The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates more than a million children, around the world, are subjected to human trafficking every year.
It’s been called “modern-day slavery,” forcing children into labor, the sex trade or recruitment into militias. As a result of insufficient government infrastructure in developing countries and the so-called “invisible nature” of these terrible crimes, the actual number may be even far greater.
Father Shay Cullen has dedicated his career to saving the lives and futures of these exploited children. In 1974, the Irish priest started the Philippines-based PREDA Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating for human rights and protection for vulnerable children.
“We provide rescue for these children and also recovery and a center whereby they can be empowered and overcome the trauma,” explained Cullen. “The traumatization that they suffer is intense and they need a lot of help to recover.”
Father Shay Cullen: Helping vulnerable childrenFather Shay Cullen talks about the threat of human trafficking after a disaster.
Like other nations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has its issues with child trafficking. But after the 2013 typhoon Haiyan, known as Super Typhoon Yolanda, hit the country, displacing millions, women and children were especially vulnerable to exploitation.
“So many people were killed in the typhoon,” Cullen said. “There were homeless children, they lost their parents, relatives and so they’re immediately vulnerable to human traffickers who will come and offer them food and they are starving, hungry children in these disasters.”
From Manila, Father Shay Cullen joined May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to discuss the threat of human trafficking in the aftermath of natural disasters.