In today’s edition of 5 Questions With…Wyo4News talks with Tyler Schwab of Operation Underground Railroad.
O.U.R. was founded in 2013 to help rescue children from slavery all over the world. O.U.R. was founded by a former member of DHS named Tim Ballard. Since being founded O.U.R. has helped rescue over 2,000 kids from human trafficking and are working in 22 different countries all across the world. They partner with local law enforcement and provide training, resources, and undercover operators to help in various investigations.
Schwab has been with O.U.R. for nearly three years now. He is from Star Valley, WY, and he got started in anti-human trafficking work in 2012 when he saw sex tourism for the first time in the Dominican Republic. Sex tourism is when pedophiles travel to a different country with the intent to abuse kids in that country. Schwab knew he wanted to help and get involved, so he started his own foundation focused on prevention and aftercare for survivors of trafficking and sex tourism. That foundation is called Gifts of Grace. From there it grew and shortly after graduating school, he joined up with Operation Underground Railroad in an effort to help rescue and restore these survivors.
Schwab’s position at O.U.R. is their Aftercare Assistant, and his job is to coordinate aftercare for the survivors O.U.R. rescues in the 22 different countries they work in. Usually, that comes with helping the kids be reunited with their families, if their families are safe, coordinating aftercare housing for them in the case that they can’t return home, and then coordinating different services for them like legal services, job training, and doing things like helping them celebrate birthdays, or taking them on outings to improve their quality of life. Every situation is different.
What does it feel like working each day with O.U.R. knowing you are making a difference in a child’s life that has been affected by human trafficking?
It’s a great honor to be able to work for such a great organization whose only motivation is rescuing children from the very worst forms of abuse and slavery. There are so many people that contribute to the cause and to bettering life for those who are exploited, everyone from attorneys, to donors, bloggers, or even the team that prays for me and those who are members of our team. Each day in our line of work can be a little bit different, yesterday I was on a horse farm and tomorrow I will be on a plane but every day consists of a group of dedicated people working to eliminate modern-day slavery from the earth today.
What was your reaction to realizing O.U.R. has helped rescue over 2,000 children from human trafficking?
Pretty unreal! I was very happy about it and even more so after hearing this sweet girls story. The number 2000 is only a small drop in the pond when you think of the nearly 2 million children trapped in the sex trade and the 40 million people trapped in slavery worldwide. But we go about our work one by one and it sure made a difference for the one. If O.U.R. stopped operating tomorrow and all we did was rescue one person, all the effort that went into it and all the money raised would still have been worth it, even for just one child. So when I think that there are 2,000 kids who are sleeping somewhere safe, have been returned to their families, and are having success in various aspects of life, that is definitely something worth celebrating.
In what way does this motivate you to keep moving forward and working for O.U.R.?
We all have hard days and good days. Hard days can consist of funding issues when it comes to nonprofits, corruption with local governments, or when a survivor chooses to take a different path than the one of healing or dealing with our own personal PTSD or our own demons. But all of that pales in comparison to helping a survivor leave a life of slavery and abuse and put them on the path to healing, hope, and recovery. Our fight against modern-day slavery reflects the fight of modern day slavery in days of old. One of the greatest abolitionists to ever walk the earth, William Wilberforce said “you can choose to look away, but you can never again say you did not know” In the end, it’s all about the survivors. They are the ones that make it worth it and that keeps me motivated to continue on.
What can you say about all of the volunteers that help make O.U.R. what it is today?
Thank you! We couldn’t do this without you. Volunteers do everything from creating events, sharing our posts, raising funds in creating ways, and even doing pro bono surgeries for our survivors! Everyone has a different set of skills. People ask “what can I do to help?” To be honest, you’ll know more than I would. You know your talents and you know your passions. So find where those two meet and go make a difference.
What does the future look like for you and all of those associated with O.U.R.?
The future is bright! There is hope for all those kids living in slavery. O.U.R., we pride ourselves in finding the best partners, getting the resources into the right hands, and staying at the top of our game when it comes to empowering law enforcement. As long as people continue to shine a light on slavery and continue supporting us, there is hope in our promise that reads
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 learn more about Operation Underground Railroad click here.