Shield’s Founder on the Start of SOTC
Shield of the Children originated in an alleyway in Vietnam in 2015. While on an intensive language course my colleagues and I (CEO/Founder) took a shortcut down an alleyway. As we walked down the dark alleyway a figure stepped out of the shadows. 7 years old, she was wearing a see-through black lace outfit and called over to us. Unaware of what was going on, I got down and spoke to her, asking her what she was doing out in the street so late at night (utterly clueless that this was a case of child sexual exploitation). She explained that her parents were not there but that an adult was watching her and I’d better give her some money or she’d be in trouble. She went on to explain that if I wanted to take her to a hotel that would be even better, but more expensive.
Partly due to shock, and partly due to being aware of the lack of law enforcement and judicial connections, I gave her some money and continued walking with my colleagues. Arriving back at the hotel I slumped onto my bed trying to piece together what had just happened. As it dawned on me that she meant to take her to a hotel for sexual purposes, my heart broke. I wept as I’d never wept before. The next day I woke and began contacting as many anti-human trafficking and law enforcement contacts in order to figure out who was working in this space. This began a nearly 3-year long journey of training, observation, and learning from anyone and everyone in anti-human trafficking.
In early 2018 Shield brought people together from different organisations and collaborated with local organisations on the ground to get our first arrests and rescues in South-East Asia. Since then, we have built up a network of investigators. Our organisation now has over 50 people involved and continues to grow rapidly. In mid-2018 we held our first combined training with a partner organisation where we trained 13 investigators. We deployed again in late 2018 and at one stage spent 6 weeks continually in one location assisting a partner organization.
In late 2018 Shield was registered in Australia as a not-for-profit and by 2019 Shield was also registered in a South-East Asian country. We also made our entry into the world of online sexual exploitation towards the end of 2018 – including facilitating training for two host nations’ cyber investigative police. 2019 brought us invitations from local organisations to assist them with cases they were unable to handle with their numbers or resources. We also visited and trained with another 7 organisations and several law enforcement agencies in a partner nation. Since then, Shield has continued to grow and develop in skillset, partnerships, and opportunity.