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How We Give Back

The Quick Version

Wooden Wear has pledged to donate 5% of every sale to a non-profit organization that risks their lives to rescue children being sold in human trafficking. This organization, Operation Underground Railroad, relies 100% on donations to create sting operations where non-government sponsored operatives go undercover to save anywhere from 5-50 children per operation, both domestic and globally.  Each rescue operation costs about $25,000, but that is not the end of the rescue. Each rescued child needs physical, social, and mental support, which costs the organization another $10,000 per trip. Every penny counts. To learn more about their story, check their website out at www.ourrescue.org.

Update 3/17/2015: Operation Underground Railroad merged with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. OUR still goes in and rescues children, but now has the support of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help make sure the children they rescue are not sold back into slavery, but instead are assisted in the process of adjustment to a different life and offered psychological help.

The Story Behind Our Decision (Long Version)

“It’s funny, because we all read history and we think, ‘Oh, I would … have risen up, I would have fought, I would have been an abolitionist,’” Ballard said. “And I tell them, ‘No, you wouldn’t have. If you would have, you’d be doing that right now. You know trafficking exists, you’ve heard of it, but you don’t want to look.’”

This is the statement that finally convinced me to stop wishfully making a difference, but to actually make a difference. Tim Ballard, head of Operation Underground Railroad, stated this in an article I read on the BYU Universe. One of my friends had shared the article on Facebook, and through reading the entire article and watching the videos at the end, I felt so inspired and nearly overwhelmed with appreciation for this team. However, at that point it ended there. I wanted to help, but like he stated in his conclusion, I didn’t know what to do, so I wasn’t going to do anything. To be honest, I was a little taken aback by how straight forward he was, and how guilty he made me feel from his bluntness. I didn’t have the background needed to help, I rationalized.

Not being able to shake the feeling to help out, I dug a little deeper into the organization. In another article in The Digital Universe, Ballard tells his interviewer,

 “You’re going to die someday and have a meeting with your maker and he’s going to ask you, ‘What did you do about those kids?’”

Ohhhh, the guilt. I wanted so badly to help, not to get rid of the guilt imposed from the hypothetical conversation with my maker, but because I think he is spot on. I am a very blessed person, and as such, I believe I have a responsibility to help others who were born into circumstances much less fortunate. I easily could have been born in their situation instead. *shudder*

Then, a couple days later, while talking to my husband, I proposed that Whittled Rings send 5% of every sale on our website to Operation Underground Railroad to help fund their rescue missions. He loved the idea, and as of December 2014 we have been doing just that! While I may be way too terrified for my own safety to be as direct as they are (I sincerely applaud those who are involved in the missions, I wish I had their courage), my poker face is absolutely horrible so I am happy to be able to donate to help them continue their work. Even though both Tanner and I are students in college and tight on money, we figured even in our state, we are so much wealthier and blessed than these children. We want them to have a chance to escape their horror and live a much better life. We want to help increase their chances.

Operation Underground Railroad is a non-government sponsored group of people who go undercover to rescue children being sold in human trafficking, both domestic and globally. An ABC NEWS article states,

“Ballard is a former CIA agent and former U.S.Homeland Security investigator who specializes in child sex trafficking cases.

“I spent 12 years as a special agent, undercover operative for the United States government, doing this, and learned how to do it,” Ballard said. “The problem was that the vast majority of the kids that we would identify, we couldn’t save. They weren’t U.S. cases.”

 Ballard’s team features a ragtag group of volunteers, some off-the-books operatives and one former Navy SEAL, but many just regular civilians. There are two CrossFit instructors from Utah, a door-to-door salesman, and even Hollywood actress Laurie Holden, who starred in “The Walking Dead.””

They rely 100% on donations to fund their operations, each of which rescues anywhere from 5-50 children from sex slavery. After the kids are rescued, Operation Underground Railroad also provides them with therapy, food, and shelter. The rescue alone is amazing, but I love that this organization shows they really care about these children by providing them services to help them assimilate to their new world, one much less harsh but still foreign to them. I personally cannot imagine being a part of such a truly life-changing organization.

To learn more about who they are and their story, check their website. If you would like to become an Abolitionist and donate a larger amount than the 5% that we give from your purchase, you have the option to donate directly on their website. I hope this opening statement by Ballard is as motivating to you as it was to me. Even if it is a small donation, there are so many people with access to donate, just imagine if just a fraction of all of those people donated. These operations can only continue as long as there is funding for them. I hope by establishing a long-term donation toward their group, that we can provide a consistent flow of funds that grows over time as we grow.

There’s a quote by Anne Frank that I just love, and it goes like this:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Take this moment and improve the world with it.

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