Moms going village to village to warn about traffickers

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By Aimee Herd —

“…Bhuvan Devkota, head of New Light Nepal, knew if they could educate the moms about what really happens to their daughters, they’d keep them from ever being trafficked. So they started Mothers Against Trafficking (MAT) clubs teaching the Born2Fly material, and now the moms go village to village warning other moms—and they’ve stopped many, many girls from going off with traffickers.”

Born2Fly International, Inc is a non-profit organization formed with the stated purpose of “Reaching kids before the traffickers do in 65 countries.” (Image: Diana Scimone, president, Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking)

I was fortunate enough to meet the founder and president of Born2Fly, Diana Scimone, in Nashville at GMA Week over a decade ago, and to witness her sincere passion for breaking the child trafficking cycle by teaching kids what to avoid.

After reading Diana’s 2013 book “Audacious: The Bold, Brave, Brazen Plan to Shut Down the Global Child Sex Industry,” I knew I wanted to introduce others to the inspiring and valuable information it contained.

And especially upon seeing the widespread abolitionist motivation which followed the viewing of the movie “Sound of Freedom,” I wanted to help get word out about Diana’s essential books and curriculum for children that can help prevent them from being caught by traffickers.

I encourage our readers, especially parents and those who work with youth, to visit the website Born2Fly.org to learn more and to download the FREE curriculum.

What follows is an interview with Diana Scimone, about that material, and just what brought her to the vitally important work she has done, and is doing on behalf of kids and families all around the world.

Give me a little back-story on your journalism career, and then how you got started writing books.

Diana Scimone: Journalism wasn’t my major in college—or even on my radar. I majored in French and just wanted to travel the world. I took the first job I was offered out of college—in the news department of a major organization in Washington DC. I loved DC and it turned out I loved the constantly changing news cycle. Eventually I went out on my own and started writing freelance travel articles. 

After I gave my life to the Lord, I learned about the 10/40 Window and started traveling there undercover and telling the stories of persecuted Christians. I went on assignment to Sudan, Zimbabwe, India, the DMZ, and numerous trips to China including working undercover at an orphanage for throw-away baby girls. I wrote more than 1,000 articles as a freelance investigative journalist for Charisma, World, South China Morning Post, News Network International news service (Open Doors With Brother Andrew), and many more. 

During those years I published my first 3 books: the Adventures With PawPaw series about a little dog who travels the world introducing young children to other countries and cultures. I also wrote a curriculum to go along with them. The Lord told me to start a non-profit to raise funds for kids I’d met in my travels and promote it with the PawPaw books. That organization eventually became the Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking. 

In the front of your book Audacious you have a photo. Tell me about that photo, how it changed everything, and what it birthed in your heart.

In 2001 I was in India working on a story about forced prostitution of women. One night my contact took me through the redlight district in Mumbai and said, “I’m about to show you something—you can take a picture but don’t let the pimps see you or they’ll steal your camera.” He pointed to a window with cages holding little girls smuggled from Nepal into India being groomed for trafficking. I wanted to throw up. I got my photo and I call it the photo that changed my life because I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d seen. Within a few years I left my career as a journalist and launched the Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking. (Image: The Photo That Changed My Life, Mumbai, India, (c) 2001 by Diana Scimone)

Years later when I wrote Audacious about child trafficking and how to stop it, I dedicated it to the girls in those cages and included the photo I took that night. 

What was the answer God gave you, on what YOU could do to help stop child trafficking? And how did that become Born2Fly?

When I started Born2Fly, I had no idea what to actually do to stop the traffic. Remember this was more than 2 decades ago and there was very little anti-trafficking work going on here. So I went to Thailand and met with anyone who’d talk with me, including two women from International Justice Mission who worked with rescued kids. On the last day of that trip I told them, “I keep hearing that kids get taken because they don’t know the lies traffickers tell. I’ve written children’s books and curriculum to go along with them. If I write a book for kids warning them about the lies traffickers tell, and a curriculum to go with it, can you use that?” They both said, “Yes! We don’t have anything like that.” 

Those were my marching orders. I wrote a story about a caterpillar named Blossom who has a dream to fly. In her quest to follow her dream, she learns 5 important lessons (spoiler alert: she learns them the hard way), which are the teaching points in the curriculum. I had a small team and we turned it into a wordless book so that kids anywhere in the world could “read” it. We wrote curriculum to go along with it, tested everything in 5 countries, and translated the curriculum into 12 languages. We put it on our website where anyone anywhere in the world could download it for free. 

Today Born2Fly is the global leader in trafficking prevention for young children working in 65 countries from Albania to Zambia. We partner with more than 1,300 schools, churches, community organizations, ministries, summer camps, and more. 

What I just said in a few sentences took 10 long years. Hardly anyone knew about child trafficking then and most people thought I was crazy. It was a long and often painful road. 

But as with any dream, if you persevere past the painful point, you’ll succeed. And that’s actually one of the messages of Blossom’s story and the curriculum: We don’t just keep kids safe from traffickers but help them go after their dreams. Just like Blossom does.

Can you give a couple of examples of how the Born2Fly curriculum has helped a child avoid being trafficked?

One of our partners, New Light Nepal, travels to remote villages in the Himalayas that take days to reach. That’s where traffickers show up promising parents they’ll educate their girls in the big city. The parents never see their daughters again. Bhuvan Devkota, head of NLN, knew if they could educate the moms about what really happens to their daughters, they’d keep them from ever being trafficked. So they started Mothers Against Trafficking (MAT) clubs teaching the Born2Fly material, and now the moms go village to village warning other moms—and they’ve stopped many, many girls from going off with traffickers. (Image: New Light Nepal-Saved from traffickers, now a MAT trainer/via Born2Fly)

“We used to hear a lot of true stories in MAT class about females being trafficked by their relatives, parents, strangers, and so on. Each actual story was heartbreaking to hear. We met some girls who had returned from brothels and they told us that life in a brothel is worse than hell. There are already a lot of Nepali females in brothels, and we don’t want any more to join them. We are really glad and grateful that we have been able to reach women and children before traffickers set a trap.” – Bhuvan Devkota, head of New Light Nepal

In Lira, Uganda, Pastor Patrick Alobo from Pacowa Development Initiative has taught Born2Fly for years. They launched the first program back in 2013 with a parade through the streets, announcing their kids anti-trafficking program not just to the kids and their families but as a declaration to traffickers that their kids are hands-off. Year after year they’ve educated countless more kids who can even recite the lies that traffickers tell. (Pastor Alobo’s contact: [email protected])

In Thailand, the director of a safe house where we tested Born2Fly told us, “Our kids love the Born2Fly wordless book and curriculum! Before, they would run off to places in our neighborhood without letting us know where they were going. Now they understand why we’re always telling them to ask before they go.”

Your book “Audacious” is written to those who have a heart for bringing Justice, and taking action to help others like those caught in trafficking, but who maybe don’t know how to start… And you use the word “Audacious” as an acronym to spark that creativity and passion. Can you take us through some of those suggestions?

Traffickers are audacious so we must be, too. In fact, if they’re a 10 on the audacious scale, we have to be an 11 to stop them. Here’s the acronym I came up with:

Audacious people dream audaciously and do audacious things to dismantle audacious injustices.

Understanding. You’re plowing new ground and it doesn’t come with a map. I didn’t start out having all the answers. My constant line was, “I’m making this up as I go along.”

Dream Team. You need one. It’s much more than smart professionals to help you get the job done. It’s a small, close group of trusted friends and family members who understand your heart for justice and will be your encouragers when the going gets tough. And it will.

Align yourself with the God of justice and He’ll align Himself with you. He’s the key member of your Dream Team. He’s actually waiting to partner with you.

Counterattack. This is what happens when you decide to be audacious. I wish I could spare you the pain of this but it’s part of the job description of being an audacious abolitionist.

Ignore perfection. We always hear, “What could you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” but what about, “What could you do if you didn’t have to be perfect at it?”

Open your eyes to see how God sees others. You can’t tear down hate with more hate. You can only tear it down with love—God’s agape love. Our goal is to stop traffickers, yes, but ultimately we want them set free, too.

Undo unworthiness. This is the Control Z or Apple Z button you use on yourself. You must believe God not only longs to do this in partnership with you but that it’s actually His plan all along.

Stop preparing; start doing. It’s good to prepare, plan, and strategize but at some point you have to take a deep breath and actually start doing the work you’ve been talking about for years.

What are the 6 “P”s of anti-trafficking work?

Protection: Rescuing children, building safe houses, and providing therapy and after care.

Prosecution: The law enforcement and legal end of the fight; writing laws against trafficking, enacting them, and bringing buyers and sellers to justice.

Prevention: What Born2Fly does—cutting off the supply line of kids so they don’t get trafficked in the first place. It’s also awareness training for parents, teachers, churches, communities, and more. 

Partnership: Everyone working together to get the job done. Even competing pimps work together to protect their investment, so we have to work with each other to stop them. 

I’ve added two more Ps of my own:

Passion: Nothing gets done without it. 

Prayer: Nothing gets done without this, either. 

You spend some time in “Audacious” analyzing God’s Heart of Justice, as found in the book of Esther in the Bible. Pick two of the most important aspects of God’s Justice to share.

While I was writing “Audacious,” I was rereading the book of Esther, and “justice” seemed to jump off every page. This book of Esther doesn’t even mention God, but it’s all about His heart for justice—and how He uses ordinary people to dismantle entire structures of injustice. As I reread Esther’s powerful story, I came up with 49 facets of God’s heart for justice. Among my favorites are:

#4: God’s justice loves to work with young and inexperienced people without resumes. He doesn’t require years of experience. The stars of this story of deliverance are an orphan and her inexperienced cousin.

#48: God’s justice not only rights wrongs but in the process dismantles entire structures that are propping them up—political, cultural, legal, and more.

This October 12, Esther’s story will be the focus of A Million Women: An Esther Call on the Mall. I hope to share these 49 facets of God’s heart for justice with the women to use as powerful proclamations while they’re in Washington.

Who can use the Born2Fly curriculum for kids, and how can they get it?

The Born2Fly wordless book and curriculums are free and downloadable on our website: www.born2fly.org. If you work with kids anywhere in the world, they’re available for you. We have other free resources, too, including a video and meme series called #31Times you saw a trafficked child but didn’t know it, and a list of #99Things you can do right now to stop child trafficking.  (Screengrab image: via Born2Fly)

 What’s the next project you’re working on for Born2Fly?

My next dream is to turn the Born2Fly storyline into an animated film for kids. There are many films for adults about child trafficking including “Sound of Freedom,” but none for young children. How do you do that without scaring kids? Through a little caterpillar named Blossom who has a dream to fly. I’ve written the screenplay and am working on the next steps right now. — Breaking Christian News

 

To learn more about Born2Fly, go here