Homemakers tackle human trafficking

DOUGLAS – At the recent annual meeting of the Wyoming Homemakers, the Niobrara county group sponsored an educational session by Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). Allison Smith, Director of Education at OUR did a presentation on the topic of human trafficking and the work that OUR is doing to abolish it.

Operation Underground Railroad was founded in 2013 by former Department of Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent, Tim Ballard. O.U.R. operates domestically and internationally with 34 countries. The organization works with local law enforcement and government agencies focusing on prevention, rescue and aftercare. They have resources in place to see to the needs of each survivor before engaging in a rescue. Domestically they have worked with law enforcement in every state and assist them in a number of ways including operational support, providing K-9s and training opportunities for law enforcement officers and support agency employees.

At the beginning of the discussion Mrs. Smith invited attendees to monitor their own level of comfort and feel free to excuse themselves at any time to get a breath of fresh air if they felt overwhelmed by the material. Despite the difficult nature of the information presented, the homemakers remained intently focused and asked Mrs. Smith to continue the presentation an additional half hour beyond what was scheduled. The talk was given with sensitivity and inspired the ladies of Wyoming Homemakers to take back to their hometowns awareness of this terrible issue plaguing our modern world.

Today there are an estimated 42 million slaves worldwide. More people are enslaved today than have ever been in all previous periods of human history combined. Ninety-eight percent of slaves are women and children. Ten million children are enslaved, of which 2 million are victims of sex trafficking. Enslavement falls under three categories: labor, sex trafficking and organ harvesting. The victims are viewed by the traffickers as human chattel and are not used exclusively for one purpose, but as Mrs. Smith explained, are moved between categories, terminating in the women and children’s organs being harvested 

Many of the homemakers were surprised to hear that human trafficking is not a peripheral issue found in some far-off land, but is prevalent throughout the United States and is actually happening right here in Wyoming. It is a worldwide pandemic, far more destructive to the stability of our culture than the recent health issue that swept the world.  

Homemakers were eager to know what the average citizen can do to help. Mrs. Smith suggested that the first step is to become aware and then spread that knowledge. Next, learning to look for the signs of human trafficking and contact local law enforcement when there is a suspicion that someone is in need of help. Individuals can also support local law enforcement and aftercare programs, such as Helpmate, at their fundraisers and by donating directly to these organizations.

Helpmate throws its biannual Big Bucks Bingo. These events provide the organization with much needed financial support so that the resources are available to assist each survivor. 

For seven years Node Homemakers have sold soup, bread and pies at their annual Superbowl Saturday Soup Sale in February, the proceeds of which go to Operation Underground Railroad. As a result of the generosity of the people of Lusk, Node Homemakers were proud to present Operation Underground Railroad with a check for $1,125.00, after supporting Mrs. Smith’s travel expenses. Altogether, with an impromptu passing of the hat, the total contribution was over $2,000.00.

July 30 is World Day against Trafficking. As part of the goal to raise awareness O.U.R. is hosting their third annual “Rise Up and Get Loud” concert in Sandy, UT. Additionally, demonstrations and rallies will be held across the United States and around the world. More information about O.U.R and World Day against Trafficking can be found on the O.U.R. website, ourrescue.org or on their facebook page. 

While the average person cannot be the one busting down doors to rescue these vulnerable and exploited members of society, each person, through modest efforts, can join in and be an effective participant in the fight to abolish human trafficking.


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