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Jan 09, 2013

January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and if you’re like most people, you will hear the statistics—for example, two million children exploited annually by the global sex trade[1]—and be horrified. And on January 12, the impact of that alarming fact will begin to fade. That’s just the way it is with numbers. Which is why, as our attention is drawn to the evil of human trafficking, I want to introduce you one of those “numbers.”

Cayla grew up in a little village in China. When she was twelve, her mother gave birth to a baby boy, violating China’s one-child policy and devaluing her in her father’s eyes. A year later, her mother died and her father sold Cayla to criminals who smuggle children into the United States to work in the sex industry, and her father would get a portion of Cayla’s earnings as a child prostitute.

The smugglers, known as “snakeheads,” sold Cayla and several other young girls to another smuggler who flew them to Mexico and held them prisoner in his mistress’s house. After obtaining forged passports for the girls, he packed them in a van for the trip across the border into the United States where “clients” would pay big bucks for young girls.

When you hear the numbers about human trafficking, I hope you will remember Cayla. Try imagining what it would be like to be thirteen years old and sent against your will half a world away to “work the streets.” And then consider this sobering fact: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, child prostitution in America has become a problem of epidemic proportions, with estimates ranging between 100,000 and 300,000 children being sold for sex.[2]

At Bethany, we believe every child deserves to be part of a loving family. This is why we focus so much on providing support and training to families in impoverished countries. If we can help families stay together and nurture their children, they are less likely to contribute to the problem of human trafficking.

Fortunately, Cayla’s story has a happy ending. As the van she was in crossed into the United States, border agents intercepted it. They arrested the driver and sent the girls to a detention center in Chicago for undocumented children. While she was being held at the detention center, a caseworker introduced her to Bethany and we arranged for her to be placed in foster care. Through her new family and their church, Cayla learned about God’s love for her. She graduated from high school with honors and then went on to earn degrees in psychology and interpersonal communications. And her new dad walked her down the aisle recently as this “number” married a wonderful young man.

Human trafficking, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell once described, is “a sin against humanity.” With your help, we can work together to provide impoverished families around the world with the education and resources needed to preserve their family, protecting innocent children from this horrific practice.

[1] UNICEF, quoted in U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, 10th ed. (Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of State, 2012)