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    Putting a Face on Human Trafficking

    Keisha's rescue by a Salvation Army facility in Malawi highlights a shameful practice. September 24, 2014 by Major Gillian Brown
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Keisha was seven when she arrived at The Salvation Army's Child Trafficking Centre (CTC) in Mchinji, Malawi, 18 months ago. She'd been trafficked by her family. Her own mother had sold her to a brothel. The future seemed bleak.

    Fortunately, someone in the community had the courage to report her plight and centre staff, accompanied by police, rescued her. In many cases, local truck drivers, NGOs, police and other citizens report children that are suspected of being trafficked to the Salvation Army staff. Sometimes children make their own way to the centre hoping to find safety.

    Two men were subsequently put on trial for abusing Keisha. The brave girl identified the men during the trial, and each of them received a 12-year sentence.

    Keisha is now a happy eight-year-old who dreams of becoming a doctor, but who knows what her life would have become had she not been brought to the CTC.

    The Salvation Army - - Putting a Face on Human Trafficking CTC schoolchildren pose for the camera

    Oasis of Hope
    The CTC offers a safe haven for children between the ages of seven and 18. There, they receive three healthy meals a day, schooling, counselling and teaching on how to earn a living. The staff work to reunite the children with family members where appropriate, or place them in an orphanage. While most children remain just a few months, others will stay longer (as in the case of Keisha) until arrangements can be made.

    The centre works to support itself. It boasts a garden, raises and sells rabbits and chickens, and has a bikerepair shop and a carpentry program for the local community. The Salvation Army's Canada and Bermuda Territory also provides funding for the centre.

    Beginning of the End?
    “I've helped compile a visual record of the many activities The Salvation Army does every day all over the world,” says photographer Heidi Ram. “I'd been vaguely aware of the human-trafficking issue but it really hit home on this trip to Malawi. What floored me was that men, women and especially children are essentially given a life sentence without parole. It's the 21st century, and slavery still exists? Have we not gone beyond that? How sad, how brutal.

    “Just looking at the faces of the children I photographed, listening to their stories—what they went through to make it to the safety of this Salvation Army centre—was a revelation,” Heidi continues. “I'll never comprehend their reality and horror, but I do know that we all need to play a role in putting an end to this godless practice. I pray that these photos will put a face on human trafficking.”

    Major Gillian Brown is the director of The Salvation Army's world missions department for Canada and Bermuda.


    Sobering Statistics

    • Human trafficking is the second largest source of illegal income worldwide, exceeded only by drug trafficking.

    • 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.

    • 600,000-800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 percent are women and girls.

    • Worldwide, almost 20 percent of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority.

    The Salvation Army - - Putting a Face on Human Trafficking School Days: Keisha (centre) flanked by some of her classmates at The Salvation Army's Child Trafficking Centre (CTC) in Mchinji, Malawi


    On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, Kristin Ostensen said:

    Hello Catherine,

    Thank you for your comments. We have been in touch with the Canada and Bermuda Territory's World Missions department, which provided Keisha's story and photos, to gain insight into the Army's current practices when sharing stories that touch on sensitive issues.

    The usual practice of World Missions is to ask the individuals and caregivers where appropriate for permission to take and use their photo. We do not include all the details we receive when sharing personal stories, and do ask for agreement to use not only photos but also to share the stories.

    In the case of this story, we felt it was important to include a real, personal story in order to--as the headline says--put a face on human trafficking. This is not an abstract issue--it affects real people. The name of the young girl in the story, Keisha, was changed to protect her identity.

    All that said, we are grateful for your thoughtful comments. While World Missions did receive agreement in the use of the photo and the story, in light of these comments, World Missions will review its approach when sharing through social media.

    All the best,
    Kristin Ostensen, associate editor

    On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, Kristin Ostensen said:

    Hello Heather,

    Thank you for your interest in this project. For more information on supporting the Centre, please contact our World Missions department at or 416-422-6224.

    All the best,
    Kristin Ostensen, associate editor

    On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, Heather Allington said:

    Thanks for sharing this sad but also encouraging story. How can I donate specifically to this children's centre?

    On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, Catherine Howlett said:

    While the fact that this beautiful child has been rescued from something so horrendous is absolutely amazing, it bothers me that not only is her photo in a national magazine but now on the web. I realize it is important to tell the story and being located in Malawi, it may not matter that her photos (while absolutely beautiful) are now public and tied to this story. With such a horrific experience and sensitive issue how was the decision made to publicly post/print her photo? Was she given a choice in sharing her image with this story. When she's older will she be okay with the fact that her image is out there and out there accompanying an article regarding the nightmare she must have gone through. And if she was given the choice, at 8 is she old enough to understand that she has a right to privacy and it should be her story and choice to share when and if she's ready. Was that taken into consideration when the decision was made to post and print her photo?

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