Unwilling Travelers

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How would you like an all-expense-paid trip across the world? Free flight. Free accommodations. Everything included. Also, you´ll make money. Because you are beautiful and could be a model. A supermodel. We´ll not only pay for everything, but you´ll make thousands of dollars per photo shoot and your face will be on the cover of major magazines. Won´t your family be proud of you? You will be able to pay for your father´s medical treatment and send your little brother to school.

If this sounds too good to be true, it is. But this offer is being presented to women (and children and men) across the world. This is the face of modern slavery, or human trafficking. It often starts with an offer that no one can refuse, and when they accept, they find themselves as victims of one of the world´s most horrendous crimes.

This is happening right now. Imagine Letti, an 18-year-old girl from Prague, being offered work in New York City as a model. Imagine the excitement she feels as she boards a plane. See her looking out the window as the plane lands. Think about how she plans to save money to bring back home to her proud family.

Now, watch as human traffickers take her passport from her. They tell her that she has a debt to pay, and that until she pays that debt, they own her. She is an innocent girl in a foreign land. She does not even speak the language, and is forced to do whatever her captors make her do.

What her captors make her do is everything the dark side of your imagination dares to contemplate. She is forced to work as a prostitute. Her basic human dignity is ignored. She is told that they have the address of her family back home, and that if she tries to escape, they will be hurt.

This is not fiction. It is not the plot of some movie. This is as real as it gets, and we need to fight against it. There are more slaves in the world today than there were during the Civil War. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. There is no better time than now to educate yourselves on modern slavery issues and discover what you can do to combat them.

In 2001, I founded the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons (ITEMP) as a sub-program of the non-denominational international humanitarian GOD´S CHILD Project to take a stand against modern day slavery. From Indonesia to Europe, Asia to Latin America to the United States, we have worked to raise awareness and to rescue victims and bring their persecutors to justice.

I have always believed that when shown the problems of the world all people: 1) want to help; 2) can in some way help; and 3) often do not know how. So, this is my plea to you. First, I want  you to feel the same outrage we do about the fact that these crimes are happening in the world today. Then, educate yourself on human trafficking and find your piece of the solution. Together, we can take a stand against modern day slavery. To find out how, visit ITEMP´s website where you´ll learn right now what you can do to fight against modern day slavery.

By Patrick Atkinson

About the Author

After college, North Dakota-native Patrick Atkinson followed the runaway pipeline that takes homeless Midwest adolescents into tough New York City neighborhoods, where he worked with streets gangs and juvenile prostitutes.

In 1983, Atkinson traveled to Central America to work with war survivors in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Columbia.  His initial six-month commitment transitioned into a life-long vocation.  He has since created programs that have raised over 30,000 children, as well as founded health, education, human rights, and community development programs in several different countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, India, Latin America and the United States.

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