By the time Kala was 8 years old, she had been repeatedly raped by her father and other members of her family in the Philippines.
When her father would leave the house, she would sit for hours, naked and bound by her ankles and arms, like an animal. If she protested, her father would burn her with the tip of his lit cigarette, scarring her small arms and legs.
It wouldn’t be long before her father, who was a drug addict, sold Kala to a sex trafficking ring.
For the next two years, Kala would continue to live in a special hell, raped repeatedly by older men seeking sex with children.
She was forced to traffic narcotics for those who enslaved her. By age 10, she was pregnant. In her short decade of life, Kala had seen the worst of mankind and desperately yearned for something unknown to her: safety and love.
Remarkably, Kala’s will to survive was not broken. She had lost the baby, but before her 11th birthday, Kala escaped. She managed to slip the ties that bound her hands, broke through a window and ran for her life.
She found a place of sanctuary with Unlikely Heroes, a nonprofit organization named for child survivors like herself.
It began with a fighter named Erica Greve.
Greve, a social worker and counselor from San Francisco, started Unlikely Heroes after a 2011 encounter at the hospital where she was working when she counseled an 11-year-old girl who had been kidnapped and raped by an older man.
“There was no place I could find that had the resources necessary to deal with her type of trauma and emotional pain,” Greve said.
Unlikely Heroes helps get children out of brothels and prostitution rings around the world and establishes rehabilitation homes to provide food, medical care and teach life skills to victims of sex trafficking.
The group has set up homes in Thailand, the Philippines and Mexico. Rescued children attend school and receive on-site tutoring; many have already graduated from high school. The organization has a list of therapists and counselors who work with the children to overcome the emotional, mental and spiritual hardships brought on by their traumas.
“I focus on the success stories and I love to celebrate life,” Greve said. “I love to celebrate our teams that are giving their lives to do this every day on the front lines of this war against children. We fight with love and every victory is worth it. That is what fuels me and keeps me going.”
Greve told TheBlaze TV’s For the Record that she was stunned to find how few resources there were available for children of sex trafficking and slavery.
“With all of our homes, we provide the kids with rehabilitation and the resources they need to survive,” Greve said. “Knowing that more and more people are becoming aware of the horrors of child trafficking and wanting to do something about it gives us hope. We need all hands on deck. This is the biggest human rights violence that mankind has ever known. We need everyone to say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate children being violated.'”
Greve frequently travels to the homes Unlikely Heroes has established to ensure the rescued children are being well cared for. Known as “Mama Greve” in the Philippines, she’s hands-on with the survivors and enlists locals to take her into the seedy world of sex traffickers to let children know there is a place they can find help and safety.
She traveled to Nigeria after the militant Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok in April and provided counseling to three young girls who managed to escape their captors. Most of the other abducted girls have not been found.
Last year, a newborn baby boy was found wrapped in a plastic bag, his umbilical cord still attached, by the trash outside the Unlikely Heroes home in the Philippines. He was just 2 hours old. He was rescued by Bing, the woman who runs the home, and taken to the hospital for medical care.
The boy had been left by a 14-year old girl who had been forced into a sex slave ring and was forced to abandon her baby. The women at the home named him Eric Joseph, in honor of Greve.
“I think what makes Erica Greve so effective is she loves the girls more than she hates the perpetrators,” said Toure Roberts, pastor at One Church International in Los Angeles. “Love is the strongest force on the planet, love is stronger than anything.”
The nonprofit relies on private donations and proceeds from several fundraisers held throughout the year. Greve says the average annual cost to care for a rescued child is $5,000, though it can vary by location and the extent of the services a child requires; each home can house about a dozen children and costs approximately $50,000 a year to run.
All of the organization’s group homes are ready to be expanded, and there are plans to build another home in Thailand in order to provide long-term care for children who have already been rehabilitated, so they don’t have to relive their trauma every time new children are brought in.
The existing home in Thailand is a trauma center and serves as the model for the other homes: the facility provides intense therapy and has also provided workplace training and schooling for more than 700 underage girls.
“It’s a beautiful home and all the kids there go to the private school to better protect them from the traffickers they escaped from,” Greve said. “All of the kids in our program go to high school, but the girls in Thailand are threatened many times and this school provides the appropriate protection. The youngest children are 6 and 8 years old.”
Greve said her work is far from done, and she hopes people around the world will join in the fight against child trafficking and sexual abuse.
“The one thing that sticks with me is how grateful the victims are that have been rescued,” she said. “There’s such a gratitude for the help they’re receiving. They want to go back and rescue other girls because they can’t imagine other girls are living the way they were forced to live. They feel they can’t move forward unless they help rescue others. That feeling is what keeps me moving forward. They want to see every child be free, and so do I.”
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Facts About Child Sex Trafficking and Human Slavery
• More than 35 million people are currently enslaved worldwide, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index.
• Thirty percent of all human trafficking cases involve children being sold in the sex trade.
• The average cost of a human slave is $90. Human sex trafficking is a $150 billion annual business.
• According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. More than 70 percent are female and half are children.
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