Human trafficking is the second largest criminal activity globally, and the fastest-growing crime worldwide.
More than one million children are trafficked every year; however, due to the hidden nature of this exploitation, experts say the true figure is likely to be much higher. [– International Labour Organization report, 2017/Destiny Rescue]
A recent Hollywood movie, Sound of Freedom, which is based on true events around the rescue of children from human traffickers in Colombia, has raised awareness of the crime and started conversations about this important issue.
96five’s Jess Drummond spoke with Destiny Rescue CEO Paul Mergard about how the film is seeing people’s concern about the issue translate into trangible action.
Founded on the Sunshine Coast in 2001, Destiny Rescue works to save children from human trafficking and put them on a path to freedom. To date, the organisation has rescued more than 13,000 individuals across 12 countries.
“Sound of Freedom has really shone a light on the issue of human trafficking and what happens to over a million children every single year” Paul said.
“One of our biggest challenges has often been to help people understand that this is an issue that actually impacts on Aussies and we need to be more aware of it, so [the film] has done its job in raising awareness and got people talking about the issue.”
Paul says while the movie is dramatised for cinematic effect, he thinks it has been well done and that the events on screen bear resemblance to some aspects of real-world rescues.
“It’s mind-blowing to see what happens to kids when they get freedom, when they get the chance to live again, when they get to start to think about what their future might look like and it’s not the future that they’d been imagining weeks ago when they were entrapped.” Destiny Rescue CEO Paul Mergard
“The movie shows one side of rescue work that often happens with police. I think the movie has certainly been Hollywoodised in that sense because it’s made to be a lot bigger than the sort of work that we would generally do, but if I think about our work that I’ve been involved in undercover, going into bars around the world, building cases to identify where children are being trafficked, helping to educate families, and then working with law enforcement to get those kids out of the situations they’re in – there are some similarities [between] what the movie portrays [and] our work.”
Paul says there has been a surge in support for the work of Destiny Rescue in the wake of Sound of Freedom’s release in cinemas.
“We’ve seen well over a thousand brand new supporters of Destiny Rescue over the last four weeks. It’s just been incredible as mums and dads, young people and older people have gone and seen the movie and walked out and thought, ‘I can do something about being the answer to this problem.’… It means that we can now rescue more kids because of this movie, and for that I am incredibly thankful.”
Destiny Rescue wants to rescue 100,000 children by the end of the decade. Amid the 13,000 rescues that have happened so far, Paul has seen remarkable transformation of lives.
“It’s mind-blowing to see what happens to kids when they get freedom, when they get the chance to live again, when they get to start to think about what their future might look like and it’s not the future that they’d been imagining weeks ago when they were entrapped. It is so incredibly exciting to see what happens to these kids, and then as they start to discover who they’ve been created to be, what their dreams and plans are for the future, it is massively inspiring to see that come to fruition and someone’s life put back together,” says Paul.
For more information about the work of Destiny Rescue, visit their website.
Listen to the full interview in the player above.
Feature Image: Destiny Rescue Raid / Source: Supplied by Destiny Rescue