Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is an organization whose sole purpose is to rescue and save children and youth who are trapped in sex slavery or slave labor. It was founded several years ago by Timothy Ballard, a former agent for Homeland Security.
At the current time O.U.R. is operating in 15+ nations. They have rescued 745 victims in the past three years as well as assisted in the arrests of 365+ traffickers around the world. Ballard says that the rescues are just the beginning of their work.
Aftercare is the most important part of our mission… There really is no rescue unless and until the child is healed. Healing happens when the survivor is in a place where he or she can become anything they want – when they have the confidence and tools to choose for themselves the course they want to take. Our job is to provide what they need and remove obstacles so that they can achieve that…
[Ballard says that the organization will not perform any rescue missions unless there is a safe place to take the victims.]
We have to assume that once we extract a child from a trafficking situation, there is no home for that child… Unfortunately, many child victims don’t have a family to go back to. Either their families have abandoned them, or their families are part of the problem – either through neglect or willful participation in the crime. We have to be prepared to be the family.
In addition to rescuing the children and providing aftercare for them, O.U.R. works with other organizations to prevent the trafficking of humans. This prevention has two different focuses: awareness of the problem and traditional education.
We work on making high-risk kids and their parents aware of what trafficking is, the warning signs to look for, and how to protect themselves against it. We go into schools, summer camp programs, and impoverished neighborhoods teaching and raising awareness. We go into that neighborhood seeking out kids who are not enrolled in school due to poverty or because of lack of documentation. We collaborate with another NGOs to get the kids up to grade-level reading and enrolled in school.
O.U.R. rescues both girls and boys and needs support in several different ways. You can make a one-time or recurring donation, volunteer your time and talents, host an event, or attend an event. At various times of the year, you can also give support by creating a “Suitcase with a Mission.” You would provide a new or used suitcase and fill it with goodies to meet a certain theme, such as sport, craft, kitchen, or health and beauty. Many innocent children are in need of rescue and support. I encourage you to get involved in O.U.R. in any way that you can.