Eradicating child sex trafficking and exploitation: Destiny Rescue

In November 2016, I was privileged to be invited to an event called Dark Secret, organised by Destiny Rescue. The internationally recognised Christian non-profit organisation is dedicated to rescuing children trapped in the sex trade around the world. During the evening, my eyes were truly opened to just how awful the world can be — I was one of those people who really did not understand how huge the problem of child sex trafficking and exploitation actually is. I talked to Destiny Rescue's Lisa Ho about the organisation and their goals.


Yarns: Can you please tell Yarns readers a little bit about Destiny Rescue; when it began, its goals, how many people are involved?

Lisa Ho: Destiny Rescue is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to rescuing children from sexual exploitation and trafficking. Our organisation began in 2001 after our Founder and International President Tony Kirwan heard a story while traveling through Southeast Asia about a man who was offered a child for $400, to whom he could do whatever he wanted. In that moment Tony knew he had to do something and he was given a God-inspired vision of a world where children everywhere can sleep safely in their beds, free from the horrors of the sex trade. Tony sold his business in North Queensland, Australia and moved his family to Thailand where they started Destiny Rescue.

Since then, Destiny Rescue has grown to an organisation of over 300 people around the world – with staff in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, and ex-pat volunteers in Thailand, Cambodia, India, The Philippines, Laos and Dominican Republic. We also employ dozens of local staff in each of our Project Nations.

Our immediate goal is rescue any and every girl we find trapped in the sex trade; our mid-term goal is 100,000 rescues by 2020 and our long-term goal is to see child sexual exploitation eradicated in our lifetimes.

Our work is much greater than rescue though. Rescue is the starter’s gun to the marathon. Once the child is brought into our care the real work of restoring their life begins. We offer them a safe place to live, sleep, and eat. We meet their immediate healthcare needs and begin a counselling and rehabilitation programme with each child that meets their emotional and mental needs. We offer basic education including English language and local language classes; Christian studies, life skills, and much more. We also offer in-house vocational training so girls can learn to make jewellery, barista training, hair and beauty, t-shirt screen printing — we offer a lot! We want to empower these children to reach their dreams, to believe that life can be great again — and we see that come true over and over again.


You held an event evening called Dark Secret a little while ago. Can you please explain what your feelings were around hosting an event such as this and the reception you received from it?

Dark Secret was a huge success for us. It was our first major fundraising event so a lot was riding on it. We had a lot of help from our marketing friends at Hunch and PR friends at Clique; Dark Secret just wouldn’t have happened without them nor without our celebrity guests Colin Mathura-Jeffree, DJ Forbes, Lucy Elliott, Brooke Howard-Smith, and Jordan Mauger. We were pleased with the response from the event, we raised a generous sum to fund our work overseas, and we feel it helped raise the profile of Destiny Rescue a lot more in Auckland, too.

Do you think that many people turn a blind eye towards child sex trafficking, or do you think people just aren't aware that something like this exists in the world?

Both. Child sex trafficking is a very affronting topic; no one likes to think about what happens to innocent children night after night around the world. People can easily turn a blind eye and put it out of their minds because it’s just too horrific to think about for a second. But knowledge is power, and with knowledge comes responsibility. So we encourage people when they hear about what’s happening to get involved; don’t just get upset — let it grip you, let it bring you to tears, but then turn that into action. We are doing something about it; we are shining light in the darkness, and if people want to do something to help; join us!

Along with that though is the ignorance — people just don’t know this happens. That’s why our work here in New Zealand and other western countries is so important — we need to tell people what is going on so they can help end it.


Are you able to share any statistics around children you've saved since the organisation began?

Since we started rescuing children in 2011 we have rescued 2049 children from sexual exploitation (as of March 17, 2017). That’s 2049 individual, precious children. It’s a huge number, and we’ll keep going. Most of these children will be in their mid-teens, but we’ve rescued a number of nine-year-old girls in some countries, and even a child as young as four earlier this year.

The reasons children end up in the sex trade vary. Sometimes they are sold by their family, sometimes they are tricked into it — offered a job cleaning dishes or waiting tables, but it doesn’t turn out to be that way. Sometimes the girls choose it out of desperation, as their parents can’t afford to send them to school, and since they have no qualification or job skills they are easy prey for opportunistic pimps who groom them and emotionally manipulate them into the sex trade. It’s a complex problem that needs to be tackled on every front — from frontline rescue like Destiny Rescue, to dealing with governments at a legislative level.


If people want to get involved with Destiny Rescue and help out, in what ways do you advise they start out?

Take a look at our website and have a look at the Get Involved section. There are so many ways to help us — either by donating or joining our sponsorship programme, or becoming an advocate and helping fundraise for us, or coming on a Team Trip to see the work we do firsthand. At the very least, talk about it. Tell someone — one person — what you have read and heard about Destiny Rescue and child trafficking, and share the knowledge; you never know what will come of it!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with Yarns' readers?

Thanks for the opportunity to share with you. I hope you’ve been informed and inspired to expand your worldview and consider the gifts, skills, and resources you have that could be used to help change the lives of children around the world, and bring freedom those innocent children who suffer terrible sexual abuse, night after night, with little hope for freedom. Help us bring freedom!