Born to Fly International—One Woman’s Goal to Stop Human Trafficking
The sun was setting in Mumbai, India, as a guide quietly drove journalist Diana Scimone down a crowded street. It wasn’t your usual tourist destination. It was Falkland Road, Mumbai’s notorious red-light district.
Scimone was covering a story on forced prostitution in India. The driver and his wife, who were the head of a charity that helped these women, wanted Scimone to see some of the conditions the women lived in.
“It was shocking, to say the least,” she said. “The look on their faces was total hopelessness. But what I remember most was when my contact pointed out the vague outline of cages in upper floor windows.”
Scimone soon learned that’s where brothel owners keep little girls who are smuggled in from other countries. The girls—sometimes only 5 years old—are caged like animals for a month, abused, tortured,or raped—until they no longer have a will to rebel.
“I think at that moment my life changed,” Scimone said.
Not only did Scimone’s life change, but so would the lives of many children whom she would help. Not long after that trip, Scimone founded Born to Fly International (B2F), a non-profit organization that works to stop child trafficking worldwide.
As a journalist, Scimone has traveled to more than 40 countries, including China, Zimbabwe, Sudan, India, Thailand, and more, reporting on human rights.
“I’ve seen up close and personal—a lot more up close and personal than I’d like—the devastation that many of the world’s children face,” she said. “I founded B2F to meet some of those needs. I knew we couldn’t fix every hurt, but the one that made me passionately angry is child trafficking, so that’s the issue we focus on.”
According to B2F’s website, 1.2 million children are trafficked each year for sex around the world. The average age of sex workers around the world is 11, but some are as young as 5. Even in the United States, more than 100,000 children and young women are trafficked.
“When kids get trafficked for sex or slavery, it’s usually because they don’t know any better,” Scimone explains. “Someone shows up at their doorstep and promises them the moon—and they believe it. They really think they’re going to be models or waitresses or nannies. Likewise, their parents really think their daughters will get an education in the big city. ‘Just sign here,’ the traffickers promise, and the kids are never seen again.”
Scimone knew if she could warn kids and parents ahead of time, she could drastically cut the numbers of kids who are trafficked.
“Wherever awareness training takes place, the rate of trafficking plummets,” the website states. “There’s just not enough nor is it available to kids in most high-risk areas. That’s the hole that B2F is designed to fill.”
The centerpiece of the B2F Project is a wordless book, created by Scimone, to educate children, families and teachers about grave dangers of human trafficking. The book, entitled Born to Fly, is an allegory about the realities of child trafficking that teaches children to make wise decisions to avoid being thrust into such a world. The book is wordless so that any child around the world can understand it, without having it translated in countless different languages. Parents who are illiterate can “read” it also.
“We’re in the final stages of illustrating that right now and hope to have it finished by fall,” she said. “Meanwhile we’re raising the funds to print and distribute it. We need about $300,000 to get everything into the hands of kids around the world.”
Scimone is also writing a curriculum to go along with the book, which Born to Fly will distribute all over the world to schools and non-profit organizations that work with children.
She points out that child trafficking happens not just around the world, but also around the corner. “It happens in every country—including the United States,” she says. “We have a huge problem with human trafficking in every state—adults and children. Just Google the name of your state and the word trafficking and you’ll see what I mean.”
“It’s very inspiring to know that the work we’re doing with Born to Fly could literally change someone’s life—even save their life,” Scimone said.
While most children are too young to get involved in this particular cause, teaching them the importance of volunteer work and to respect different cultures is essential, Scimone said.
“I think it’s critical to begin involving even young children in volunteer work,” she said. “If it becomes part of their life while they’re children, that sense of giving will continue when they become adults.”
And not only is it important for children to understand the importance of volunteer work, but it’s important adults understand as well.
“Ask yourself, ‘What makes me really angry? What makes me cry?’” Scimone said. “That’s where your passion lies, and where you should invest your time and energy.”
For more information on Scimone, Born to Fly, or to get involved, go to www.born2fly.org. (Photos (c) by Diana Scimone.)
Diana Scimone is a journalist who has reported extensively on issues of human rights around the world. She founded Born to Fly International to help stop child trafficking both globally and locally. Diana is also author of the Adventures With PawPaw children’s book series. She writes a regular blog, and loves following new people on Twitter (@DianaScimone).