Recent news has put a spotlight on the pandemic of human trafficking. Tim Ballard and his team at Operation Underground Railroad, or O.U.R., have known about and have been fighting this issue for years.
There was even a movie, called Operation Toussaint, released in 2018 about Tim Ballard, O.U.R., and their efforts to stop human trafficking. But who are they, what exactly do they do, and what happens to the people they rescue?
What is it?
Operation Underground Railroad is a non-profit organization created by Tim Ballard. Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad is what inspired Ballard to create O.U.R.
Their website states, “The underground railroad created a path to freedom and we are inspired to do the same.” They believe that human trafficking is a form of modern slavery and they want to be the road to freedom for human trafficking survivors.
Tim Ballard is LDS and served a mission in Chile. He is also a former special agent for the US Department of Homeland Security. His assignments in that job involved being a part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He also worked as an undercover operative for the US Child Sex Tourism Jump Team.
Needless to say, he has spent many years training others and being undercover himself to destroy child trafficking rings and rescue survivors. He has a master’s degree in international politics and has testified before the United States Congress on efforts to liberate children from sex slavery.
Many of the other directors and program chiefs within the organization also have backgrounds in special forces operations and law enforcement. Those who participate in on-location rescues are usually former CIA, Navy Seals, and the like.
How do they do it?
Since its conception in December 2013, the teams at O.U.R. have rescued over 3,800 victims, and have assisted in the arrest of over 2,100 traffickers around the world. Their process contains six steps to ensure the safe rescue of children and the conviction of perpetrators.
- Assess the Feasibility of Rescue
- Research the Location
- Design a Strategy
- Take Action
- Recover the Children
- Arrest, try and convict the perpetrators.
These steps are best achieved when local law enforcement and care facilities are involved. O.U.R. has connections across the world that allow them to successfully perform rescues on a regular basis.
When often we think of human trafficking, our first thought is that it doesn’t happen where we live. We have heard of rescues in countries like Haiti or Guatemala, but there have also been O.U.R. rescue operations in Washington and Arizona in the United States.
What happens after a rescue?
Survivors require support and healing following their traumatic experiences. O.U.R. recognizes that and they have collaborative aftercare centers around the world. These centers assist survivors in their home countries.
Their website states, “We believe that established, vetted aftercare centers are the experts in their country and we are servants. Servants that believe in empowering dreams, vision, and hope for each survivor’s future. United we stand in the fight against human trafficking and the healing process of victims that become thriving survivors.”
O.U.R. communicates with their aftercare centers prior to rescue operations. This is so that the center can anticipate the level of need and volume of the incoming survivors. Some of these centers only have the ability to offer short term care. Because of this, O.U.R. has decided to invest in the long term aftercare of survivors.
In April 2020, O.U.R. took control of the Children Need Families Foundation. Their goal is to place previously trafficked children in families that want to adopt them.
What You Can Do
This is a non-profit, not a government agency, so they operate mostly on donations. Unable to donate? Here is how you can get involved without spending money.
O.U.R. offers a free online training course that educates you on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking. To get e-alerts by texting UPDATES to 51555.
Finally, you can volunteer at, attend, or host an event for O.U.R. Finally, since an event may not be a possibility because of COVID-19, you can host a fundraiser on Facebook instead.
How will you get involved? Share in the comments.