Written by: Dr. Chris Hardy, Director of Programs & Partnerships
This post is part of a series on human trafficking prevention, written by Dr. Hardy on behalf of Justice & Mercy International. Part 1, “A Christian’s Fight Against Human Trafficking,” focuses on why this is an important issue for Christians, and Part 2 gives a comprehensive overview of “Human Trafficking Facts & Statistics.”
Did you know that 1 of every 3 victims of human trafficking worldwide is a child?
And that on any given day, 3,300,000 children are trapped in forced labor? Human trafficking is a worldwide plague affecting us all and scourging the landscape of our global community. We must do something about it.I’ve written before about when I first heard an in-depth explanation of human trafficking. I was sad and sickened, but didn’t have the tools and information to act. Thankfully, that has changed. Now, as the Director of Programs & Partnerships at Justice & Mercy International, I am honored to be a part of helping to fight human trafficking every day through our child sponsorship programs, specifically in Moldova.
Moldova is the smallest and poorest of the former Soviet Union countries. Situated in Eastern Europe between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is unfortunately one of the most trafficked countries in the world. The government institutional care of orphaned and abandoned children lasts until they reach the age of 16 or the U.S. equivalent of the freshman year of high school. Then, the youth are on their own with no family, home, or support. These circumstances make them prime victims of human trafficking.
The good news is that one easy step to prevent boys and girls like this from falling victim to traffickers is to become a sponsor with an organization like us offering a personalized and holistic approach to care for vulnerable children, teens, and families. When you sponsor through JMI, you partner with our team in Moldova or the Amazon Jungle of Brazil to care for and support vulnerable children, teens, families, or pastors.
How is sponsorship a pathway toward the prevention of human trafficking?
Those who engage in trafficking in persons have evil intentions and are ruthless and vicious in their pursuits to exploit the unprotected. Because most victims of human trafficking come from isolated and impoverished families who lack even key resources needed for survival, traffickers typically target these low-income, extremely vulnerable families because they are more easily exploitable. The false promises and “to-good-to-be-true” opportunities made by traffickers become the single source of hope providing families the only way out of their hopeless situation. Because they have no support network, they fall for these opportunities, which are lies designed to disempower, enslave, and destroy.
Sponsorship helps these families to be seen and known by those who truly care. It exposes them to a support network that seeks their best interest. It also helps decrease the family’s vulnerability by providing for its basic needs. When we begin work in a small village, our team engages mayors, social workers, pastors, and local churches to identify the most vulnerable families in that community. We then walk through our Vulnerability Decision Map™, a tool to ensure families are truly vulnerable and in great need. Afterward, we invite these families to join our sponsorship program and reduce their vulnerability and risk of exploitation.
What does sponsorship mean for the sponsor and the child?
First, when a poor, vulnerable child, teen, or family is sponsored through JMI, they are offered hope.
I’ve been face-to-face with children who were told they had been sponsored, and I watched as their eyes lit up and a big smile formed. They were happy and excited. Why? Because they experienced a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark place, realizing that someone far away loved them, prayed for them, and supported them.
Second, as the sponsor, you can form a personal relationship with the child you sponsor.
Each month you receive a letter written by the one you sponsor and translated by our team, along with pictures of what your monthly gift has provided them. You can easily write back through our portal, forming an ongoing relationship with the person you sponsor.
Third, your child’s sponsorship coordinator visits the village each month where your child lives every day.
During these visits, children experience a VBS-style program that includes singing, bible lessons, videos, sometimes a skit, food and drinks, and their seasonal gifts of clothing, shoes, food bags, hygiene bags, backpacks, or school supplies.
Our team knows each individual in JMI’s sponsorship program in Moldova and the Amazon. In Moldova, one sponsorship coordinator oversees the care of 125 kids. This personalized approach allows us to get to know each child and their families, as well as the sizes and individual needs and desires of each child. When we provide clothing to our sponsored kids, it is the right size, color, and exactly what the child requested.
Fourth, JMI sends mission teams each year to the Amazon Jungle and Moldova, and sponsors on the trip often have the opportunity to meet their sponsored child.
I will never forget the first time I met my sponsored child, Liliana. We were both so excited to meet each other, and tears flowed as we hugged.
What’s preventing you from sponsoring a child?
If you sponsor with Justice and Mercy International, $40 a month is all it takes for you to take action and help to prevent the trafficking of a child, teenager, or family. Other incredible Christian organizations in the U.S. offer sponsorships, including World Vision International and Compassion International.