How Dalia was rescued from a terrible choice

Like too many children in Uganda’s slums, Dalia found herself faced with a terrible choice: starve or sell her body for food. (Warning: intense themes)

Dalia was the oldest of two children. Her mother’s drinking was uncontrollable, causing her father to leave home. She drank from morning until night and could not provide for her two daughters.

Dalia took it upon herself to try and find income to buy food for her sister and pay a landlord who was growing increasingly impatient for his rent money.

When Dalia’s sister contracted typhoid fever, Dalia became desperate to find extra income for her medical expenses. Her only option was to offer herself to men in exchange for a small fee, which left her feeling sick and full of shame. Four men routinely abused Dalia, threatening to kill her mother should she refuse to do whatever they wanted.

By the age of 14, Dalia felt alone and unloved, thinking even God had forgotten her.

Driven to the point of suicide, the only thing keeping her alive was worrying about what would become of her four-year-old sister. The local community ridiculed her over her mother’s alcoholism and Dalia’s decision to sleep with men for money to keep her and her family alive.

By the age of 14, Dalia felt alone and unloved, thinking even God had forgotten her. Here, she bravely shares the impact of this on her heart and life: “I felt bad. I was so young. Every time I had to sleep with those men, I was being sick, being sick. I felt ashamed because those men were seeing me as a prostitute. Just use me, give me money and go. And I felt ashamed. I was like, yeah, I’m not a person. Even I feel that God forgot me. I felt like killing myself, but I thought I can’t give up. Yeah, I can’t. I was the one to take care of my sister.”

An alley in Uganda

It was then that a friend persuaded her to attend church with her. The pastor listened to her story and referred her to the anti-trafficking organisation Destiny Rescue in her city. She received immediate medical care, and the team provided food and care for her sister, which is all Dalia wanted to begin with.

While enrolled in Destiny Rescue’s Residential Care Program, Dalia received skills training and trauma-based counselling, which helped restore her hope for the future. She forgave those who had hurt her and dedicated her life to God.

Dalia graduated from the program and began her new life of freedom in March 2023. She is currently running a small restaurant business with a friend.

Rescue – one precious child at a time

Dalia is just one of thousands of children rescued by Destiny Rescue each year. One precious child at a time, our cause-driven organisation is passionate about helping the vulnerable escape sexual exploitation and helping them stay free.

When a child experiences freedom from exploitation, an entirely new future opens up before her. Like Dalia, when many young survivors’ needs for safety are met, they feel free to surrender their trust and hope to God.

And this undergirds why we do this work – the compelling force behind our work is the heart of our Father, who has rescued and redeemed you and me, and faithfully restored us to himself.

Australians are a big problem when it comes to perpetrators of exploitation.

Destiny Rescue achieves rescue through undercover operations, reintegration programs and prevention efforts in five regions across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Our agents use various tactics in different locations, including rescue operations in collaboration with law enforcement, covert operations in high-risk communities and border monitoring.

Here in Australia, our primary efforts are to raise awareness of child sex trafficking and seek fundraising dollars to support our programs overseas.

Unfortunately, Australians are a big problem when it comes to perpetrators of exploitation. Not only are Australians involved in the online sexual exploitation of children, but “Australians … have been identified as the largest group of sex tourists prosecuted in Thailand (31 per cent of the total).” [1]

Therefore, presenting opportunities to impact and transform these children’s lives is an honour.

Destiny Rescue

After rescue

The end of abuse is only the beginning of a survivor’s new life. What happens after rescue?

This important question gets asked often, and the answer is different for each child. Post-rescue, a survivor’s next steps are based on their unique situation, including the vulnerabilities that led to exploitation and local legal procedures.

A survivor’s next steps follow one of three paths:

  1. Enrolment in an individualised Destiny Rescue Freedom Plan™, including health checks, trauma resilience training and economic empowerment solutions, all implemented in a Destiny Rescue-run residential home or through our Community Care program, enabling the child to live at home while participating in services. In certain situations, we are able to integrate children into Christ-centred communities.
  2. Reunification with family may include international travel, accommodation curation and assistance with legal documentation. Sometimes, we can follow up with survivors in the months after reunification.
  3. Some survivors are entrusted to government agencies and their standard processes or another local organisation offering appropriate services. Follow-up in these circumstances is limited as organisations and governments work to protect children and their privacy.

Right now, a young child is being exploited, sold and abused with no hope of a future.

In 2022, with the help of our supporters, we were able to rescue 3144 individuals. Over 63 per cent were children! We also worked with law enforcement to support the arrests of 168 perpetrators of sex trafficking.

Destiny Rescue group meeting

Destiny Rescue group meeting

If you also desire to see children freed and want to take action toward their rescue, we invite you to join us. Right now, a young child is being exploited, sold and abused with no hope of a future. If we don’t get to her, someone else will, and her horror story will continue to play night after night.

You can put an end to this injustice. Here’s how you can help find children caught in exploitation and give them a path to freedom and a better future:

Learn more: Sign up for regular updates from the frontlines or speak to someone in our office (1300 738 761).

Donate: Every gift funds the rescue of children from sexual exploitation and helps them stay free. The regular generosity of our Rescue Partners funds the heartbeat of our operations.

Spread the word: Please tell your friends what you are learning. Share our blogs. Host a screening of one of our documentaries. Advocate for the freedom and hope of children.

Paul Mergard is CEO of Destiny Rescue. For two decades, Paul has fought for the rights of children trapped in the most horrific situations, both in Australia and overseas.

[1] 1 December 2012 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms Najat Maalla M’jid, to the Human Rights Council of the UN General Assembly; A/HRC/22/534, Pg 5 (UN Special Rapporteur M’jid Report, December 2012 – refers to prosecutions between 1995 and 2006).

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