Local News

Local website is helping fight human trafficking

Posted December 1, 2014 4:50 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2014 7:38 p.m. EST

— A new crowdsourcing website that launched two months ago is working to help fight and prevent human trafficking – a $150-billion-a-year industry that has victimized an estimated 29.8 million people in the United States.

Raleigh businessman Joseph Schmidt was so moved by the issue that he left corporate America and founded Audacity Company, a think tank that brings attention to underfunded and underpublicized domestic and global matters.

Audacity launched ENDcrowd.com in October to raise money for nonprofits that work to prevent human trafficking around the globe and support victims of the trade.

The website's goal is to positively affect the lives of 10 million people over the next 10 years.

"There are millions of people in the U.S. whose hearts have been cracked by the story of human trafficking, but they don't quite know what to do yet," Schmidt said.

ENDcrowd focuses on funding individual projects from nonprofits that have tangible results.

For example, a recent campaign sought to raise $10,000 to purchase a van to get young children safely to and from school in an area of Cambodia where an estimated 70 percent of the children are exploited through commercial sex.

Another campaign involved raising $3,000 to provide supplies so that women rescued from human trafficking in India can make and sell jewelry to earn livable wages.

A third drive is aiming to raise $2,300 to develop an electronic toolkit to educate students across the United States on key safety measures that can prevent trafficking.

Donors to these three campaigns – and 12 others that are currently featured on ENDcrowd.com – get to see photos and video of how their money is being put to use.

"The concept of crowdfunding is that it is the power of the many coming together," Schmidt said. "The really cool thing about it is that when you back one of these projects, we then take you on the journey of the campaign happening."

North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for the crime, partially because of prostitution along the Interstate 85 and Interstate 95 corridors. Other factors for the ranking include the prevalence of prostitution around military bases and sporting and entertainment venues.

It was a nonprofit that helped Anna Malika, 29, overcome being a victim of human trafficking several years ago.

More than a decade ago, Malika was kicked out of her home in Greensboro. Having no self-worth and feeling no sense of belonging, she said, she eventually went to live with a 40-year-old man whom she had met through her job and thought was her boyfriend.

Their "relationship," she said, started with him offering to give her guitar lessons.

"He started telling me things like, 'I want to spend more time with you. You're so valuable. You're amazing. You're just incredible,'" she said.

The man, she said, had also talked the then-teen into being a "model" in an "art project" of his.

It wasn't until he died of cancer that she discovered the truth of the situation – thousands of photos of her in sexual situations – something she had no memory of being involved in.

Malika discovered the man had been drugging her.

"I had no idea," she said. "I had no idea at all."

Malika got help and now speaks in support of stronger laws against human trafficking.

"I am doing great now," she said. "My life is amazing, but I'm still on that healing process."

Two years ago, she spoke in support of North Carolina's Safe Harbor Act, which provides immunity for prostituted minors and victims of trafficking.

"I think what ENDcrowd is doing is phenomenal," Malika said. "A lot of people want to talk about it, but they need that financial backing to be able to grow."