Thank you for continuing the journey of child trafficking prevention with us! We’re excited for what 2024 can bring, and we’d love to share with you our vision for prevention this year. In this week’s blog post, our CEO Lucy McCray is sharing her perspective and goals. We encourage you to take a look, and as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. We’d love to have a conversation with you!
Hi, friends. Lucy here. I hope your 2024 is off to a great start. Coming off our end of year fundraising, there’s a bit of calm after the storm, so to speak. It’s a time when we can pause and take some time to assess where we are and where we’d like to head. I would love to share some reflections with you and give you a sense of my vision for what child trafficking prevention can look like in 2024.
As an organization, our image is probably one that feels very local, rooted in community efforts, and, honestly, quite specific. Our supporters are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of individual children and communities, even with the overwhelming numbers of people being trafficked globally (estimates range from 24 million to 50 million). It’s at the core of what we do. But today, I’d like to discuss the other side of our work – and that’s partnerships.
Partnerships in 2024
In the course of our work of protecting individuals, we don’t work alone. We collaborate on cases with local government officials to help families get the highest legal protections available, we collaborate with churches and schools and community service centers on spreading trafficking awareness in their villages, we work closely with NGO, law enforcement, embassy officers, and others on cases where people have been trafficked to ensure they get access to the support services and aftercare they need. We work with government officials on all levels to communicate grassroots needs up to the national and international levels, and also facilitate anti-trafficking initiatives and policy implementation down on the local levels.
To extend our impact, we aim to share our expertise in preventing trafficking with more people. We believe in empowering our partners—churches, local groups, teachers’ unions, and more—to prevent trafficking in their own communities. Last year, we started with three partners, and this year, we’re doubling that to six partners across the most at-risk regions of northern Thailand.
Recently, we’ve taken a leading role in a coalition of anti-trafficking organizations alongside IJM, A21 and Whispering Willow, called “Connect Thailand.” This coalition brings together nonprofits, government entities, and international organizations to tackle the growing issue of trafficking. Recognizing the enormity of the problem, we understand the importance of collaboration. We’re working hard to involve as many people as possible to form a united front against trafficking.
Proving Prevention in 2024
A big part of what we do is making sure our efforts to prevent trafficking actually work and make a difference. We’ve been keeping track of how many people we’ve reached and how it has helped. Now, we’re working with outside experts to see how the risk for children and families changes over time. This way, we can report our impact based on evidence and facts.
Working with others helps us come up with creative ideas on how to measure our impact and make positive changes. Trafficking is a complex problem, and we work hard with smart people to understand all the different aspects of it, especially how to prevent it. It’s important to keep checking our work because trafficking is always changing, and we can’t stick to the same ways of doing things.
It is hard to believe, but a brand new form of trafficking has become a huge problem in our region in the last 2-3 years. It is called trafficking into forced criminality. We’ve all probably gotten those emails or text messages or calls with dubious claims or offers. Things like an unexpected text about a gift or an account freeze. Well, it turns out those people sending those messages may not be doing it because they want to. They might be being forced to do it. (And it’s costing Americans billions.)
Hundreds of thousands of people have fallen for job offers that sounded great, but turned out to be fake, and then, they are brought to these huge compounds with heavy security, and under threat of extreme, extreme violence, they are forced to perpetuate these scams. And they can’t get out unless they’re extremely lucky or their families are able to pay an exorbitant bribe to extract them. It might sound crazy or exotic or very far away, but unfortunately for us, it’s actually happening right across the border from our communities. I got a report of one scam center that is less than a mile from where some of our students live. For us, it’s very, very close.
Continual Adaptation and Awareness
Moving forward, we face a two-part challenge: first to spread awareness about this phenomenon to try to prevent people from falling for these fake job offers, second is to spread awareness to others around the globe that those emails, text messages and calls might have trafficking victims on the other end of it, and to not fall victim to the scams either, as so many people have been tricked into giving money to what they think is a friend or romantic partner or financial investment, and then have it all just totally disappear.
Although it might seem like a big and daunting task, we encounter stories of hope every day. Hope in the form of a young girl who was groomed and lured by a trafficker that our community was able to identify, locate, and bring to safety; or of a young boy who followed a job offer and needed out, and we were able to coordinate with local government agents to bring him home. Our community is vast, with people from various backgrounds who passionately believe in protecting children — just like you. We’re incredibly grateful for the chance to create positive change and for everyone walking this path with us. We hope our community finds inspiration in the efforts to help individual children and the broader movement to end trafficking once and for all.
Thank you for being there with us. We couldn’t do this without you.
Yours in hope,
The Freedom Story