As an OB/GYN, I have the privilege of serving women and children and welcoming new life into the world. The thrill of hearing that first cry never grows old. To me, birth has always signified the hope and expectancy of the future – a positive and beautiful thing.
For millions of women and children around the world, the future does not bring hopeful expectancy, but, instead, despair. These women and children are victims of human trafficking. To put it bluntly – they are modern day slaves.
If you were to ask me where this tragedy is happening, I would, in turn, ask where you live and work. Are you from Europe? South America? India? Africa? Perhaps, like me, you’re from South Florida in the United States. Wherever you live, human trafficking is part of your world. I was stunned to find human trafficking was part of mine.
It wasn’t that the reality of sex trafficking and current day slavery had evaded my notice. I knew it was out there. But, it wasn’t until the actual numbers were put in front of me that I was hit with the enormity of the suffering endured across the globe.
Thousands of children are sold into slavery every year. Many of them are sold into the sex trade to be used and abused for profit. About $3 billion is generated off their devastation.
Poverty: Driving Factor?
Some parents sell their children, unable to feed and care for them. Others are tricked into sending their children off with strangers amid promises of jobs and a better life, only to never hear from them again. Young women are also lured into leaving their homes with these same promises that end in slavery and far worse than the poverty they left behind.
Although, I consider myself well-travelled and have spoken on the subjects of physical and emotional abuse endured by women, the stories of the tortured lives of modern-day slavery have moved me to a new level of concern and compassion. As a physician, committed to the health and healing of humanity, I feel compelled to speak out, to be a voice for those who have been silenced by their captivity.
Tina Yeager is the National Director for Freedom Climb USA, a program offered through Operation Mobilization. She initially shared with me the staggering statistics related to the global issue of human trafficking.
Operation Mobilization is an interna- tional nonprofit that delivers hope and practical resources on many fronts around the world. The Freedom Climb program is one those fronts fighting against human trafficking through a three-pronged approach: Prevention – Rescue and Restoration – Development.
With poverty as the core perpetuator of human trafficking, breaking the cycle of poverty that puts families and women in desperate situations is a key strategy for Freedom Climb programs, in all three areas – prevention, restoration and development.
Providing training and enhanced income opportunities can slow the flow of women and children into the slave trade. It can also provide a means of sustained income for those who have been rescued out of the clutches of their oppressors.
Freedom Climb programs provide medical exams and care for those rescued from captivity, but psychological residuals of human trafficking require the most extensive treatment. Long-term counseling is often required to restore the emotional and mental health of victims.
In 2012, a group of 48 women decided to add their efforts and voices to the fight against human trafficking and the global exploitation of women and children. They committed to climb together to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as a symbolic gesture of their solidarity with those who have no voice to speak for themselves and to raise funds for OM programs that fight to put an end to this blight pervading humankind.
In 2015, another team of close to 50 climbers will ascend to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, a Corporate Climb sponsored by The Wasie Foundation.
I will be among them, serving as Team Physician for the group. For two weeks, I will be unavailable to my patients, my family and my other passions as I climb my first mountain. Not a metaphorical mountain, the real thing; but, yet, such a small thing compared to the inexplicable suffering of the women and children our journey represents.
This will not be a solitary effort. Along with my fellow climbers, a team of supporters are joining me. Team Freedom Docs consist of one person on the ground and a stronghold of medical professionals and patrons adding their virtual efforts and support to the battle.
Dr. Mufa Ghadiali and Dr. Lance Lehmann are my co-captains for Team Freedom Docs. Together, we ask you to join the efforts of our team. We have set a goal to positively impact the lives of 10,000 women and children this year by raising awareness and funding for the OM Freedom Climb programs.
We invite you to join Team Freedom Docs and partner with us in our efforts to increase awareness and fund practical solutions for those victimized in more than 127 countries. You can do this through your financial contributions online at www.freedomclimb.net.
As physicians, we are committed to the ministry of healing. Human trafficking is a cancer that will only get worse. Together, we can make a difference. Would you care to join us? Contact Tina.Yeager@ OM for further information.
About the Author
Dr. Lanalee Araba Sam is director of Gynecologic Robotic Surgery at West Boca Medical Center, and founder/medical director of Elite Obstetrics & Gynecology. She is also director of Women’s Transformational Health Services at Florida Medical Center, president of the American Association of Concierge Obstetrics & Gynecology, S.E. Regional Governor of the American Medical Woman’s Association, and chairwoman of the Broward County Medical Association Women’s Physicians Section.