“I was born into poverty. I tried to study and go to school. After that, I tried to receive work and earn an income. So, I applied to a Thai company. I didn’t know I was going to be trafficked."
In 2007, while walking through the airport in Thessaloniki, Greece, evangelist and motivational speaker Christine Caine passed by a number of handmade posters with pictures of missing girls. Astounded that so many kids were missing, Caine did some research and found out that these children were trafficked.
Thinking that trafficking couldn’t possibly exist in the 21st century, Caine decided to investigate further. Caine remembers reading witness reports of girls being placed on platforms and sold in auctions similar to those in 18th and 19th century America. She came by stories of newborns being sold into pedophile rings, and she decided to do something about it.
In 2008, Caine and her husband founded The A21 Campaign, a nonprofit that focuses on sex trafficking in southeastern Europe. The name comes from the organization’s goal to abolish injustice in the 21st century. The campaign tries to prevent human trafficking through awareness campaigns, protects survivors in their shelters and transition homes, helps prosecute traffickers and partners with law enforcement and other bodies to end human trafficking.
Caine believes that to end trafficking, one must first acknowledge that it exists. Members of the A21 Campaign engage in information campaigns. They put up posters in high traffic and public areas. They also educate by going to universities overseas and informing young people about potential trafficking scams such as false job advertisements. However, The A21 Campaign does not stop at just telling people that trafficking exists, it goes further by saying that each individual makes the choice to either let it happen or to find ways to fight it.
“It (human trafficking) happens when the world closes their eyes and pretends something isn't happening,” she comments. “We want a whole lot of goods and services and we don't really want to pay, but it's got to come from somewhere. When you no longer care about the process of how something gets to you but you just want the end result, then you close your eyes to what's going on.”
For those that want to join the movement against trafficking, The A21 Campaign provides tools and suggestions for action. Ways to fight trafficking include buying fair trade products, volunteering, lobbying politicians and organizing fundraisers and awareness groups. According to Caine, every single effort counts.
“Often, I think, because we think, ‘I can't do it all,’ we end up being paralyzed. So we do nothing,” said Caine. “But if we understand we can't do everything but we all must do something, and we all find the one thing that we can do, then we'll find that together we will all make such a huge difference and we'll be able to put a stop to this.”
The A21 Campaign also makes a difference by helping recovered trafficking victims. The nonprofit has offices in California, South Carolina, Norway, Great Britain, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, South Africa, Thailand and Australia. It has shelters and transition houses in Greece and Ukraine. Each shelter accommodates up to 12 survivors, and each house supports up to a dozen survivors and staff. The facilities’ “post-trauma restoration process” provides survivors with medical and psychological care, legal assistance and vocational and life-skills training aimed at keeping them from being re-trafficked or from returning to the sex trade for lack of options.
Caine concludes, “I really believe there is a life beyond everyone's past, and there is a hope and a future. And if you commit to the process of restoration, you can overcome the obstacles and hurdles and the pain and the suffering and be made whole.”
Kavanagh, Jim. “Abolishing Sex Slavery by Helping One Girl at a Time.” Thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com.The CNN Freedom Project Ending Modern Day Slavery, 16 Jun. 2011. Web. 29 May 2014.
“Freedom Report.” Thea21campaign.org. The A21 Campaign, n.d. Web. 29 May 2014.
“Where We Work.” Thea21campaign.org. The A21 Campaign, n.d. Web. 29 May 2014.
Be an alert traveler and look out for signs of trafficking
Noy Thrupkaew is a global journalist that reports on human trafficking. Watch her TED talk that shares another perspective on the underlying issues that enable human trafficking.