Airman helps combat Human Trafficking

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nicole Manzanares
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
Every 30-seconds someone in the United States falls victim to Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes against humanity and, unfortunately, Denver, Colo., has one of the largest populations of homeless youth in the country, leaving homeless teens prime victims of sex trafficking. Two of the most common forms of human trafficking are labor trafficking and sex trafficking. 

As a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Capt. Ben Garland, 140th Wing Public Affairs Officer, and a fellow classmate, were tasked with the development of a business plan as part of a class requirement. What started as an academic assignment developed into a non-profit organization they named SoDE, based on the Greek concept, "to rescue to restore". Their intent was to combat human trafficking by creating a sustainable system that could break the cycle of abuse and oppression and assists victims of labor trafficking to find freedom.

"Human trafficking does not only happen in foreign nations, it happens in our own back yard," said Garland. "We need to be aware of what is happening around us and develop a culture where it is unacceptable."

His organization, SoDE, aims to not only assist in basic needs of human trafficking victims but also to provide them the tools necessary to escape a life of abuse by providing their initial care, and creating a job for the victims to support themselves and their family.

The organization also provides a streamlined outlet for people and organizations interested in donating money to assist in the prevention of human trafficking. Through the consolidated efforts of SoDE, special justice- and mission-based organizations do not depend on charity but instead utilize innovation and concepts learned from the field.

"Our goal is to stop this completely, to develop a strategic plan here in Colorado, then we can spread this 'plan' across the world," said Garland.

Already, there are numerous organizations throughout the United States that are taking a part in the huge and complicated process of combating these crimes. "Some are great at rescuing, some are great at rehabilitating, and some are just a nice home for the victims to go to," said Garland. "We (SoDE) want to combine all the organizations to work together." 

Garland is currently a member of the Atlanta Falcons, but performs his military duty with the Colorado Air National Guard at Buckley AFB, Colo.