Category "Child Trafficking Rescue"

Orphaned & Rejected – 2nd Child Rescued by ZOE in Thailand

February 22, 2022

*Busaba’s parents died when she was very young, and she went to live with her grandparents. Friends and people in her village made fun of her and called her “bad luck” because she no longer had parents. Rejected by all, she was vulnerable to being sold for trafficking.

Busaba came to ZOE’s home when she was 7 years old. “When she walked through we greeted her with a round of applause and cheers by the ZOE family,” said the ZOE Thai Staff. “It made her feel so loved and welcomed! She was impressed as a little girl.”

While living in the home, Busaba was constantly surrounded by people who loved her. Her ZOE parents became her true parents and showed her how to live in a godly way. From the time she first stepped into the ZOE home until now, Busaba feels like ZOE has given her everything she needed that she lost. She is loved and feels confident. She is thankful that she was able to receive her education and finish her Arts at the university.

“ZOE is a place anointed by God to help and rescue children,” said Busaba.

When Busaba finished high school, she prayed to God and said, “God, you are good, and I am here because of you. If you need me, use me. I will do anything for you or ZOE.” She wanted God to use her talents and giftings to her full potential. God answered Busaba’s prayers, and today she is working for ZOE.

“These kids need help and comfort from God – not only for their physical needs but also for their soul and spiritual needs,” said Busaba. “There is so much love poured out at ZOE. And you see the kindness and grace of God over this place. This is the place of hope for the children.

I pray for ZOE’s future – that it is full of happiness and that many more kids will be rescued. I pray God will bless them with more land to grow bigger and grow around the world. I am also praying for ZOE to be in many more countries. I pray for every person who walks onto the ZOE property – whether it’s a visitor or a rescued child – that ultimately, they will see and be touched by the love and power of God.”

The people in the villages who called Busaba “bad luck” now see her differently. After losing her parents, they see how God has worked in her life, and they are amazed at what God has done in her.

This year, ZOE International celebrates 20 years of reaching people with God’s love and a mission to rescue children from the horrors of human trafficking.

*Pseudonym: ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not show trafficked children. Busaba permitted us to share her story to honor what God has done in her life while being under ZOE’s care.

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 Advocacy Graduations

November 12, 2021

In 2019, ZOE was awarded a contract with Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services to provide advocacy services for children who are victims of sex trafficking or highly at risk of becoming victims.

When law enforcement recovers a child from sex trafficking in the North LA County area, they will call ZOE to respond within 90 minutes to provide victim advocacy support alongside a social worker. Or when a social worker or probation officer believes the child they are serving is a victim of sex trafficking or highly at risk of becoming a victim, they can request a ZOE Advocate to come alongside that youth to build relationship with to help the youth toward goals of safety, well-being, self-sufficiency, and a permanent home.

In 2020, ZOE served 112 youth through this program.These youth are served by an amazing team of about 12 ZOE Advocates including Case Managers, Survivor Advocates who have experienced and overcome commercial sexual exploitation themselves, and aParent Advocate whose child has recovered from sex trafficking.
Advocates’ primary focus in the beginning is to help the youth feel safe emotionally and physically. Many times, youth are in the midst of being controlled, influenced, threatened by traffickers so Advocates learn about the youth’s current circumstances; immediate physical, emotional, social, and other needs; and help the youth problem-solve their very dangerous situations. Through weekly in-person meetings, meals, healthy activities, and simply doing “life” together, Advocates become a mentor and safe person for youth to reach out to in times of need. Advocates spend most of their time on the field driving as far north as Lancaster, as far south as Long Beach, and as far east as Pomona.
ZOE is able to provide formal support up to a year and a half. For youth who complete the program, ZOE hosts a graduation celebration to honor their achievements and strengths. Due to COVID, ZOE had our first graduation in March 2021 and have since had two more graduations. We anticipate hosting approximately

five or six graduations a year.

At the graduations, youth are able to share any words of reflection from the past year while Advocates are able to praise them for their accomplishments. It is always an emotional, encouraging time to remember how far the youth have come. Youth have shared:
“I want to say thank you to my Advocates because if I didn’t have ZOE, I don’t think I would be here today. I think I would be in a very dangerous situation.”

“Looking at myself and comparing it to back then, I’m a completely different person. I know when I’m mad to talk to someone and use my communication. And I know how to have situations in a positive manner. I’m thankful for people who helped me through it all, every step of the way. But all the hard work was from me but I couldn’t have done it without the comfort, the motivation from my Advocate who has helped me in all the ways that she could. To all the Advocates and just the ZOE program in general, I personally would like to say that I appreciate all of you for changing this path and helping kids to thrive.”

At our most recent graduation in August 2021, a youth and his ZOE Advocate shared about how he struggled to engage in the beginning of the program. But with the persistent efforts and care of the Advocate, he began to meet, improve his relationship with his mother, and began to complete school assignments. He also shared about his dream to open his own clothing business. ZOE took him

 on outings to visit the fashion district, interview a business owner, and create a design for his own clothing line with a graphic designer. At the graduation, ZOE was able to present him with a tshirt and sweatshirt with his design. It was a physical representation and reminder of all the hard work he did in the program.

In addition, our Parent Advocate was also able to honor parents who participated in ZOE’s program by encouraging them to continue to love their children unconditionally and support them intheir journey toward healing.

Ongoingly, if individuals, organizations, or businesses wish to support the children served in ZOE’s Advocacy Program, the following are always in need:

  • Updated Amazon wishlist: https://a.co/elZDNLZ
  • Gift cards for birthday/graduation/baby shower celebrations or meals with Advocates: Starbucks, McDonalds, Wingstop, Panda Express, Subway, Chick Fil A, Michaels, Amazon, Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, Walmart, Foot Locker, Bath & Body, Uber
  • Grocery gift cards: Food for Less, Albertsons, Vons, Ralphs
  • Snacks: Fruit flavored cans of Arizona Iced Tea, cans/bottles of Coke, spicy chips, cup o noodles, Goldfish crackers
  • Help with special events (baby shower, graduations, shopping for gifts on child’s Christmas wishlist)
  • Church groups all over LA County willing to be trained to minister to some of our families who have basic needs and that we can connect our families to.
  • Be on emergency needs list: We can reach out when we have an urgent need if they are able to help
  • Vehicles/drivers to delivery donated furniture
  • Hosting support groups and events at safe settings like churches
  • Meals for support groups

We are so thankful for community, business, and church partners who have helped ZOE meet the needs of these precious children, including:

  • First and last month’s rent deposit to relocate in order to escape threats from traffickers
  • Extensive dental treatment allowing a youth to smile for the first time in two years after the loss of her front teeth from an assault
  • Emergency cell phones for youth to contact ZOE in crisis
  • Emergency hotel stay for 18+ youth who are escaping traffickers
  • Uber rides for 18+ youth who need last-minute transportation to their job or to escape traffickers
  • Furniture for families whose child is returning home after being reunified

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.

Brad Ortenzi ZOE International Eastern USA Regional Director

May 12, 2021

In 2013 Brad Ortenzi and his wife Lori felt they were being called into ministry, but didn’t know exactly what that would look like. “At that time, I was working with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Child Pornography Unit in Pennsylvania, of which I helped to start,” shared Brad. “I had worked a lot of child sex crimes in my career, but not at this level. My heart began to break for kids even more so than it had before. I was working online acting as a pedophile and getting child pornography from pedophiles. Or I would be online chatting with the bad guy, as a child, and the bad guy was trying to entice me for sex. I would get the child pornography and have to view it to document the affidavits.”

Brad’s heart was breaking for these kids who had been sexually exploited while in the background of his life he was being called to ministry. One day he heard about ZOE and their mission to rescue kids and reached out to the founders, Mike and Carol.

 

“Mike and Carol invited us to Thailand to see ZOE first-hand, and it was there that I experienced a life-changing event,” shared Brad. “One night in Thailand while we were participating in a prayer session with the kids, ZOE staff, and missionaries, one of the children came up and laid her hands on me and started praying for me. I just broke down. God spoke to my heart and said, ‘you have been chasing after justice your whole life, well this is what my justice looks like.’ My heart to God was like, whatever this is, I am in. I want a part of this. I want to use my investigative skills to help kids
and add to that the spiritual side of healing
and restoration.”

 

After this life-altering experience, Brad and Lori went home from this missions trip with a new purpose and direction for their life. They went back home and took an early retirement. In November 2014 they sold their house and their cars and returned to Thailand as full-time missionaries with ZOE.

 

Director of ZOE Child Rescue Thailand

“I was being called to be the Director of ZOE Child Rescue in Thailand that was established in 2004,” said Brad. “I managed five teams. ZOE’s philosophy with missions is, you are there to work yourself out of a job. We are there to bring our experiences and skillsets of who we are, to pour into the Thai nationals, so that we can eventually back out and have them run what we’ve started. The training consists of discipleship, leadership and development.”

 

For five years Brad held this position at ZOE Thailand. “I enjoyed pouring into the Thai staff,” said Brad. “They were all so loving, caring, hard-working, and passionate toward the kids. I was honored to help build the structure of five teams and overjoyed to watch them run with it and make it even better.”

 

Prior to going into police work, Brad served in the Marine Corps for four years and then worked 20 years as a detective in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. “Those five years in Thailand were by far the most remarkable and memorable years of my career,” said Brad.

Eastern USA Regional Director, ZOE International

In 2019, Brad and his wife Lori left Thailand and moved back to the states. “Before moving back, I spoke with Mike and Carol to inquire about the possibility of expanding ZOE on the East coast,” said Brad. “We were all in to begin networking and building donor relations and I became the Eastern USA Regional Director for ZOE.”

Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force

photo of Brad Ortenzi and task force

Photo of Brad Ortenzi and task force

Through the east coast expansion efforts, Brad began speaking on some Human Trafficking panels and connected with Lancaster County’s Assistant District Attorney that he worked with on the Child Porn Unit. She expressed that she needed someone with Brad’s skills to come on board the County Task Force and help coordinate and put it together.

 

“In 2020, the Founders of ZOE agreed to donate my time to Lancaster County for me to serve as the Coordinator for the Human Trafficking Task Force,” said Brad. “As the Coordinator, I research other task forces in Pennsylvania; look at how they are structured and what is and isn’t working, and research best practices. I have been taking that research to the District Attorney’s office, and giving her my suggestions on how we should proceed. I have since created a draft and structure of the task force using a little bit of what’s working in other states, and also what is working in ZOE Thailand and Los Angeles. I have also been working to collaborate with other government, nonprofit organizations and ministries to meet the needs of the task force. I am excited. We are few months away from officially launching the task force.”

 

The Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force will work to investigate, prosecute, and find restorative paths for trafficking survivors within Lancaster County. This will also include community outreach with prevention education and awareness of trafficking.

 

“With ZOE’s work with the Task Force, we are going to find the gaps that need to be filled by agencies and nonprofits,” said Brad. “The vision for the future of ZOE East Coast would be to build out an advocacy system like we have in Los Angeles. There is also a possibility of opening a restorative home in Southeast Pennsylvania and enhancing some type of Christian-centered foster care for trafficked children.”

The Heart of Brad’s work and passion

“People often ask me why I do what I do,” shared Brad. “My ultimate desire is to see restoration of the children. And, it comes down to the duality of Jesus. He has a warrior heart that fights to rescue His children and He will stop at nothing to make sure those rescues happen. And then there’s the protective loving side of Him, along with the duality of His daddy restorative heart. He just wraps his arms around his kids once they are safe. That has changed my life.

I have come to a whole different level in my appreciation for who God is and how He cares for us. It’s all about the end game for me — that child accepting Jesus into their heart and worshipping Him.”

 

ZOE Cycling Events – Race Across America and Road of Justice

photo of brad and ZOE cycling team

photo of brad and ZOE cycling team

ZOE’s Cycling events came about when Brad and Lori had a desire to help fundraise for the new ZOE Home for Youth that was to open in Los Angeles in 2021. “We were avid cyclists and living in Thailand at the time,” said Brad. “We thought, what if we planned a coast-to-coast cycling event – which became the first Road of Justice in 2018 – and invite people to come with us and raise awareness about human trafficking and empower people to be fundraisers for ZOE.”

 

The 2018 Road of Justice started in Virginia and finished in Santa Monica. “Over 45 cyclists biked 3,800 miles, in over 46 riding days,” said Brad. “Some rode for a day, some rode for weeks or months. We raised close to $300,000 that year. We realized then we had something that could work for ZOE.”

 

In 2019 ZOE entered an 8-man cycling team in Race Across America (RAAM). For 39 years, the RAAM has become a global icon, challenging ultra-cyclists from over 35 countries to push their physical and mental limits to the utmost. “We started the race in Oceanside and finished in Maryland,” said Brad. “We biked 3,000 miles in 6 days and 5 hours and came in third place. We averaged 20.3 miles an hour for 3,000 miles and climbed 100,000 feet. Together the team raised over $175,000 for ZOE.”

 

RAAM logo

RAAM logo

In 2021 Brad and his team of 8 cyclists and 10 crew plans to participate in RAAM on June 19, 2021. “Our goal is to raise $250,000 for ZOE to help fight human trafficking. Looking at the rosters of the other teams, we have a shot to win this!”

 

Another ZOE Cycling event, the Road of Justice, is scheduled for October 11-16, 2021. Any cyclist can participate in this event. The race will begin in San Francisco and end in Santa Clarita. For more information or to participate as a cyclist, visit our website.

 

Collaborating with Law Enforcement to Recover Human Trafficking Victims

February 5, 2021

ZOE collaborates with human trafficking task forces in Thailand, Japan, and the United States, including law enforcement, government, and community agency partners. In Los Angeles, ZOE is a partner of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force. Such collaboration is vital to identify and recover victims and investigate and prosecute traffickers.

In January 2021, ZOE had the privilege of speaking before the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, along with other community organizations and survivor leaders, to express support for the City Council to fully fund the Los Angeles Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Forces in the midst of possible department budget cuts.

ZOE staff on ZOOm for Human Trafficking task force meeting

During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, budget cuts limited human trafficking operations outside of regular business hours. These cuts reduced opportunities to recover human trafficking more victims, including children.

Human trafficking investigations and operations require many hours, and usually months, of building rapport with and interviewing victims, investigations, and collaboration efforts to successfully identify and recover victims and investigate and prosecute cases against traffickers.

During the meeting, ZOE’s Chief Operating Office Dave Cox told the commission the following quote:

“Without dedicated law enforcement efforts, child trafficking will grow in our city.”

In the end, the commissioners voted to recommend that the City Council fully fund the human trafficking task forces.

We are thankful for our dedicated law enforcement and other partners who work tirelessly to help recover our most vulnerable children from human trafficking.

 

Author Ester Yu

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.

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!