SALT LAKE CITY - When natural disasters hit impoverished areas, it creates a perfect target for human traffickers to take advantage of vulnerable children.
That’s why Operation Underground Railroad, an organization made up of former CIA Navy Seals and Special Ops agents, is so valuable in these times of crisis.
“We have one girl right now that was affected by the recent hurricane in the Dominican Republic, and she is currently missing,” said Jessica Mass, Director of Aftercare for Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.).
Mass says these natural disasters are a hunting ground for human traffickers.
“What happens afterwards is that you have thousands of children that are on the streets, and they're looking for someone to keep them safe,” Mass said.
The children are in need of not only safety, but of basic necessities after natural disasters. To keep traffickers away from kids, O.U.R. brings food, water and shelter to vulnerable and impoverished areas.
It's an uphill battle for O.U.R., and it can sometimes become discouraging.
“It's absolutely heartbreaking. There are nights you stay up and your thoughts are continuously spinning. How can you help? How can we help these kids that are so vulnerable,” Mass said.
Too often it seems the media is crowded by images of human traffickers being busted in large police operations.
O.U.R. not only arrests traffickers and rescues victims, but it does all it can to make sure children never become victims in the first place.
“Anything that we can do to save these children before they go into trafficking before somebody says, 'I’m going to prey on your vulnerability,' anything we can do to stop it before it happens, we do,” Mass said.
Since 2013, O.U.R. has rescued 730 victims, and has helped arrest more than 365 traffickers around the world.
For more information, please visit https://ourrescue.org/