Forget Captain America–let me tell you about a real life superhero.
His name is Tim Ballard. He and his non-profit organization, Operation Underground Railroad, have been instrumental in rescuing over 3,300 children from slavery so far, and have assisted in the arrests of more than 1,800 traffickers.
Listening to his story in his own words (see the above video) is much better than any summary I could give, but here’s a brief synopsis anyway.
While working as an agent in investigations for Homeland Security, his boss selected him to work for an anti-child-trafficking group. At first, Ballard planned to refuse. He had children, and this seemed too dark a topic to bring into his house–but he felt strongly compelled to say yes. However, he says that this almost broke him. When he went overseas on undercover operations and located children being trafficked, unless he could also locate an American pedophile, he had to leave the children behind. They were out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
Enter a boy named Gardy.
He was three years old when he was kidnapped from the church in Haiti where his father was the pastor. Ballard felt drawn to this case, and ended up promising Gardy’s father he would never stop until he found his son. Because the boy was a U.S. citizen, he thought he could make the jurisdictional issues work, but the Department of Justice told him it was a Haitian crime and he had to come home.
How do you break a promise to a broken-hearted father?
Ballard realized that the only way to help this man was to leave the security of his government job, to give up his pension, and go about this privately. He put together a team of ex-military personnel (including former Navy SEALs, Special Ops, and CIA agents), and Glenn Beck generously agreed to fund their mission. The team flew to Haiti and located an “orphanage” where they were certain Gardy had been taken at one point. In reality, this dark place was a compound where children were sold for sex.
Working in tandem with the Haitian police, Operation Toussaint went down without a hitch (watch the film for free here), and twenty-eight children were freed. Ballard ended up adopting two of those children–how awesome is that?! But Gardy wasn’t among those rescued…he had already been sold.
Ballard isn’t going to stop looking for Gardy.
And while he’s searching for this little boy, he’s finding and rescuing many other children in the process. With his team of ex-military and ex-government agents, he started a non-profit organization called Operation Underground Railroad, whose mission is to rescue victims of human trafficking, with a special focus on rescuing children.
O.U.R. partners with governments and law enforcement around the world. With Ballard as commander of the jump team–the elite rescue squad–they lead and train local police in proactive operations. They also provide aftercare for the freed trafficking survivors, and make sure that each child is placed in a home or safe house where he or she can receive healing.
To get an even better sense of all the work they do, check out their 2019 Annual Report.
Historical abolitionists are the inspiration behind some of the tactics O.U.R. uses.
While some aspects of modern slavery are different than what slavery looked like in America during the Civil War Era, much of it remains the same. “Human trafficking is the plague of our generation,” Ballard says, and one of the goals behind his organization is to create a movement where every person asks, “What can I do?”
The slavery of Africans in America didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation. Ordinary people had to rise up and fight with whatever gifts and tools they were given. Harriet Tubman stole slaves. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a book. Frederick Douglass gave lectures. Through their efforts, Americans began to wake up, and as the anti-slavery movement formed and grew, real progress was finally made in freeing the slaves.
What does this have to do with you?
Our government is taking steps to fight modern slavery, but it can’t end it. We, the people, need to rise up. Here are a few ways for you to join the movement to fight for freedom:
- Donate to Operation Underground Railroad and help fund the incredible work they do
- Take O.U.R.’s free training course on recognizing signs of human trafficking
- Start a Students Against Slavery group at your school to raise awareness
- Buy a cool t-shirt or other merch to support O.U.R.
If learning about O.U.R. has inspired you as it has inspired me, I hope you’ll consider supporting them!