Moving to Africa to save trafficking victims?

AP Photo/Anthony Devlin

Have media reports caused people to believe that there are countless trafficking victims wandering around looking for places to be sheltered? Or if it is potential victims of trafficking they want to help, do people think they will be easy to identify and want to live in a shelter? Have things come to this? No organisation or church is mentioned in relation to the people described in the below story, who presumably moved to Lesotho. Where is the money coming from? Have they friends in Lesotho? What will their migration status be there? I hope this project is less naive than it sounds in this report. The desire to ‘make a difference’ is nice, it’s how to be helpful that is so complicated. Neocolonialism doesn’t begin to explain this story. Although, in searching for photos, I found lots of non-Lesotho folk holding children and of Prince Harry playing with them.

South Texans Move To Africa To Stop Human Trafficking

28 December 2010, Spencer Lubitz, KZTV

Corpus Christi – Tears filled the Corpus Christi Airport Tuesday evening, as family and friends gathered at the airport to bid farewell to a group of local residents moving to South Africa to combat human trafficking. “I just can’t believe it’s finally here,” said Sonya Martinez, the group leader. Excitement exuded from those about to take the 10,000 mile journey to Lesotho. “We’re so anxious and excited just to get on the plane,” said Charles Martinez. “Just to be in Lesotho, I can’t get my mind off of that. It’s exciting.”

The group will be housing and caring for the countless victims of the human trafficking industry, a multi-billion dollar business that revolves around buying and selling people as slaves.

“I am a little excited to go to Africa and help the people where help is needed,” said Maya Martinez, who, at age 13, will join her parents and become the youngest person to make the move. Sonya, who has visited the area in the past, said the children are in dire need of assistance. “They’re just very oppressed, and they’re very unfortunate, and they’re in need. They’re in danger,” said Sonya.

The society’s oppressive nature isn’t enough to deter Sonya’s husband Charles from counting down the days. “I will kiss the ground when I get there, and take a very long nap,” he said. “I’ve been so excited; I haven’t been able to sleep very well.”

This group is just the first wave. Next year, they will be joined by a second group of South Texans who will follow them in making the journey to Southern Africa. Their work will already be cut out for them once they arrive, but they say South Africa is only the first stop, and it’s due to end right back here at home.

“Corpus represents freedom to me,” Sonya said. “I’m just looking forward to going to many different places, but starting with South Africa to help make that dream a reality in other places as well.” In two years, the group will return to establish a similar care center in South Texas. “I am from South Texas, I was born and raised in South Texas,” Sonya said, on the importance of returning to build a local facility. They say they hope to come back with the knowledge to make changes in our own community. “Hopefully make a difference,” Charles said. “That’s all we want to do, is make a difference.” With their suitcase filled with wishes and dreams, they were gone.

15 thoughts on “Moving to Africa to save trafficking victims?

  1. Maggie McNeill

    “With their suitcase filled with wishes and dreams, they were gone.”

    Perhaps there was a typo in the story, and their actual destination was Fairyland.

  2. Joseph Burlett

    Ok perhaps you guys are not aware of the issues of human trafficking in these countries. You can turn in any direction and find someone to rescue. I honor these people for their efforts and wish them the best of luck in their journey.

    If we had more citizens to stand up for this cause and take action like this group instead of issuing judgement and criticism we might actually be making a difference.

    Free speech is one thing, but freedom is another. Over 100,000 americans are forced into the slave trade every year, no one is save from this crime. Be productive and let us all take action to protect everyone.

  3. Sonia D.

    “I’m just looking forward to going to many different places”; “I am a little excited to go to Africa and help the people where help is needed,”… this all sounds like poverty tourism to me. there are certainly no poor people in need of help and support in the States or, for that matter, South Texas, so of course, why not go to South Africa… the perfect place to get some “sleep…?! I can’t believe this article is actually serious… it rather sounds like a parody to me.
    How can they be excited to go to a place, when they know that they will deal with “human trafficking” – a problem they describe as being really terrible. Either that is not their goal or they have a pretty distorted image of what is going on. Not to mention, they all take it for granted that as Americans they will be safe… and that they will able to “sleep” once they arrive.

    and yes, as the second commentator writes, ” You can turn in any direction and find someone to rescue”, but why not start with exploited irregular migrants in the US? … I guess there is no (poverty) tourism involved there… right? And it’s always easier to look at other countries’ problems…

    And Maggie is right: “Perhaps there was a typo in the story, and their actual destination was Fairyland.”

  4. laura agustin Post author

    there is an ‘alternative tourism’ industry in which people from richer countries go to witness poverty elsewhere. i don’t like the idea myself but know people who do, because it’s a way for the well-off to see what it actually looks like in other places. they do not usually attempt to meddle in lives because they are not there long enough to make it possible!

  5. ewaffle

    This sounds typical of many of the efforts of well intentioned people from the United States who have the time and resources to effect some type of change in the world–they want to “do something” and the more exotic the place where there is something to be done the better.

    They oversimplify issues, misstate the problems they are addressing and exaggerate their ability to solve anything. If you point out that they focus more on the themselves than a nuanced understanding of the lives of those upon whom they are inflicting their presence it means you have a one way ticket to hell because only an uncaring person would question what the advocates are doing.

    The people who best understand how to deal with the problems faced by Lesotho are the citizens of that small nation. A long way second are the NGOs and aid workers who have been there for years. People dropping in from the United States with a specific agenda and a narrow concentration on that agenda generally don’t have the first idea what to do. Their efforts are often harmful to those they think they are helping.

  6. laura agustin Post author

    i wonder how they think they will recognise victims of trafficking so easily – will it be because they are black? in a black country? gad.

  7. laura agustin Post author

    belle, yes. when i first wrote this piece it was december and none of the information one can now find seemed to be available. the piece got misplaced and then republished without doing new research. so my dismay at the basic idea is still true but now i see they are part of a church.

  8. Maggie McNeill

    Joseph said: “Over 100,000 americans are forced into the slave trade every year, no one is save from this crime.” Actually, Joseph, no. Laura has written about how these numbers vary wildly with the estimating agency (,and I recently did a column on what the Estes and Weiner study your “100,000” figure comes from actually said: ( I respectfully suggest that it is YOU, sir, who is unaware of the true extent of human trafficking because you accept whatever your leaders tell you without questioning it or investigating it for yourself.

  9. Joseph Burlett


    That is one article, shall I really find a dozen that state differently? It’s not really worth it. But none the less, there are about 100,000 American born “suspected” to be forced into the trafficking industry, not the mention the 30,000-50,000 non-Americans brought into this county annually.

    As for Africa, due to lack of education and protection, entire villages are enslaved. Here in the US we have government and police that try to protect and help those in need. In other countries that luxury does not exist.

    But I did not write that comment to have to defend myself. I simply wrote it to express my thanks to those who actually take action. On that note, if have the people that blogged and criticized others from taking action actually took action we could make changes everywhere.

    P.S. Why does race or religion always have to come into a conversation over a controversial topic? Is it that hard to get pasted these small differences in the face of humanity?

  10. Gregory A. Butler

    You know, if you plan to go to a country to “rescue” people, it might kind of help if you know what country you’re going to!

    The article refers to these folks going to “South Africa” in one sentence and “Lesotho” in the next.

    Newsflash – the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Lesotho ARE TWO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES!

    Five minutes with Google Maps should have cleared that up for these folks (if they even bothered to do that much research)!

  11. Maya Martinez

    I found this article while going back to reread it. You guys have no idea what goes on. Fairyland? C’mon seriously? My family was only following what was in their hearts. and in case you didnt know. My mother founded an organization called blue nation that helps bring awarness of human trafficking and she is the leader of beautiful dream Africa. So far we have actually rescued victims. Yeah rescued them. and have provided shelter and guidance to them. Your right though. Why arent we starting shelters in America yet? Just so you know though, we are planning on starting shelters all throughout africa and other countries but the lord revealed it in a dream ( thats y its called beautiful dream society) that we are supposed to start in Lesotho Africa. We will be expanding though but so far we have already rescued 13 women and men and have persecuted the perpetrators under the new law passed in Lesotho. So. Fairyland? Far from it. But im doing to the lords work and i know its right in my heart. even if i am only 14. You should really look up the website:

    I also want to thank the people that actually see the good. This article, i have to admit, wasnt the best. it had some wrong information. but when you think about it, what are you doing in your own community to help with trafficking? Instead of criticizing and being plane out rude, why dont you do something about it? Dont like the way we are doing things? Then do it yourself, and have the right attitude about it. C’mon guys, im only 14. Your like adults, but its funny how adults are the ones that can be the least understanding. you have no idea that struggles and problems we run into everyday while your sitting on you couch watching t.v. we are trying to educate women and men who dont even know what a t.v is. No water for 2 days? easy for you. Telling a 15 year old girl who has been trafficked half way across the country that she has aids and so does her 2 kids? not in fairyland at all.

    p.s. i dont mean any disrespect by this comment. I just read peoples comments and was shocked at how many people judge before they even know the details, and just how many people have the gall to say something about a family who sacrificed everything just to help others.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *