Former government agent starts organization to fight child trafficking – has saved over 1600 kids

We can’t fix problems we don’t talk about. And while it’s an unspeakably gruesome subject, child sex trafficking is very real. Pretending it doesn’t exist allows it to continue under our noses.

Kids around the world have been – and continue to be – kidnapped, sold, and forced or coerced into prostitution or sexual slavery. And cases have been reported in all 50 states in the U.S. In fact, Americans are the preferred customers of traffickers because their relative wealth allows them to pay big money for little children. Disgusting, but true.

We can’t pretend it’s a problem that only exists in other parts of the world.

Tim Ballard isn’t letting the problem go unaddressed. The retired Department of Homeland Security agent has nine kids of his own and left his government job to start a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking. It’s called Operation Underground Railroad.

Tim Ballard/Facebook Source: Tim Ballard/Facebook

Ballard knows the gory details already. In the mid-2000s he helped create the DHS’s child crimes unit and dedicated his career to hunting down and capturing human traffickers. He’s even risked his life to go undercover posing as a sex tourist to lure out criminals who sell children.

Tim Ballard/Facebook Source: Tim Ballard/Facebook

As you might imagine, it was a traumatic job, but Ballard knew it was important and someone had to do it.

“I learned how to basically just be horrible things. I learned how to act like a pedophile or talk like a trafficker or a purveyor of child sex tourism- whatever I needed to do. Then I started to infiltrate different organizations in horrible places in Mexico and Columbia,” he said in an interview published on the parenting website Scary Mommy.

Of course, not every operation goes well. Ballard suffered from anxiety whenever he wasn’t able to help a family – and the size of the criminal networks and customer base made him feel helpless.

Pixabay Source: Pixabay

“The U.S. government didn’t realize what it was doing to me. They were basically destroying my soul, not only because I was being exposed to things—and we have regular checkups with mental health professionals—but the part that was the worst for me was I would go down and find the kids, and I couldn’t believe how vast it was. I couldn’t believe how big it was. It was at this time we started getting the numbers, and it was in well in the millions of children.”

Once he had an idea of how these organizations worked, he decided to leave his role at DHS because it limited him to U.S. jurisdictions. He wanted to cast a wider net.

Despite the toll the work took on him, his wife encouraged him in his quest to do more to help.

“My wife is my hero,” Ballard said. “Katherine said ‘You made a promise, and they were good promises. These are real kids. We’re just going to trust in God.’”

Tim Ballard/Facebook Source: Tim Ballard/Facebook

At the time, the couple had 6 children to support, so quitting a secure government job wasn’t an easy decision. Nevertheless, he knew it was the right one if he wanted to do the most good for the most vulnerable children who risked suffering a horrible fate.

Like anyone, there were times when he just wanted to stop, but his wife was always by his side, reminding him that he was saving lives:

“She would stop me from throwing in the towel in those moments and remind me ‘As hard as this is, imagine how hard it is for the kids.’” he said.

Ballard is also motivated by watching the kids he’s saved thrive and have the chance to lead normal lives. Children who were once sold as property for the sexual pleasure of pedophiles now have the chance to be kids again.

Operation Underground Railroad/Facebook Source: Operation Underground Railroad/Facebook

Operation Underground Railroad began in 2013 and is made up of people like Ballard – former government agents and law enforcement officers who left behind job security and pensions to work for the non-profit. They now have 25 full-time staff and about 100 contractors who they can call on when they need emergency assistance around the world.

But not all stories end happily. One of the motivating cases of Ballard’s career – the one that convinced him to start his own international organization – was his failed attempt to find the 3-year-old son of a Haitian priest who was kidnapped and sold by a member of his church. He’s done everything in his power, but little Gardy remains missing. Telling Gardy’s father the child was nowhere to be found was heartwrenching for Ballard, but it led to an eye-opening moment.

Tim Ballard/Facebook Source: Tim Ballard/Facebook

As the men cried together over Gardy’s fate, his father told Ballard:

“If my son hadn’t been kidnapped, none of these kids would be out. Nothing would have happened. If I have to give up my son so that these kids could be rescued, that’s a burden I’m willing to bear.”

Now Gardy’s parents adopt rescued children who have nowhere else to go.

Over the last 6 years, Operation Underground Railroad has rescued more than 1,682 children and aided in the arrest of more than 848 traffickers. Sadly, there’s still so much more to be done.

Operation Underground Railroad/Facebook Source: Operation Underground Railroad/Facebook

To learn more about Ballard’s organization, go to ourrescue.org. The organization relies on donations to operate, so check out the donation page on their website as well.

Be sure to scroll down for a video on Ballard’s work and the role of little Gardy in inspiring his mission.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

Source: Scary Mommy, Operation Underground Railroad, OUR via Facebook

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