Tim Ballard has dedicated his life to rescuing children from sex trafficking and his non-profit has helped arrest over 2,100 traffickers and rescued over 3,800 children from slavery.
Life is beautiful, but humans always manage to make the world a horrible place. It seems like there is one pink, joyful, happy, and busy life on one side, and various horrors, injustices, violence, and negativity on the other.
No matter how disgusting we find even thinking about it, child trafficking exists, and unless we all do something to end it, so many children out there will continue suffering and will never get the chance to see the bright side of life.
One devoted father of nine from Utah has dedicated his life to fighting all those sick human monsters. The non-profit Operation Underground Railroad was founded by Tim Ballard, a former agent with the Department of Homeland Security.
The organization’s goal is to take down child sex trafficking operations and rescue as many children as possible.
Originally trained in counterterrorism and weapons, Ballard eventually entered the trafficking world in the mid-2000s, when he was asked to help start the Department of Homeland Security’s child crimes unit.
He was assigned to go undercover as a sex tourist. Even though he had six children on his own at the time and found the entire task stressful and traumatic, he was determined to do his best and fight against these horrors.
He learned to “act like a pedophile or talk like a trafficker or a purveyor of child sex tourism—whatever I needed to do”, and he began to “infiltrate different organizations in horrible places in Mexico and Colombia.”
However, he was traumatized after learning the vastness of the industry:
“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.”
He never stopped seeing the entire thing as stomach-churning, even when he stopped superimposing his children’s faces onto the rescued ones. Over time, he realized that if he was not limited by U.S. jurisdiction, he would be able to help more.
The story of Gardy, the 3-year-old son of a Haitian pastor, Guesno Mardy, who had been kidnapped by an employee of the church and sold to traffickers was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
No matter how hard he tried, he failed to find the boy. He even flew his father to the U.S., but he wasn’t able to make it a U.S. case.
Yet, he promised Mardy that he will find his son. Over time, this promise started making him anxious, so his wife and his hero, Katherine, supported him to branch out on his own.
Back in 2013, he launched Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The team involved “former CIA, past and current law enforcement, and highly skilled operatives that lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts”.
Nowadays, about people work full-time all around the world, and the organization also has about 100 contractors—or the “jump team”, people from law enforcement and military backgrounds who act whenever they are needed.
They initially do research and assess the operation, and then develop a strategy for infiltration.
In most cases, the operatives go undercover as prospective buyers. They eventually move in with local law enforcement to rescue the trafficked children and provide them with food, shelter, and therapy to help them readjust after the trauma.
In the end, the perpetrators are arrested, tried, and convicted.
During their first operation, which took place in Cartagena, Colombia, the team managed to rescue dozens of children from a group of sex traffickers that involved a former popular Colombian beauty queen.
Afterward, the rescued kids from a fake orphanage in Haiti. Unfortunately, Ballard did not find Gardy. Hopeless, he went to inform his father about it, and the two men cried together.
The pastor then said something that shocked 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.”
“Then he does the most amazing thing. He goes to the police the next day and he tells them that he will bring home any of the kids that they can’t find parents for and parent them. And he brings home 8 of those kids, and he and his wife are now raising them.”
Gardy’s father continued this work for years, and nowadays, he looks after 100 children, and Ballard’s foundation “finances and helps him fundraise.”
The search for Gardy continues. This pastor inspired Ballard and his wife to adopt two of those kids as well, a brother and sister, whose parents could not be traced.
Ballard explains that Americans are the ultimate clients, as they are wealthy, and traffickers charge them more.
“I’ve asked myself this question for a little over a decade-Why do you want this?
Because people think child pornography is 16-and 17-year-olds. And technically it would be. But I’ve never met a law enforcement agency who has time to even worry about that. As horrible as that is—and we wish we could—we’re talking about prepubescent children. That’s something people can’t wrap their head around. I can’t wrap my head around it. I cannot. It’s the opposite of what most people think of as sexy. It’s so grotesque. And yet so many people want it.”
Nowadays, Ballard is still focused on his work. He and his wife, who supports and inspires him whenever he loses strength, have nine children.
Ballard is featured in the documentary film Operation Toussaint: Operation Underground Railroad and the Fight to End Modern Day Slavery, and is a co-author of the book adaptation as well as Slave Stealers: True Accounts of Slave Rescues — Then and Now, that shares stories of slavery from the pre-Civil War era and now.
A feature film called “Sound of Freedom,” starring Jim Caviezel as Ballard and Mira Sorvino as his wife, is in post-production stages. The non-profit has helped arrest more than 2,100 traffickers and rescued over 3,800 children from slavery.
Yet, on their website, they state that the partners they are empowering “have collectively helped rescue the lives of more than 10,000 survivors who were enslaved, exploited, or at risk.”
This is the promise they made:
“ To the children who we pray for daily, we say:
Your long night is coming to an end. Hold on. We are on our way.
And to those captors and perpetrators, even you monsters who dare offend God’s precious children, we declare to you:
Be afraid. We are coming for you.
To those who have read this far, we plead with you:
Donate to our cause. We can’t do this without you.”