficking.

When he couldn’t find work in his native country in Asia, Troy* scraped together everything he could to pay a broker to find him work in a neighboring country.  When he arrived at his destination, however, he found it wasn’t the pineapple canning factory he’d been told about.  Instead, he was driven to a coastal port town and forced on a tiny, ramshackle boat to join other forced laborers in working 20 hours a day, seven days a week, hauling in nets heavy with fish before gutting and weighing them by hand.

Troy was told that his payment hadn’t covered his transportation costs, so he must work until he could repay his debt.  However, he has yet to receive any payment.  Shifted from boat to boat out at sea, he hasn’t seen land in almost three years.

troy HTAM

When she was seventeen, Angeline* lived on the crowded streets of a city in India, in desperate need of food and shelter.  Homeless after being kicked out of her home for disgracing her family, Angeline was elated when a woman claiming to be a recruiter offered her a job cleaning and caring for children in a well-to-do home in an upscale suburb.  When the door of the home that would become her jail was closed and locked behind her, so was her freedom and future.

Five years later, Angeline works 18 hours a day, every day of the week, performing a slew of household tasks.  If her work doesn’t meet her owner’s standards, she can expect a physical punishment and her body bears the scars of past mistakes, like the time she burned the rice, or when she tried to run away.

angeline HTAM

Tina* sits quietly in a stiflingly small and dirty room in a Cambodian brothel, wishing she could disappear.  She was smuggled from her home in Malaysia to this brothel a week ago, after her parents sold her to a trafficker.  She is an intelligent and feisty girl, but nothing in her rural upbringing prepared her for the forced sale of her virginity.  She doesn’t know the language used by her new mama san (pimp) and the men interested in her, but she can tell from their tones and gestures that they are all evaluating her and bargaining fiercely.

After the final sale of her virginity today, Tina will be less valuable to her mama san but will continue to be forced to work in the brothel.  She’s not yet turned 12.

tina HTAM

Troy, Angeline and Tina are not alone.  More slaves exist today than at any other time in human history.  Be an abolitionist by sharing this post to participate in Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Use your voice to stand against slavery and share information from our website, Pinterest boards, Twitter account and Facebook page.  You can also find information to share on Instagram, You Tube, and Vimeo.

You can impact stories like these by taking a first step towards action by advocacy. Advocacy is utilizing your influence and voice on behalf of a cause or person you care about. Would you consider sharing online this post or any other interesting article or video about human trafficking with your circle of friends and family? The first step towards mobilizing a movement lies in educating people about it.

 

* Names and identifying information have been changed for security.  Each account is a composite profile of multiple human trafficking survivors.

BRAVO TEAM: Nine Children Rescued in Rural India

On November 11, The Exodus Road team in India (known as BRAVO team) and local law enforcement rescued nine minor-age girls from a brothel in a raid that resulted in the arrest of 31 sex traffickers and controllers.  More than 60 police officials were present in a rural part of India where, unfortunately, trafficking situations are common. This raid was unique in the large numbers of arrests made and police officers involved — making it a significant win for justice.

The Exodus Road’s BRAVO team was honored to be allowed to collaborate with police in the investigative phase of the mission and to work towards the common goal of securing freedom for minors trapped in sex trafficking — one of whom was a young teen named Saya*.

BRAVO team 11.11.15 arrests

Saya*, age 15, had spent more than a year at the brothel which was busted during this case. Her family sold her to the traffickers themselves. Saya is now in the protective care of the local Social Welfare Department in India, and The Exodus Road social workers are following up with her personally. We are hopeful for the life that lays ahead of her, along with the future of each girl freed in this mission.

We salute each of the 60 members of the law enforcement, as well as the nationals who comprise our own BRAVO Team, involved in this rescue for the part each played in the fight for freedom. We’d also like to thank Messenger International for sponsoring the mission.

Learn about Search & Rescue:

Introducing Communications Manager Angie Washington

By: Julia Randall and Laura Parker

We love introducing the real people behind the efforts of The Exodus Road community, and today we’d like you to meet Angie Washington, our Communications Manager. Angie is based in Nebraska and has followed The Exodus Road from its very beginnings in Asia in 2012. Having worked cross-culturally in Bolivia for 13 years and having avidly written, launched, and run websites, Angie came to The Exodus Road team with a heart for the vulnerable and the knowledge of how to communicate effectively online in the nonprofit sector. Most of the emotive graphics you see online, and lots of the words you read from the website to the Facebook page are written from her keyboard, and we’d love for you to meet the woman behind the words.

 

Angie W.Can you summarize your role as Communications Manager?

I oversee the online interaction on our social media pages and also run our blog and website.  I work closely with VP of Communications Laura Parker, who also directs and leads the visionary side.  I work the “make it happen,” so to speak, side.  I also oversee the press relationships, a new endeavor.

What role do you play in the rescue of individuals caught in sex trafficking?

My key role, my number one goal, is to connect people to rescue.  I feel like the way that I work in the Communications Department allows people to connect in a real way, by giving their time, volunteer effort or finances.  I create the medium to connect them to the frontlines.  Without somebody in the middle, there would be no real connection. There would just be those bad guys, the trafficking, overseas and the good-hearted people not knowing what to do.  I’m the connective piece that allows ordinary people to be modern-day abolitionists.

What experiences have you had in the past ten years that have prepared you for this work?

So many specific moments come to mind. I’ll share the first personal experience. A baby girl was brought to our orphanage in Bolivia whose sale had been intercepted at the border. To hold that baby in my arms and know that she was not another trafficking fatality changed me. Following that, real life conversations with many precious people who work in the anti-trafficking field also helped to prepare me.

Angie, you sit in front of the computer most days. What keeps you inspired to help with the work, even though you are not able to actively be on the “frontlines?” 

The amazing team of people I work with inspires me. Also, sometimes I will pull out the field reports and read through them. Hearing the undercover operatives talk about the missions and the people they encounter keeps me going. It really all just comes back to “I want to see those kids free.”

  • It really all just comes back to: I want to see those kids free.

    - Angie Washington, Communications Manager

Since you’ve come on board in January 2015 what progress, or reason to hope about the state of sex trafficking, have you seen?

I have hope because I have seen kids freed. I get to look at the raw footage that comes in by way of photo and video. We then turn that into a story element that protects the identities of the rescued victims, but also is true to their plight. That has been an honor for me. The stories give me hope.

What has surprised you most Laura and Angie june 2015about the response of people to the communication from The Exodus Road?

The tremendous amount of collaboration necessary to liberate slaves surprised me. I didn’t realize how much is involved in liberation. Now, when I communicate about rescued slaves, I know that countless skilled and generous people make it happen. Every single rescued person is priceless, quite literally.

(Pictured: Angie Washington and Laura Parker, June 2015) 

Meet more members of The Exodus Road team:

Meet the Country Director in India: Sudir

As a young man in his early 20s, Sudir* lived through a harrowing ordeal which later became the impetus for his lifelong dedication to freeing slaves. Sudir’s younger sister, a minor at the time, was trapped in human trafficking. This is a scary situation in any place, but even more so in their city. They lived in a poverty stricken part of India, highly susceptible to trafficking activity of this kind. Undeterred by his ranking in the lowest caste young Sudir plunged into a frantic search for his dear sister. He went literally door to door, until he found the brothel where she was being kept. Then, he worked with the police to rescue her from her captors. They were able to beat the odds, remove her, and bring her back home. Her story is one of the happy ones. That happened 22 years ago.

Sudir remains just as passionate about freedom today as he was during that impacting experience. His sister, now a capable social worker, has joined Sudir as a vital member of The Exodus Road team. What might have caused bitterness or anger in some became the starting point for a beautiful life of service to others in captivity. His contribution to the work of freedom has meant liberation for hundreds of women and children.

Sudir is passionate and full of energy. Our VP of Global Operations, Kevin Campbell, recently had the privilege of speaking with Sudir. He asked him to share with us about what keeps him so motivated.

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Sudir (identity and name protected) pictured with Kevin Campbell, the VP of Global Ops, and Matt Parker, founder and CEO of The Exodus Road

“My hope is to see one day ‘no more child and woman forced into prostitution’ as I move forward to help find and free slaves,” he said. Then through tears, “I just want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of The Exodus Road. For allowing me to go out with the team and do investigations.”

He has carried this same gratitude with him since he joined The Exodus Road team at the beginning of this year. “Brother Matt, thank you. Together, we will rescue many girls,” he said as they shook hands when meeting each other for the first time.

Sudir has a team of investigators and social workers. They travel to many rural villages, at times a full 24 hours by bus away from their home town, to perform undercover investigations. He has earned the respect of many officials and police in his region, in spite of his social class, and works in collaboration to rescue women and children from brothels and trafficking. His team will double in size so that Sudir will be leading 10 – 12 brave individuals by the end of the year. This will instantly increase the range of impact in the nation of India.

  • Recently we rescued a girl, 7 years old, along with her 12 year old sister, from a brothel. This particular girl is really special to me as she has no parents and she was kept in a brothel with dirty clothes and no proper food. When we rescued her she was very scared and confused.

    - Sudir

“Each girl I rescue is unforgettable to me,” says Sudir, “Yes. Recently we rescued a girl, 7 years old, along with her 12 year old sister, from a brothel. This particular girl is really special to me as she has no parents and she was kept in a brothel with dirty clothes and no proper food. When we rescued her she was very scared and confused. But it makes me very happy in my spirit to save such a small girl, as she was about to be sold in a matter of days. I am really happy … She is really doing great, and so is her sister. I praise God and thank Him for giving me the opportunity to be associated with Exodus Road to continue the fight against human trafficking.”

It is a joy and honor to have Sudir as a leader with The Exodus Road. We congratulate him, his investigators, and his social workers on the tireless work they are doing in India to free slaves. These are the real national heroes whom we as a community are honored to empower.

*Name changed for security.

BRAVO team 3.15.15 crop
Sudir stands next to a survivor after a raid in India at the beginning of the year

Undercover Run

By Julia Randall

Eighty  people and three dogs raced for rescue in The Exodus Road’s inaugural “Undercover Run” on Saturday, September 5 to support the freedom of trafficked women and children in the US and Asia.

The 5k run was an especially colorful one, as participants in undercover “disguises” such as glasses, masks, wigs, capes and tutus showed their heroic identities by speeding along the course at Cottonwood Creek Park in Colorado Springs.  “I’m running stealth,” joked one racer, who ran holding a bush branch in front of her as “camouflage.”

The morning started with a kid’s Fun Run, where children dressed in superhero gear dashed to win prizes.  It ended with an awards ceremony, emceed by local television personality James Brown, in which winners were given goodie bags with loot from local sponsors.

While the 5k run was full of fun, that wasn’t the only reason people participated—many took part specifically to support TER and its mission.  “We wouldn’t normally do this (run a 5k),” said Breanna Speir of herself and her friends, who have long been acquainted with TER.  As one of her group crossed the finish line to wild cheers, she added, “But we would do this for The Exodus Road.”

“As hard as this (the run) was for us, it’s nothing compared to what The Exodus Road is striving to do,” said Speir.

Jason Morgan won the men’s race in 19:56 and Rachel Quinn took home first place in the women’s category with a time of 22:33.

Martin and Adeline Flower won prizes for best disguises with elaborate costumes that included puffy orange and pink wigs and bright, vintage costumes.

  • Kate Maddux, the Financial Manager for The Exodus Road

    Together we are making an impact by finding and freeing modern day slaves.

    Kate Maddux, the Financial Manager for The Exodus Road

We want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in this event, including the runners, organizers, staff and volunteers.

Laura Morgan, the lead volunteer, had this to say when asked about her motivation for helping The Exodus Road:

Laura Morgan in her undercover disguise

Laura Morgan in her undercover disguise

“I volunteer to end the sale of people, to stop the emotional and physical torture of slavery.  Human life is too valuable to be abused and sold as a commodity.  I may not ever see the victims or hear about trafficking during a regular day but they are on my heart and I have to do something to work toward their freedom.  It is not acceptable to pretend this is not happening just because we can’t see it.  To borrow words from Ann Voskamp, “Not on our watch will we let women be made invisible so they can be made usable inventory.”

We are so grateful for Laura and her team of passionate volunteers who helped to make this event a success.

Please remember to post your photos and videos tagged with #UndercoverRun.

We are enormously grateful to our sponsors, who included:

Thanks also to the Concept Restaurant Group and Tru Health Chiropractic for their donations.

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Photos by: Taylor Powers

If you would like to Volunteer with The Exodus Road please visit our Volunteer Center page:

BRAVO team Snapshot

We are happy to share with you an update about some recent rescues in India. Join us in congratulating the members of BRAVO team for their hard work. 

The BRAVO team, working to help find and free slaves in India, is led by a director with over 15 years of experience in this field. His keen eye and steady tenacity have resulted in the liberation of many young ladies and boys from trafficking situations. He and his team travel over 24 hours to get to some of the areas where they conduct investigations. These 5 investigators, all nationals, and 2 social workers are present at all the raids. They find the victims, especially minors, then coordinate a raid with police. They then support victims as they give testimony and transition to government care.

BRAVO team in India has experienced a string of successful raids over the last few months. Here are a few highlights of their valiant work.

Please note that, as always, these rescues are performed in partnership with local law enforcement agents. We are proud of the collaborative nature of our BRAVO team members as they seek to work in tandem with the officials of their areas. The Exodus Road will not overstep the jurisdiction of the land, and we are honored to work with local police.

Celebrate with us the freedom of these 11 survivors!

 

BRAVO team RESCUE report

Pictured below: Riya*. Kiara*. Sai*. Pari*.  Four young girls rescued from sex slavery. One, just 7 years old.

*Names changed to protect their identities.

BRAVO team 8.18.15 06 join us .jpg

We would like to thank the supporters of BRAVO team for their commitment to empower rescue. The consistent donations used to fuel operations like these make all the difference. Thank you! 

Visit the Search & Rescue page to know more how YOU can join this team. Click here: SEARCH & RESCUE

Online Trafficking Syndicate Brought Down

By Julia Randall

World Cup 328365 by Gabriela PintoWhen “Nam” responded to a Facebook post advertising employment, she thought that she would be leaving Thailand to work at a Kuala Lumpur restaurant and club.  Upon her arrival in the foreign city, Nam (name changed to protect her identity) discovered she had been lied to. The “restaurant/club” was a disguised brothel. She was now trapped in the brothel’s apartment, where she was held against her will and forced into sex work.  Nam was not alone in her plight—several other women were caught with her after being similarly tricked.  But Nam showed great courage and found a way to get the help she needed to escape and help secure the freedom of other women who had been deceived—six women were freed in the initial rescue.

A trafficking network that used Facebook and other social media to lure, trick and trap victims into sex slavery was broken up by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) in July 2015. DSI arrested three men for human trafficking.  The Exodus Road collaborated with our partners at Freeland with The Liberty Alliance to assist the DSI by providing information and analysis during the investigative phase and provided aftercare to the several of the freed survivors.

The leader, a Malaysian known as “Boss Steven,” used employment advertisements for club and restaurant jobs to Thai and Vietnamese women, enticing them to travel to Kuala Lumpur with promises of perks and bonuses.  Once the women arrived, they were held captive and forced into sex work.

Khao San Road at night by shankar s.Despite the threat of recrimination, Nam resourcefully found a way to ask for help via an online chat channel.  Nam’s message was eventually received by the trafficking hotline at Freeland, who analyzed the information for authenticity before giving it to Thai authorities, who then conducted a remarkable undercover investigation.

Nam eventually found a chance to sneak out of the brothel compound and find her way to the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Concern for Nam’s safety led the DSI to swiftly repatriate her to Thailand, where Freeland and TER sponsored her care while the DSI continued to gather evidence against “Boss Steven” and two of his cohorts.

Nam continued to demonstrate great strength and courage when she faced down fear of retaliation from her traffickers and an arduous process of testimony by continuing to provide information to the DSI.  Nam’s information was not only key in securing the arrest of “Boss Steven” and his partners, but also in freeing other victims.  The Exodus Road is honored to know Nam and to have been able to provide aftercare for her and several other survivors, along with follow-up support and some services.

Because of your generosity and with a shared grant from One Day’s Wages for aftercare services, The Exodus Road was able to sponsor a debt repayment for one of the survivors and pay for medical services for another. We are also in the process of funding the educational fees for several survivors’ children and a motorbike that a survivor will use to launch her business.

We continue to see that fighting trafficking within the legal system is a long, arduous process and that providing services for survivors, especially those who are of age, is equally as difficult. Thankfully, though, we were able to serve as a light along the pathway to freedom for Nam and her friends.

Partner Organizations:

Read more about this story here:

You can know more about aftercare efforts by visiting the FAQ page:  FAQ page

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