Bethany clamps down on child trafficking

By August 6, 2012

International (MNN) — Children around the world are exploited through forced labor and sexual trafficking every day. And Ghana and Haiti are no exception.

While it’s impossible to know a real number, it was estimated by the Rescue Foundation that 242,704 children between 5 and 17 years old are being forcibly trafficked in Ghana.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, that number is even higher in Haiti with 300,000 children estimated to be in human trafficking. The number of exploited Haitian kids exploited skyrocketed after the 2010 earthquake as traffickers took advantage of the confusion to shuffle children through the system.

But Bethany Christian Services is doing something about it.

Last Wednesday, August 1, Bethany kicked off their SafeNotSold campaign to combat child trafficking specifically in Ghana and Haiti.

Bill Blacquiere, President and CEO of Bethany, says, “In Ghana, for example, we are providing temporary shelter foster homes. When the Ghana national police rescues children from a traffic situation, they will now bring them to these shelter foster homes, which are Christian families in Ghana who will care for these children on a short-term basis.”

Once in the foster homes, the children are either returned to their families or kept in foster care with hopes of being adopted.

Blacquiere explains where SafeNotSold comes in. “Our campaign that we are implementing right now is to help Bethany with the financial support to recruit these foster parents, train the foster parents, and also have a case worker involved to do therapy with the children.”

The local churches where the foster parents attend also get involved. “We provide training to their pastors on preventing child abuse, neglect, and exploitation. In addition, we teach the pastor what the Gospel has to say regarding the care, adoption, and protection of children. Pastors then are committed also to do these teachings in their churches,” says Blacquiere.

The Gospel message is at the heart of it all. “We recruit Christian foster families who can pass on the message [of the Gospel] to the child as they care for the child on a daily basis.”

In the SafeNotSold campaign financial boost, Bethany hopes to serve 100 children in Ghana and 200 in Haiti each year.

They also want to begin networking with the country governments and other organizations to end the practice of families entrusting their children to strangers for promises of a better future. This is often how children end up being trafficked if they weren’t already kidnapped from the street.

Churches in the U.S. can get involved with Bethany’s SafeNotSold campaign by either directly sponsoring a child, or giving a one-time gift of $7.99.

Blacquiere says, “Our intent with that was many families are maybe not in a financial position to help with a substantial amount of money. So we decided to put it at this amount so that every family could participate.”

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