Today we are talking to Cornel Viljoen from the National Hotline Number. She will give us some practical ways of how to prevent falling prey to human trafficking and the same time give us a good overview of what help is there if you ever see or experience exploitation.
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Hi friends and colleagues. Welcome to our Free to Fly podcast. Free to Fly is a faith-based organisation working against human trafficking. We are very excited to present to you one of our episodes, brought by our host Natalie Ruiters, where we will speak about topics around human trafficking.
Today we are talking to Cornel Viljoen from the National Hotline Number. She will give us some practical ways of how to prevent falling prey to human trafficking and the same time give us a good overview of what help is there if you ever see or experience exploitation.
Interviewee: Cornel Viljoen
Interviewer: Natalie Ruiters
List of Acronyms: NR = Natalie Ruiters, CV = Cornel Viljoen
NR: Hi, I’m Natalie Ruiters. I’m representing Free To Fly South Africa, for those of you who don’t know us. We are an organization that runs a safe house for trafficked survivors under the age of 18, above that we are big on Awareness and Prevention, hence our series, our conversations with key stakeholders. Today, I’ll be chatting to Cornel Viljoen from A 21 about the National Human Trafficking Hotline they oversee.
NR: Hi Cornel
CV: Hi Natalie, so nice to be with you and thank you once again for the opportunity to have this conversation.
NR: It’s such an honor to be chatting to you. So thank you for your time. Cornel could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about why Human Trafficking is so dear to your heart.
CV: Amazing, so I’m Cornel Viljoen as Natalie mentioned, and I found out about Human Trafficking in 2012 where the founder Christine Caine actually, she spoke at a woman’s conference, and they showed a video of people being trafficked, being sold and I was so shocked. I was like, what, like how can people sell other people. And, technically I didn’t really do anything for a year but I started, you know, looking at A21 website, how can you get involved because, first of all, I wasn’t a police officer, I couldn’t raid brothels, I couldn’t rescue anybody, but I knew I had to do something. And so, that passion just developed and as an office opened in South Africa I started volunteering my time. And I think I’ve always had a heart for combating injustice, doesn’t matter if it was human trafficking or anything else. But yeah, I think, I personally didn’t have to go through something horrific in order to do something. And I think you know often times we think that I have to have experienced abuse to relate to a potential survivor or victim etc and for me it was the opposite. I just knew I can do something, and I have the time, and so I took action.
NR: Wow, that’s incredible, such a big heart. Thank you for doing what you do. And I’m just wondering Cornel, from the time that you started up until now. How has this whole process changed you?
CV: I think it’s made me, you know, I’ve always had a vigilant spirit. I’ve always been aware about my surroundings. But I think even more so, whenever you apply, well applying for work opportunity or if someone’s like, oh I want to go overseas or have this conversation with somebody, I would always be at high alert, and sometimes, you know, you have to be like, okay, not everything is bad, but I think it does equip you to be super vigilant in this type of work and also realizing that it’s not a game people are playing but it’s a very serious crime, and it’s an organized crime.
CV: And yeah, I think it’s just, I’ve always been more cautious whenever you’re purchasing something even off gumtree, you’re more cautious of like where you’re going to end up, you know.
CV: Doing the research, how does the environment look like? For me to meet people in a more public space. So, yeah, I think it definitely has heightened my alert, but it also made me realize that it’s not that difficult to actually do something. Like people, yes it’s a complex crime but it’s not that difficult to help bring awareness or help prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.
NR: Wow. And I think that the last point you mentioned, is, I think it’s quite key, because I think a lot of us kind of sit in the stands and say like, how can I get involved, how can I bring justice, and like you said, it’s not that difficult. I think just reach out to the many organizations and volunteer. I think it would really just show you the ropes and how to go about it. So that’s quite key.
Cornel, for many, understanding the Hotline number is not a necessity, because of emotion: ” it can’t happen to me, can’t happen to my family, it’s kind of out there.” This is so real. Could you please tell us why it’s important to know the Hotline Number.
CV: I personally think it’s important to even have it saved on your phone, because we know as adults, when something happens to us and it’s quite sudden or even if someone had to you know, hijack you or whatever it might be, you’re gonna get a fright, and you’re not going to always have the first response to dial that number. And so we’re always encouraged, even when we do presentations to little kids and the parents, that they actually practice with the little kids how to save a number, how to dial a number, where to hide if something does happen at home, or where to go when you’re in a public space. Just as much as we need to practice it, our kids need to practice it.
NR: So key!
CV: And also, it’s good to understand the different functions of various hotline numbers because they each have a specific function, so obviously for us the National Human Trafficking Hotline we specifically work with human trafficking cases. Then you also get: South Africa has got a gender based violence hotline. You know Childline is there; when children ask for assistance and speak to somebody because maybe they’ve spoken to someone in their family and they didn’t believe them, but they’ve been abused by somebody that is in the community. And so, I think it’s very important to know that a Hotline serves as a specific function or purpose where you can ask questions but, also where you can report anonymously. And so, I think this is potential human trafficking based on ABC. And then the hotline will call specialists who can then guide you telephonically. You know, we’ve often times seen that even people that would say, “Oh no“, the opportunity that I’m going for is legit, and then two weeks later they phone the hotline, say please rescue me. So even if someone rejects your help, you can still equip them with a number that they can phone from any phone. And we obviously tried to make the numbers as easy as possible, but it’s sort of it’s a more of a rhyme type of scenario. And yeah, I think, you know, it’s also important, just as much as having the number on your phone, it is to prepare yourself when you are stepping out, going to the shops, going to an interview for work; that you actually have data and airtime to phone out.
CV: So it’s all about everyday being prepared. It’s the little things that count.
NR: Absolutely. And while we’re on the hotline number, could you just give us the hotline number?
CV: Yes, It’s 0800 222 777. So it’s an easy one to remember. There ‘s not too many other zeros in between.
CV: And you can also check out the website which is the number 0800222777.org.za
NR: Awesome, thank you for that. Cornel, could you please just share some misconceptions around human trafficking?
CV: Yes, often times people think, you know, human trafficking is just abduction of young girls, that’s naive. That were looking for relationship, and you know they are sold as sex slaves. Now, yes, young girls are being lured or groomed online, and also in person to be exploited as sexual slaves. But kidnapping and abduction are two separate things. I know about, you know, two, three years ago there were a lot of abducting or kidnapping stories going around. Kidnapping always has a reason. Say for instance: you have two business owners, they disagree. And then the one would maybe arrange for the one’s child to be kidnapped, and then they want a ransom or they want an agreement to go according to their way. Where abduction is purely, it’s to actually to sell somebody or to exploit somebody. And so it’s important for people not to just jump to conclusions, and you cannot say, oh, just because a child has been taken is for the purpose of human trafficking. That you will only find out, obviously when you find the child, and a further investigation has been done. So, I think you know it’s very important that the people understand it’s the removing of someone’s free will, making choices on their behalf, and literally selling them like they are a product. So in a nutshell it’s a buying and selling of people.
NR: Now Cornel, last week I did an interview with Missing Children SA, and they also have a hotline or a number you can contact if someone is missing. So, I, as the public out there, not really knowing if the child was abducted, trafficked, kidnapped. Do we phone both hotlines? What would you suggest?
CV: Step one, and the legal way to go is you need to find your nearest police station and report and open a case – you’ll get a case number, and then you can also, if a person went missing, you have no proof that it’s been in trafficking, unless you physically saw the person being sold then you can phone the hotline. And obviously, the police, you need to phone as well. But if a person goes missing, you can contact Missing Children SA, and you can contact Pink Ladies, they will set up the profiles we often see on Facebook or other social media platforms, and they will then distribute that out to the various police stations as well so if someone does arrive at any other police stations, they can see that this person has been found. And so I think it’s important that the public use the organizations that’s been established with the specific function. Oftentimes, general public will phone, say for instance, there’s nothing wrong with phoning the hotline and say someone is missing. We will then reach out to Missing Children’s SA; because they are one of our partners. And then we can refer the case. But it’s important as a parent, and even as teenagers to look at what are the various emergency hotline numbers that are out there, what is each one’s function and what services they offer. Because otherwise you’re gonna get frustrated as a citizen, you’re phoning a hotline and you’re not being assisted, but you didn’t evaluate and see what that hotline services would be. And I think, you know if we can equip the public, because sometimes we just assume. We assumed, got offended, didn’t get help, no hotline works. You cannot say that, you know, just because you had a bad experience with one person in customer service doesn’t mean the rest of the team is like that.
CV: So I think people need to be open minded and really look at what is the function, and not just assume their specific services.
NR: Thank you so much for highlighting that, because I think that’s totally key, I think, like, I just love to encourage all parents, all individuals just to equip themselves with the different hotlines and the different functions. Because like you said that is just the key into getting the end result. So Cornel, when we, how do you identify like a potential victim, like someone who’s been trafficked?
CV: Once again, it’s gonna depend on the type of trafficking. So if you’re looking at sexual exploitation, oftentimes, the person will have a cell phone, but very little belongings. And it also depends on which stage they are being trafficked so if it’s the beginning stages, they might still be excited they’re going for work opportunity, but they know very little about the work that they’ve been offered. They might only know the first name of the individual that offered the job, they may have moved provinces or from a town to a bigger city. We often see that, you know from the Eastern Cape, people are being recruited, either to Cape Town, or to Johannesburg. Remember, in Johannesburg, in all the cities, there’s the airlines you can get international transportation, national or domestic transportation, and you get all the various ports as well. Now the reason why I’m mentioning that is, because those are places where potential victims have consistently moved around so that they’re not familiar with the environment, they cannot build too much trust with individuals. And then with the ports, we see that forced labor is taking place amongst men and women, but mainly men. You know, a few years ago in Cape Town harbour, 15 Filipino men were rescued off a shipping vessel, because they weren’t paid but, they had to work 20 hours a day.
CV: You need to look at how is the person being controlled. Do they have access to their funds? Do they have access to their original documentation like their passport, their ID, or does the employer have those documents? Because you cannot keep someone’s originals. And, that’s normally one of the first things that happen to victims. Their passports will be removed and then if it’s sexual exploitation they first often are forced onto drugs, because that’s a control mechanism to get them addicted that they don’t just run away but they go back for the same fix. And now, you know from you as a general citizen, that might be driving through specific areas of the city. We will see a sex worker here and a sex worker there and we think they chose to be there, they made bad decisions. Oftentimes, people are forced into those situations, and it’s not by free will. We also have seen that, you know, even people ending up in, you know, sexual exploitation, they may have a history where as a child, they were either molested or sexually abused, you know, either by somebody they know or by someone in the community and so I think instead of stereotyping specific people, be open minded and think how did they end up in that situation. And I think also, you know, with general public is to learn, just like I said, knowing the various hotline numbers, learn about the various injustices. Just because you learn about it doesn’t mean you’re going to end up in it.
CV: And I think it’s important to really really understand it, and speak to organizations that work on a daily basis with the various injustices to combat it. And yeah, I think the biggest thing is force and control, they don’t have freedom to move, where they need to go.
NR: That is so true and that’s so key, which you mentioned, I think understanding and being open minded gives us such compassion, to then be moved to try and make a change and a difference within the injustices that we see. You know, I spoke to a survivor on Saturday, and she wasn’t trafficked in the way that we know that she was captured, but she said you know she was forced to be a sex worker, and all her earnings were taken daily. So that’s really key that she mentioned that and people know, that you know, the public understands that because it gives us such compassion to then move in and really make a difference.
CV: Exactly, and just to add to that is, you know, oftentimes what the “employers” do, is they will keep their money. So we get paid on a monthly basis, you know, in a general job. You work eight hours a day you get your leave, there are benefits. With victims of trafficking, they don’t have any benefits. It’s where control and manipulation take place. If you didn’t perform, and you didn’t service a certain amount of clients, you’re not “getting paid“, but the money is always kept by the traffickers. Or, you don’t get food for the day or there are consequences. You know, if you play along in your obedience, then you “get benefits“, and so it’s not the benefit of, I can go to the beach and take a break.
CV: I think, you know there are more complexities within this injustice that people realize and so it’s really looking deeper and a bit further than just what we see at glance.
NR: Can people make an anonymous call? So you think it’s human trafficking, you think you identify a victim. Can you make an anonymous call to the hotline?
CV: Very good question, people can phone in anonymous. They can also submit an online report via the website, on their phones or they can maybe use someone else’s phone, that’s not necessarily within their community, if they do want to report it. You know, that’s always the case when it comes to very severe injustices: where people’s lives are at risk. It’s not just the victim alone, but it could be their family members if they report something and oftentimes you know families feel just as bound as what the potential victim feels. And once again it comes back down to: how do our communities function? And what is happening within the communities that people are afraid to actually talk bout? And once again, it’s based on past experience or something that might have happened to our neighbor, or neighbor’s kids. But when you phone the hotline, you can phone in anonymous, or you can report in a safe environment.
NR: Okay, is there a charge to this call to the hotline number?
CV: When you’re phoning from telecom to telecom it’s free. But what our call specialists, often do, is people will phone and say hey, I want to report human trafficking and we will immediately then capture that person’s details so we can phone them back so that they don’t have to carry those costs. So, once again, we are here to serve people as much as we can.
NR: That’s incredible and it’s helpful to know that because I think like a lot of people that are trafficked are really vulnerable from really poor backgrounds and to even make that call, you know, do I make the call and save my neighbor or do I keep this money for bread. It’s that kind of thing. So it’s great to know that one of your agents would call them back and be able to get more information and sort of take the process further.
NR: Wonderful work! Thank you. When someone phones I mean, we live in a country that’s so diverse with languages – I think we’ve got 11 languages. When you phone the hotline, what language; – do you offer different languages?
CV: Yeah, so most of our call specialists can either speak Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa or isiZulu, and then also we’ve got a tele interpretation service that can assist with over 200 languages.
CV: Oftentimes we most likely will get more African languages, but we have more than enough translators in order to assist a potential victim. So, this is very key, because oftentimes people will feel, well I don’t speak the language but I know something is wrong, my gut is telling me something is wrong with this person. We all know how an abused dog would look like, you know, the dog would look down, it won`t make eye contact, it would retract. Now we’re not saying every single human being trafficked is to going to respond that way. But, you know something is off. And it’s important then to phone the hotline and say: “I think this person is potentially being trafficked, they’re with me right now, can we get a translator on?”, you know, so there is an option and there is a way. And like I mentioned with the other scenario. Sometimes people will reject your help and you need to honor and respect that, because we don’t want to force people if they don’t want help. But we can equip them, and they can make their own decision. Once again, traffickers are taking those freewill decisions from people and we don’t want to do the same, because it can come across that we are the traffickers or the next traffickers as well. And so, yeah, you can see there’s so many different angles to think of.
NR: It is so complex
CV: Yeah, exactly. But the good news is, you know our call specialists have telephonically guided survivors out of their situation to the nearest police station and then further assistance was given.
NR: Could you share one of those examples, are you able to share an example?
CV: Not at the moment. Because how we work with survivor stories is they give consent with who, which stories we can share specifically in detail.
NR: I understand!
CV: But, like the shipping vessel story, like with the 15 Filipino men we have permission to share that so it’s just in honor and respect of those survivors as well.
NR: Totally understandable. Awesome Cornel. I read one of your newsletters, and I read that there’s been an increase in calls from the public inquiring about potential employment and job vetting. How does the hotline handle those calls?
CV: So we work with a partner organization called Prevention Versus Cure, and they help a lot with the vetting process. The calls will still come in through the hotline so that we can track, between the two organizations, and how can we evaluate what are the key elements of what kind of job opportunities are being presented to South Africans, and in which region. So, we can pick up the trends and through that we can then communicate through our social media platforms, newsletters, etc, to the public and say, be aware of ABCD. Because, even during lockdown, I saw an ad on Facebook that said, it was someone who took Pick n Pay’s logo, and they put looking for cashiers, you can earn 6000 Rand a month, but it had a gmail.com account. So someone faked an ad for Pick n Pay, and we immediately reported it to Pick n Pay, because they’re one of our partners as well. And so, once again, you need to know that a company like Pick n Pay, is not going to use gmail.com accounts, they’re going to use @picknpay, think its co.za. So big corporate companies, you need to be aware once again when you’re applying for work, you know, yes, people do request and ask, “Hey can you vet this opportunity“. There was a lot of fake news also going around, regarding people entering buildings and things that happen, and we ask people do not send or forward anything, if you do not know who the source is, who sent that. Because it creates hysteria, it creates fear in people who do need a job and you need to apply for work opportunities. And then as people requested for the vetting and they waited for the results on the opportunities they applied for, we would actually send out two documents showing them how to identify for themselves. So that they are more equipped, that they can, in the future, also still figure out like, “Hey, is this legit or not“. Some things are missing, or even just as simplistic like, I used with the gumtree ad, googling or searching where is this building. Does this match the name to the address? You know, phoning the head office: “Is this opportunity available? Is this the payment that you are offering?” because you will often and very quickly find that it could be false. And so, just doing a few basic things yourself, you can already evaluate this is actually false, it’s teaching people how to fish versus giving them a fish every time.
NR: Absolutely. So Cornel. When you send out these, so when you get the results from a Prevention versus Cure. Do you get back in touch with the person that has called you or does Prevention vs. Cure get in touch with them?
CV: No, we will then, it’s a document, it will show you like: is the company registered, is it legit or not, or if they cannot find them. And, you know, or, say, for instance, the company does exist, but the location that was given is false, they don’t have a branch there, they will then give a detailed report and then we will send the information back to the individuals that requested.
NR: Okay, so you kind of handle the process right through, given feedback. Okay, it’s important for us to know that as well. Cornel, I was just shocked, those two documents that you said that you send out with them, are they on the hotline website?
CV: So we actually developed a safety, safe employment guide which you can find under A21.org/education. And then the second one I would also encourage people to download is the safe relationship guide because those are the two main, you know, avenues that we see traffickers are utilizing to recruit people. People are looking for work opportunities, a lot of people lost work during, you know the pandemic, and then people are looking for relationships. You know, we are human, we want to be in a relationship or we want a friendship. And so we have those guides freely available for people to download from that link.
NR: I read in one of your newsletters that some of the people that do phone you haven’t checked up on any information on the employer. Is this true? And I find that quite shocking because, you know, you would think that you check up on the employer, do a bit of research before kind of phoning like the hotline or Prevention Versus Cure. Can you speak and share a bit more about that?
CV: I think, you know, we find, even during presentations that people don’t know that there’s a hotline to phone, they don’t know they can vet work opportunities. People will in general think it would cost money to do something like that. Just because you know, if they had to apply for some form of documentation it always cost them like 50 Rand or 150 or, you know, and I think people think that, there might be a misconception that “oh, I don’t really know where to go and where to find the people that can really help me vet“. And then the other thing is, you know, we’ve seen with companies as well. People will say people are not job ready, they struggle with interviews or they don’t ask questions, they will mainly ask more about the benefits and the salary. So it does show that there’s a big need to bring education and to teach people how to ask the right questions. And I think it also comes from a place sometimes where people may think, well, I really need the work, and I’m not going to ask too many questions because that might jeopardize me getting the job opportunity, and I will just like you know, present myself. And then, answer according to how I can, and then if I get the job obviously I will get money. And, yeah, I think those are some of the reasons why people don’t necessarily seek the opportunity, or even realize human trafficking is something. I always say: “Trafficking or traffickers are not the big guys with a tattoo and the key chain that’s gonna just abduct a whole bunch of kids. It’s gonna come through everyday work opportunities. It’s gonna look like someone having a date somewhere, but they are being recruited, and it’s what people are being told, and what they’re not being told.” And I think, you know, something that I learned from a young age is, if someone is pushing you to make a quick decision, a rushed decision is never a good one. So you need to have enough time and oftentimes, yes, these traffickers, they will take their time, they will groom people online, but then sometimes also in person, they will be more demanding and pushy and ask for personal details, and so forth and I think people might be like, well, this opportunity sounds better than what’s happening at home, or where I’m currently at, so I will just take that chance.
NR: It’s so true. And I think that’s why it’s key we have these conversations and highlight the points that you just mentioned, you know. Now, just making people aware of how it happens, when it happens, what to be looking out for, what to be aware of – because many just don’t know; you know?
CV: Yeah, and even, like you mentioned earlier, you asked like: “Has there been an increase?” And I think during COVID specifically, because a lot of people were losing their jobs. But because of the fake news people became more scared and sceptical and then the ones that knew about the hotline, they actually phoned in and wanted to vet opportunities so we had, you know, last year there was a time period like August / September where there was just an influx of interviews also even coming from radio stations wanting to know like: is it legit or not, these work opportunities. And I think it’s important to have these everyday discussions, it’s not this extreme thing. Yes, it’s a horrific injustice, but there are so many practical things people can actually do in order to evaluate and see. Am I safe or am I not, and, and then take the right steps forward.
NR: Very true, very true. Other than false employment, what are some of the other ways people can be lured into human trafficking? Can you share more on that?
CV: Yes. So relationships are one of the biggest ones we even see that you know, traffickers or recruiters will go as far as marrying women. And then, faking that they can’t get work and then they would leave them with a lady that they know, that could potentially take care of his wife, and then eventually actually, you know, sell them in the sex trade. So sports opportunities, education opportunities abroad, you know, we’ve had cases in Europe specifically where people want to study nursing but then they’re tricked and then actually sold in Greece as sex slaves. So basically think that humans have needs. You know, you need food, you need shelter. If you ran away from a foster care home or you ran away from home, where are you going to find yourself? Someone can just offer you a meal, and then they can say, well, now you owe me, and the only way you’re going to pay me back, is through this method. Kids are being groomed online through online games, it just takes a friend request.
CV: They start the conversation. Or even on Instagram or Facebook. Remember, you need to be a certain age to obviously have these social platforms.
CV: But I’ve seen, UNICEF did a study last year, that kids as young as nine years old, between nine and 11, they’ve already sent sexual images to people they don’t know whom they found them online. And I think it’s, you know, social media is something that came to us as adults, and the next generation. At the same time. It’s not like we grew up knowing how to handle social media. It came to us at the same time so we all need to learn how to put the boundaries in. What are the good boundaries? What are safe and unsafe communication, secrets, etc.? Because we learned about stranger danger, we learned about how you don’t bring someone into the house that you don’t know. But we’re allowing our children to sit on these things in their room. Speaking to strangers, all the time. If there are no boundaries set in place. And I think parents feel overwhelmed because they’re like, well, how do I set boundaries, I don’t even understand social media. I didn’t even know how to post a photo, and I think you know that’s why we created the parent guide, how to start the conversation. It’s not about scaring your kids and giving them nightmares. It’s about: “Hey, what is a healthy relationship to you? What is an unhealthy relationship to you?” We need to understand that as humans, no relationship is perfect. Yes, you might have good parents or parents that you feel that’s not good to you, but at the end of the day, they’re your parents. And, how can you have those conversations? How can you meet each other halfway and then also learn together? Because the next generation is very clued up with how social media works. They can teach you as a parent, but then you can teach them about relationships and boundaries, safe secrets, unsafe secrets, touch, etc. And, you know, I think it’s a collective effort. It’s never the one person. This is the other person. You can’t, you know, I had an interview yesterday, you cannot go out to your child, “you should have known better.” That might be the first time they ever engaged with somebody that was trying to take advantage of them. And now they feel scared to go to you as a parent because they think: ” Oh, I should have known better, because otherwise it looks bad on my parents’ parenting.”
CV: …that while they taught me better. And I think if we can create a safe space for children to come and say ” Hi mom, John just sent me a nude picture, or he asked me where I go to school”. Having that safe space, and the parents not freaking out, is like, “Oh my gosh, okay, this is how we can take the steps, we can report him on the social platform.” This is how we can put in boundaries. If this happens again, you know, here are the steps, versus like disciplining a child and punishing them for something they don’t even know how to handle.
NR: So true
CV: I think you know, yes, children are online but so are adults and we’re all vulnerable. We have a need. And, sometimes we even see where someone might be addicted to drugs, and they want to get off drugs and the recruiter will pose as if they are the solution for those individuals only to then exploit them. So you’ll see it’s very subtle. Everyday things that someone can just manipulate, and then they offer something to someone that’s the very thing that they seek – but then opposing as something else.
NR: Absolutely. I’m so glad you mentioned that creating a safe space with your children and your family is so vital, because I think that’s key to opening doors for our kids to just be open with us and just be vulnerable and share when they see something, or experience something that is not comfortable and safe.
CV: Yeah, and I think Natalie, like how many times have you heard of stories where people will be like, well, I told my parents and they didn’t believe me. Because they believe the aunt, the uncle or the neighbor more than the child. Now the child’s not going to go out again and tell their parents because they already know: “Well, mom doesn’t even trust me they think I’m making up all these lies.” Now I’m not saying every single child, you know, is lying about it but we also need to realize that children are being abused, verbally, emotionally, physically, etc. and we need to listen to the child. And especially when there’s certain behaviour you know when they are more, aggressive or their studies are decreasing, they used to be a good student, they used to be joyful and now they’re not. They are constantly on their phone or they’re constantly hanging out with people we don’t even know. You know they are the emotional and physical signs, where we just know something is off. And how can we bring that child into a space where they feel safe, that it doesn’t matter if they told you 77 times, you’re still going to be there to support them and guide them through it because they are now starting to experience what life is really about. And even if you don’t understand it as a parent, once again, there’s organizations like A21 or, you know there’s a gender based violence helplines, or Childline that you can contact and ask the experts for help.
NR: Yeah, so true. And Cornel, this parent guide, that you spoke about, where can parents find it?
CV: On the exact same link as the safe employment guide so it’s A21.org/education. There are Parent Guides for children, and then there are Parent Guides for teens, because obviously, we know they’re in different stages of their lives and how they’re going to understand certain aspects of relationships. And so, please download the guides, it’s free, we created them for people to use. And don’t just keep it for yourself, share it with other parents as well, and even invite us to have conversations around this. We’re here to help. The best way we can.
NR: Great, thank you for sharing that. And Cornel with all that, you know, besides having these conversations, how else can we create awareness of human trafficking?
CV: We did a presentation at a high school and a brother and a sister attended the session. First time ever. And they actually had a friend that was busy applying for work opportunities in Epping in Cape Town. Now we know that Epping is a very industrial area. And this young girl, she went for a second interview, but once again it was after hours, and wasn’t during, you know, normal working hours. And the future employer told her, for the third interview, you don’t need to bring your dad with, because she was obviously fresh out of school, and she’s looking for work, she doesn’t have a drivers yet. And they also try to limit her contact with family and friends. And so they just said you don’t need to let them know you’re coming for a third interview. Now because this brother and sister attended this presentation, they told their friend “Hey, this is how people recruit you for, you know, to be exploited“. And she decided I’m not going back for the third interview, and that is the whole purpose that we want to prevent as many people. Those two kids could have decided we’re not going to share it, like we can keep it to ourselves, that was an interesting session. We’ve had so many times where one person that phoned the hotline and 77 people were rescued. One person, shared what they learned and it prevented a person from potentially being trafficked. Now, that was maybe you know, not a trafficking case but we never know what would have happened to that individual. And never underestimate the one action you are taking, if your gut is telling you something’s off, respond to it and once again the hotlines are there to assist.
NR: Wonderful. And I think that’s key: education and knowledge. Before we end, one group of people that are so dear to my heart is refugees. Can you talk more about how we, as an advocate for trafficked victims can offer support to them? I know their fight in South Africa can be so depressing or confusing for them. Do you have any words of encouragement to the public, and extending grace to refugees, asylum seekers. Yeah.
CV: I think that with everything else is.. I’m gonna use a different example. Growing up, HIV was the biggest campaign that was running through the communities. Eventually, people became so numb to yet another HIV person that wants to talk to me, you know, and I think we often think because we don’t know somebody that has HIV or if we don’t know somebody that’s a refugee; I don’t need to worry about it. And I’m not saying that you need to know every single injustice and that you need to be passionate about every single injustice. But I do want to encourage the community. Find out about an injustice that makes you angry enough that you want to do something about it, in a good way. Where you work in partnership with experts or organizations that know what they’re doing, and you can volunteer your time, you can do a fundraiser, etc. Refugees are very vulnerable when it comes to human trafficking because, obviously, some of them have no documentation, they are looking for income, they need to eat. We all need to eat as humans. Where are you going to go for food? You know, they need shelter as well. And so, once again, it’s not just an organization, it’s not just a refugee organization that’s responsible. I think you know government organizations are responsible. We can take care of our neighbor, we can donate something. You don’t need five loaves of bread, you know, for your family like a loaf of bread cost so little. Phone a refugee centre near you and find out what are the needs, you know you’re giving that 50 Rand or that 100 Rand. Versus buying your McDonald’s or your KFC, you’re gonna help somebody else. And it’s, I think…
CV: …you know, people sometimes think well what is this going to really do? It’s going to feed another family, or it’s going to help that person get the medical assistance that they need. And, yeah, I think it’s important that we look wider than just our little circle. Yes, I understand people are in difficult situations, financially. People may have lost their jobs as well. But I think there are still a lot of people that can actually still do something. And it’s just looking to the left and the right and seeing how can we help our neighbor. And even if it’s not financially, how can you volunteer? How can you equip them with knowledge? How can you support that single parent? You know, so, yeah, I think it’s going back to the basics, because sometimes people want to do these extreme things, and it’s not about you being seen and doing extreme things. It’s about knowing, you know in your heart what you contributed and I think if everybody contributes to the community we will see a shift take place. And there’s a role that each person and each government department, each organization play. And just to give you an example, I know in Tableview a few years ago, we found out that they were honoring over 200 organizations. Just in Tableview region. And I am like 200 organizations, I didn’t even know 200 existed. And so, go to your community and find out, ask questions, see how you can get involved. And just do something small. You know, picking up a phone and reporting something is something small, but it makes a massive difference for that one person. You know, we often say that it’s not just numbers. You know there’s over 40.3 Million people enslaved. But it’s not just numbers, it’s someone’s mom, someone’s dad, it’s someone’s brother or sister, or cousin. And we can help make a difference. You don’t have to be in that situation, it doesn’t have to, you know, you don’t have to experience someone being trafficked for you to do something exactly like I said. I don’t know anyone personally who has been trafficked in my family or my friend circle, but I knew this injustice upset me, and I had to do something. And so find something where you can play a part, because you’re going to find purpose in that: in your serving in your giving. And it’s not about giving your whole household to someone else, it’s about: I can give a bit of time, I can have a conversation. I can make, donate a bread or two, and I’m just taking that step this week.
NR: Wow, that is so true. And so we just thank you for the work that you do Cornel, we appreciate the work that you do as an individual, as an organization. Both the National Hotline and A21. We really appreciate the work that you’re doing, nationally, globally. Fantastic work, thank you so much. And like you said, it’s joining partners, it’s a collective effort. All of us together: we can bring some kind of justice to this injustice. So thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. I learned a lot from you and I’m sure our listeners will learn from this too. Thank you so much!
CV: Thank you. Natalie. Really appreciate it.
Dear friends and key stakeholders, thank you for joining us on today’s podcast. Our aim and heart for these podcasts are to bring awareness on human trafficking. To highlight the atrocity this crime is to humanity. A reminder that human trafficking is a multi- billion Dollar industry, which is sadly the fastest growing worldwide and second biggest crime after drugs. It is far more organized than many care to believe.
Our aim of the podcasts is to bring clarity and understanding of what exactly what human trafficking is and how it impacts victims, survivors. We hope to highlight the roles of various stakeholders and how we can all be part of the solution and bringing an end to what we know as modern-day slavery.
We invite you to join hands in fighting against human trafficking, follow us on our social media pages: @freetofly.org.za on Instagram and on Face Book, @freefly.org.za. Do check our website out and sign up to be a volunteer or donate towards the building and running of our safe house for children who have come out of human trafficking. All details will be put in the link below or our last slide.
For those of you who do not know, Free To Fly, are an organization that is currently starting up one of the first safe houses for children who have been rescued from human trafficking in South Africa. We will be offering a home that will provide a space to heal, recover and be set up to be free to fly. Please follow our journey on our website.
Till next time, take care and be sure to share and listen out for the next podcast. Thanks friends!
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