Category "Child Trafficking Rescue"

In Mexico, extreme poverty fuels human trafficking

November 23, 2021
In Mexico, extreme poverty fuels human trafficking.
The ZOE Mexico team partners with local churches and NGOs in Oaxaca to help educate citizens about the atrocities of human trafficking.

Thirteen-year-old Juana* was not in school when a ZOE Mexico church partner first met her.

 

“One day, the church went into the neighborhood to look for children who need an education and resources,” said Mariela Ambrosio, ZOE Mexico Director.

 

They met Juana and learned that she didn’t know how to read or write, and her mother works in the sex industry. Her older sister was following in her mother’s footsteps. The ZOE Mexico team quickly rallied to find a scholarship for her to attend the church’s K-12 E-Kids school. Juana has attended this school for the past five years, learning to read, and recently graduated from primary school.

 

“Juana is now 18-years old and has three more years before she will graduate from high school,” said Mariela. “She is now working towards getting a job while finishing her high school degree.”

 

God sent His son, Jesus, to carry out a plan to end all suffering and bring hope to a fallen world. At Christmas, we celebrate Christ’s entrance into the world. Would you prayerfully consider joining us to offer hope to those affected by human trafficking by donating to ZOE’s global mission?

With you, our prayer partners, and donors, we can continue this life-saving fight to prevent and end child trafficking and educate and empower more youth like Juana in Mexico.

Your contribution will help bring hope into the darkest of places! Merry Christmas!

*Some information changed to align with our child protective policies

ZOE USA receives license to open ZOE Home for Youth in Los Angeles

September 17, 2021

We are so excited to have finally received our license to open the ZOE Home for Youth (ZHY). “From 2016, when we closed escrow and submitted our plans to receiving our license to open, God has been guiding us, answering prayers and performing miracles along the way,” said Vickie McCoy, ZHY Residential Manager.

Lancaster Cycling Team Prepares for Race Across America RAAM

June 14, 2021

8 Lancaster County cyclists prepare for 3,000-mile bike race to raise $250K to fight sex trafficking

Erik Yabor – Staff Writer

A group of Lancaster County residents are preparing to set off on a 3,000 mile bike trek to raise money for an international nonprofit that combats child sex trafficking. An eight-man relay team and 12 crew members depart from Oceanside, California, on Saturday with a plan of arriving in Annapolis, Maryland, less than a week later as part of Race Across America (RAAM), an annual ultra-endurance cycling race that spans the United States. 

Brad Ortenzi and other ZOE bike riders“It is a race,” said team leader Brad Ortenzi, 53, a former Ephrata police detective who served for 20 years, “but it’s more of a platform for nonprofits and cyclists to either raise awareness for a project or to raise funds for charities.” RAAM cyclists raise more than $10 million each year for their charities of choice, according to the organization’s website. The Lancaster County team’s sponsored charity, ZOE International, is focused on helping survivors of child sex trafficking across the globe.

“ZOE is bringing freedom to many children, and I want to stand with them because I believe in what they are doing,” said team member Allan Fisher, 33, of Gordonville.

Ortenzi, ZOE’s Eastern U.S. Regional Director, has been involved with the faith-based international nonprofit with operations in five countries since 2014, when he visited their refuge house in Thailand to meet with child survivors of sex trafficking. “Every one of them was a fighter – fighting to get their life back,” he said. “Their fight inspired me and changed my life. Competing in the Race Across America allows ZOE to take this fight against child sex trafficking across the United States.” The Lancaster County team’s goal this year is to raise $250,000 for ZOE, with more than $198,000 already raised, according to ZOE International’s website.

Children’s stories motivate mission

Ortenzi had been working undercover online seeking out traders of child pornography, a job he described as “heartcrushing” work, when he began looking for a new career he could take on post-retirement. It was Ortenzi’s pastor who suggested that he reach out to ZOE, believing he would be a natural fit due to his background in law enforcement. “It was clear from the beginning that Brad has a passion for justice,” said Brian Flewelling, a pastor at Petra Church in Earl Township, which Ortenzi has attended since 2012. “He has a skillset that is unique to anyone else in the field.” Flewelling helped facilitate a meeting between Ortenzi and a person who was connected with leadership at ZOE’s Los Angeles campus.

“To see (Ortenzi) emotionally moved by the mission and mandate that ZOE was carrying, it was clear that something was happening in his heart and his spirit where their vision was being shared,” Flewelling said. “He really felt a need to be a partner in that.” From there, a trip to ZOE’s refuge for child victims of sex trafficking in Thailand was quickly arranged.

photo of Brad Ortenzi ZOE International Eastern USA Regional Director

photo of Brad Ortenzi
ZOE International
Eastern USA

 

“They were cared for, they were loved, and they were on their way back to a really healthy path,” he said. Ortenzi later wrote in his journal that “it seemed like they had a grasp on joy that I didn’t.” “Never being around trafficked children before, I expected the worst,” he said. “We just didn’t see that. These kids were really on a good path.” During one prayer session, an 8-year-old girl who had been rescued from sex trafficking offered a prayer. It was for Ortenzi. Though he didn’t understand the child’s Thai language, Ortenzi said the moment made Ortenzi and his wife feel he had a new calling in life.

“’You have skills right now that could help free rescued trafficked children, and there’s no amount of retirement that could add up to that,’” Ortenzi said his wife told him. Moving from Lancaster County to Thailand was a gargantuan undertaking, Ortenzi said, but “this was something we wanted to be a part of.”

Regional Director Ortenzi and his wife arrived to find what he described as a “first-class operation” consisting of about 100 Thai staff and another two dozen international missionaries, but what really impressed him was the bravery and resilience of the children.

“It was a culture shock, but we were both world travelers before,” he said. “In the military I was all over the place.”Now back in the U.S., Ortenzi has since been tasked with helping coordinate a new anti-human trafficking task force by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, an effort ZOE is assisting by donating his time to the county.

Riding to raise funds, awareness

Ortenzi first came up with the idea to ride bicycles across the country to raise money for ZOE in 2018, when he and 46 others rode from Virginia to California, raising nearly $300,000 for the nonprofit, in an event unrelated to RAAM.“We realized we probably had a pretty good idea here,” he said. Ortenzi and his wife were in the process of moving back to Lancaster County from ZOE’s Thailand branch in 2019 when they learned about RAAM and decided to enter their own eight-member relay team, nearly identical in lineup to the team that’s competing this year. Some of the team members had been cycling with Ortenzi since that first cross-country trek in 2018. Others he knew from church, or from friends of friends. “They’re all just guys who love cycling and really connected with what ZOE is doing,” Ortenzi said.

The Lancaster County cyclists took their training and preparations seriously for the race, “but once we got on the road it was more intense than what we thought,” Ortenzi said. “We didn’t really know what to expect, and quite honestly we were sort of going naïve into the situation,” he said. “We trained hard and we tried to prep hard, but the logistics of this thing were almost astronomical.” The team was racing at a much faster rate of speed than what they were anticipating, throwing their lodging plans into disarray. “We were pretty much on the run and we had to make some major decisions and change things up,” Ortenzi said. Even with the logistical hurdles, the team placed third in its division, finishing with a time of six days, five hours and 52 minutes – an average of 20.3 mph.

cyclists in a hudle

cyclists in a hudle

“RAAM officials had mentioned that they don’t remember a rookie team ever being on the podium,” Ortenzi said. “They were pretty surprised, and we were pleasantly surprised as well.”More importantly, the team raised more than $175,000 for ZOE International.This year, team members are taking into account the lessons they learned in 2019 and are hoping to avoid some of the same mistakes they made.Training began at the end of last fall, with team members hoping to reach the peak of their cardiovascular fitness right as the race is set to begin.

Training can involve “a little bit of everything,” Ortenzi said, including swimming, weight training, running and meeting with personal trainers. Many of the more recent training regimens have taken place on bicycles, with team members riding at least four to six times each week, sometimes for hours at a time.The thousands of hours spent training for the race since the fall were made possible because of the race’s philanthropic focus, Ortenzi said.To that end, more than one dozen local businesses and organizations are backing the team.“Lancaster Countians really seem to rally around us and engage with what we’re doing,” Ortenzi said. “It became a really great awareness project for ZOE here in Lancaster County.”

People interested in donating to ZOE International’s cause can do so at https://gozoe.org/raam-2021/.

 

 

 

 

Letter From A Child Trafficking Survivor

June 18, 2020

First, I thank God for bringing me to ZOE. My life and heart have been changed by Him. Second, I am so thankful for each of you. I am thankful for all ZOE leaders and staff. I feel grateful that I was rescued and brought to ZOE. 

Thank you for creating a new world with great love for me and all kids here. Thank you so much for loving me and many other kids. It has helped me understand the value of my life. It helps me to be bold and not give up no matter what comes into my life. I have gained understanding and wisdom. 

Thank you for introducing me to new things and for taking care of me to the best of your ability. Thank you for assisting me in every area of my life. I feel warm because of you and this is a feeling I never had in my life. 

It’s been just a short time that I got to know everyone at ZOE but you all became my family as we spent time together as a family. I can now say that I have a warm and loving family! I am so happy to have met and to know you all. Thank you for loving, caring, listening to what I say, and understanding me. You are my family. 

Before, I never knew what true and beautiful love was, but now I realize how beautiful it is. You have shown me through your love, care, and doing what’s best for me. You are my brothers and sisters, my mom and my dad who love me sincerely. Your love is a great inspiration. 

You give me confidence to overcome this hard life with God and your love. You all are my heroes and I know there are many children out there who need your help. Without you all, I may not have today. I might not know how precious my life is. I might not be able to move forward. Without you, my face would not be filled with such a big smile. 

You have shown me and other kids how to exit from darkness. We used to live in the darkness and you all have rescued us and given us wings to fly away. Now we can fly in the sky with your love. 

I cannot stop saying “THANK YOU” to you all. I have realized and seen how hard you work for all kids. You all are merciful. Thank you so much for loving me. I may leave ZOE soon, but I am not alone. Now I have God and ZOE who will walk alongside me. 

Thoughts From A ZOE Social Worker During Covid-19

May 8, 2020

While the world is confronting crisis, God’s blessing is still present. His helping hands are with His children as He promises.

When we were first told that we would need to work from home, I began brainstorming… How could we work efficiently and how could we plan, manage, and assign a tasks to each other? God has shown me new ideas and helped me realize that my work should be run well everywhere! If we still need to work from home, our work performance should still be professional. My home can become a home office.

During a quarantine time, I’ve had the chance to think on God’s mercy and blessing in my life. Many times God shows me the face of our ZOE leaders and I am thankful for them. They are great blessings, good role models, and have servants hearts like Jesus.

I feel grateful to be able to serve Him together with ZOE. Thankful for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Many people are crying for help during this time, and God allows us to be the answer. The coronavirus may lock us at home, but it cannot stop us from serving our almighty God!

Thankful for all ZOE leaders and our supporters so we can continue serving children and others in many areas.

– ZOE Social Worker

Rescue to Healing

December 29, 2019

ZOE is a place where beautiful stories of rescue, hope, life, and love can easily be found.

With permission to share, we think this powerful testimony of one girl’s journey from rescue to healing, will bring renewed hope for the future and great expectations, to all who read it. Please continue to uphold all ZOE’s rescued children in your prayers as they embrace new seasons, new beginnings, and the New Year.

~

It’s hard for me to tell my story. Before I came to live at ZOE my life was not good. Many times I felt like I wanted to get out, but I never could. I felt trapped. I knew that children shouldn’t be doing what I was doing but whenever I got a small amount of money, it gave me what I needed to survive. For a while, that little bit of money numbed my pain.

To survive, I tried to block out anyone who would show me real love. I no longer cared how anyone else felt. I just focused on the money, but deep down I was not happy. I felt like my life had no value, so I would just keep doing the same things. I was ashamed, broken and lonely.

Coming to ZOE really changed my life. I learned that I am VALUABLE in God’s sight. It was strange at first because I wasn’t used to people being kind and caring. I was welcomed into a warm and loving family and the longer I stayed, the more I grew to love the ZOE staff and the mothers so much. They helped me learn many new things. For the first time I saw and understood what real love looks like. I learned about forgiving and sharing. I learned that my life is important… that I am important.

It is hard to explain how different I feel and how much I love God. I understand how much He loves me and I am trying to change the way I had thought about myself and now I have new thoughts about the future.

There are many things that I want to thank God for. God does more than I ever think He can. Even just the other day, I was worried because I thought I would need to leave ZOE and go somewhere else, but I wasn’t ready to leave and I was scared. I kept praying to God. I did not want to go but I knew I would be ok because I knew that God would be with me. When one of the ZOE staff came and reassured me that I could continue to live at ZOE, I knew God had answered my prayers.

I will now be able to finish my grade level at the ZOE Learning Center and then in the future I want to study Business Administration. I would like to become an expert in English. These are the new thoughts I have about my future.

I know that sometimes I still make mistakes. I know it will take time to change, but I want to try. Thank you God for rescuing me!

A World Without Orphans

November 26, 2019

God put a new dream in my heart over 3 years ago and… 
guess what?!? It’s happening!!

Written by Jessica Dodd

A World Without Orphans.

Can you picture it? A world without any orphans? A world where all children grow up in safe, stable, and nurturing families? I can.

What an amazing experience to be able to attend the Global Forum for a World Without Orphans (WWO), which was held on 24-27 October 2019. With 600 attendees from 60 different countries, WWO has a clear vision to see children thriving, families strong, and churches engaged. The vision will be achieved by helping children remain in, be reunited with, or regain a healthy family, so that they can reach their God-given purpose. The forum focused on the spiritual, relational, and practical aspects for how to best accomplish this aim.

Jessica Dodd with Director of ZOE Children’s Home Thailand, Yim at WWO

What was so encouraging about the forum was the spirit of “working together” to care for orphans and vulnerable children better. A united goal of implementing best practices and making realistic changes on every level…from the community/society, government, and even national policies.

A powerful time of worship, as well as the main session, focused on the Father’s heart for orphans, steered attendees towards how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. Breakout sessions were taught by experts from around the world, and included both valuable and practical takeaways.

It was awesome to hear about how different countries have changed their policies on every level as a result of the 1st global forum in 2016 (just 3 years ago!).

For me personally, the four days of forum were life changing, inspiring, challenging, convicting, stirring…all at the same time! I’m so glad I got the opportunity to attend. I’m excited about the future, in more ways than one! 

The Mountain Before Us

May 3, 2019

ZOE International
Brad Ortenzi

I stood in the dark looking for the peak of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. The 30-mile race to the top was about to start and 7,000 cyclists straddled their bikes, crowded together at the starting line. We all shared the same unspoken knowledge that the next few hours were gonna hurt. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. I was about to cycle up an 8,000-foot mountain that punishes anyone wanting to reach its heights.  Some cars can’t make this climb.

This predawn experience reminded me of my first few weeks in Thailand when I asked myself that same question, ”What am I doing here?” Almost 5 years ago I had left people I loved and a career that was a great fit for me to come to Thailand to fight child trafficking with ZOE. We knew that God was calling us here, no doubt about it. But upon arrival when it came time to create goals to find children, I had a vision of a huge mountain in front of me. The mountain represented child trafficking and the hold the enemy had on enslaved children. I was daunted and fear began to fill my heart. I was called here to use what I had learned the previous 20 years to lead a team to help rescue enslaved children. Now when it was time to lock and load, I wasn’t sure where to begin. As I studied the mountain, I could hear the enemy laughing at me.

The next few months were the most difficult of my life. Not because that was God’s design but because it took me awhile to learn to be yoked with the Great Rescuer who was leading me in this fight. You see, I thought the abilities that had served me well in the past were the key to fighting child trafficking in Thailand. Nope. Instead, I learned that the key to climbing the mountain of child trafficking was first sitting at the feet of Jesus.  His presence emboldened my identity in Him, filling me with courage, inspiring me to serve, as I claimed the gift of joy of a life in the service of the King. As I learned to sit at His feet, the wisdom He gave began to bridge gaps, build relationships, create structure, and ultimately build teams that rescue children. And without me even realizing it, we began to climb the mountain.

This memory of my first few months in Thailand filled me with courage as the race started. The nervousness turned into determination and I slowly began to cycle up the mountain, one crank at a time. Five hours later I stood at the top of Doi Inthanon looking over Thailand’s beautiful jungles and thanking God for the journey. Not just the journey of the past five hours but the past five years. This journey was rugged, untamed, and difficult but most of all: amazingly beautiful, just like the jungle I was looking over. In this journey, I’ve been privileged to have had a front row seat watching the Great Rescuer fight for His children with a passionate love that is unstoppable. And after the rescue of children, watching the fearless Rescuer become the compassionate loving Redeemer who heals and restores. I wouldn’t trade this climb for anything.

As my time in Thailand comes to an end and I travel home to the East Coast, I’m excited to see what God has planned for ZOE. Most importantly, I am reminded of a lesson learned that all of us in this fight for the freedom of children need to remember: To conquer the mountain of child trafficking, we must start at the feet of Jesus.

What’s in a Name?

December 27, 2018

What’s in a Name? By Andrea Cross Many children Many children who come to ZOE’s Child Rescue Center do not have the correct documentation or citizenship papers to attend some educational institutions or, later in life, apply for certain jobs. Without the right documents, children and young adults can feel restricted in terms of their future […]