About a year ago, we announced the official beginning of operations in a beautiful African country: Zimbabwe.

During the preceding pilot phase, we made connections with valuable partners while we learned how to best interact with local communities, rescue trafficked kids and offer them real, sustainable solutions to help them stay free. Now, a year after the public launch, we’re highlighting all the lives that have changed in that time.

A year of rescue

In the last year, over 100 Zimbabwean children have made a joyous change: they are no longer victims!

Most of these kids lived in extreme poverty. Many had lost their parents and were living in child-run homes. In such desperate situations, they were faced with a terrible choice: exploitation or starvation. To keep themselves and their siblings alive, they were forced to sell their bodies for money, often barely getting enough to feed them for a single day.

Over one-quarter of children in Zimbabwe are orphans (Image is representational)

But since we’ve been in Zimbabwe, our operatives and their local partners have had the privilege of seeking out these suffering children and offering them an alternative. They patiently built trust with kids who’d grown accustomed to being deceived and used. Once those children realised that our agents were true to their word, they made the life-changing and courageous choice to join us. To date, over 200 Zimbabwean survivors have bravely stepped into the light of freedom!

Equipping families to live free

One child-led family took back control of their lives by joining our apprenticeship program. After losing their parents, the two elder brothers did the best they could to provide for themselves and their younger sisters. But they just weren’t making enough to survive. Desperate to contribute, the school-aged girls resorted to exploitation to help make ends meet.

In 2022, Zimbabwe had the world’s lowest average monthly salary, taking into account the average cost of living (Image is representational)

That all changed when our agents found the family and offered them another way. The eldest young man graduated from our nursing assistance program, landing a job in a neighboring country that gives him the opportunity to send money home to his family. His younger brother participated in our apprenticeship programming via on-the-job training. Armed with industry knowledge and empowered to act independently, the young man started his ouwn successful business!

Because of their new, sustainable and safe income, their younger sisters were able to return to school and exit exploitation! We were overjoyed to hear that the eldest girl recently passed her semester exams. 

Life will still be challenging for the young family, but they’re hopeful, grateful and determined to succeed.

“Their story is the talk of the community, and they have become an inspiration to others who are still struggling and need help,” Zimbabwe’s project coordinator said.

It’s stories like that help build trust in our work. This reputation for trustworthiness has solidified our agents’ standing in the minds of the local community, allowing us to rescue children quicker. 

Overcoming challenges

But the past year hasn’t been without challenges. An enduring heat wave has caused numerous problems, including electrical blackouts. The most concerning result in our area has been severe drought. City officials have had to make the tough decision of cutting off the water supply for weeks at a time as a long-term rationing solution. Besides the immediate need for drinking water, losing access to clean water also leads to an increase in disease, which in turn affects entire communities.

Two young boys hauling drinking water (Image is representational)

Two young boys hauling drinking water (Image is representational)

Economic difficulties are an enduring concern, especially since it’s those same difficulties that lead to exploitation in the first place. Helping survivors or their guardians find a sustainable means of economic independence is a vital part of the rescue process. Our vocational trainers have had to stay on their toes, pivoting quickly as economic needs fluctuate. 

While we had some early success with training nursing assistants, local medical facilities stopped taking new trainees as their profit margin thinned. But even when nursing jobs became scarce, these survivors have shown extraordinary adaptability. 

One such brave survivor became an entrepreneur! To help sustain her while she looks for work in the medical field, we helped her start an innovative and in-demand business in the meantime. The diligent survivor purchases chicken cuts at wholesale prices and then repackages them in family-sized quantities for resale in her community. While content with her current work, she remains hopeful that she’ll be able to find work as a nursing assistant when the time is right.

Setting sail

These stories highlight something special about the importance of equipping survivors after rescue. Freedom Plans™ are more than a standardised post-rescue curriculum. While the central goals are the same, each plan is unique and customised to the needs of each survivor. Because of a personal and holistic approach, children gain more than job skills during their enrolment. 

The amazing kids are learning to navigate life.

Through our EMPOWER trauma resilience training program, children learn their true, inestimable worth in the eyes of their Creator. They learn to move forward and begin manoeuvring through the trauma. 

Combine that stark change with caring, invested caseworkers and innovative apprenticeship and vocational training programs, and you get something special.

“They changed their lifestyle completely,” our coordinator said. “And that is amazing.”

Survivors gathered during an EMPOWER training session

Survivors gathered during an EMPOWER training session

During exploitation, children are stuck in a seemingly unbreakable survival trauma cycle. It’s like being trapped in a leaky boat: they devote all of their time and energy to patching holes, doing what they can to avoid sinking beneath the waves.

Once they’ve been empowered and equipped for sustainable freedom, these kids are unfurling their sails and charting a course into better, brighter futures. They still face great difficulties; the seas are dangerous, and the waves can be rough. But for the first time, they can finally set their own heading!

Would you like to help rescue a child and equip her to live free? Please consider joining us by filling out the form below. Your gift can help launch an abused child from the darkness of exploitation into the light of freedom.

Help fund life-changing empowerment.

Your donation can fund education and economic opportunities to help keep her free.

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Thank you fighting for freedom. You’re now a part of a worldwide team that is helping to rescue and restore the sexually exploited. You’ll receive regular updates on the impact that your generosity is enabling and the lives changed because of you.

We’d love to get to know you more!

Help fund life-changing empowerment.

Your donation can fund education and economic opportunities to help keep her free.